Ausnew Home Care | Disability service provider Greenacres creates scented candles for National Gallery's Gauguin exhibition

Disability service provider Greenacres creates scented candles for National Gallery's Gauguin exhibition

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At Greenacres' candle-making warehouse, two urns stand next to beakers, scales, mixing spoons and a long line of white, 10-litre pump-action tubs of fragrances labelled with names such as "wild frangipani", "Japanese honeysuckle", and "salted caramel".

Workers – almost all of whom live with a disability – are in charge of every step of making scented candles at Wollongong to sell through their retail brand.

But earlier this year the National Gallery of Australia approached them with an unusual request.

They wanted three scented candles that reflected the life of controversial French painter Paul Gauguin.

Three small candles sit on a bench with their accompanying brown gift box behind them.
The candles were designed to reflect the different areas where Gauguin lived.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

"We went through the trial and error and made up to about 15 different scents before we got to the final three that we and the National Gallery of Australia were happy with," Greenacres chief commercial officer Audra Tuckwood said.

"Our inspiration was drawn from the artist's life, his travels, the type of paintings he did and things he was influenced by.

"We researched and gained an understanding into his life to tie it all together and intertwine a scent to his followers through candles."

The end product is a set of three candles that is now for sale at the gallery with scents of Peruvian lily, Tahitian lime and vanilla Normandy pear.

It is the first commercial collaboration for the disability service provider's homewares label, which started 18 months ago.

Liquid is poured from a bottle into a beaker sitting on a set of scales.
The scented candles have given Greenacres employees the chance to work on a creative product.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Chasing more contracts

The collaboration with the National Gallery of Australia has shown Greeanacres that it can meet a brief from a commercial client.

Ms Tuckwood said such partnerships would help grow the homewares brand and, in doing so, provide more opportunities for employment for people living with a disability.

"Traditionally, a lot of disability enterprises are known for their packaging, labelling and assembly jobs, but this is broadening and providing new things for people to think about that they can have careers in," she said.

"I can see we've got huge potential to grow with other major retailers that would be interested in having other exclusive products made for them."

A bespectacled man with dark hair carefully pours liquid from a plastic bottle into a small beaker.
Daniel Demaagd has switched from working with e-waste to making scented candles.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

For supported employee Daniel Demaagd the collaboration is an exciting opportunity to see products he has helped create be sold in a significant location.

"It's a door-opener for Greenacres because it's showing here in the Illawarra we have a wonderful disability organisation making a wonderful product," he said.

"It's a job I enjoy doing — I make sure it's all correct millilitres and grams and I mix the wax and pour it into candle jars.

"It's a whole different experience for me."

A young woman in high-vis stirring with a wooden spoon inside a warehouse.
Natalie Adams mixes ingredients to create scented candles at the Wollongong warehouse.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Brand expanding fast

The scented candles are part of a suite of homewares products the disability service organisation has been developing over the last 18 months.

Production supervisor Jovanka Kanaris said the operation had grown so quickly that it had to be moved to a larger warehouse on the Wollongong property.

"We started with one size [of] jar and four scents and that has gone up to 18 scents in different sized jars," she said.

"We now do larger statement candles, melts, wheat bags and eye pillows.

"Everyone loves working in the candles section because they all go home smelling nice."

Source: ABC

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