Unique Candles

Zenaida Lazo Hernández,
Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Zenaida Lazo Hernández was born in Teotitlan del Valle in 1970. She is a creative woman who loves her work — making beautiful beeswax candles. The candles are laborious and decorated with beautiful flowers, fruits, birds and angels made of the same wax. She learned the trade from his father, Jacinto Lazo, who has been making candles for the church and local holidays in the community for over 40 years.

Zenaida started at the age of 13 to work with wax. She uses a type of wheel made vine that hangs from the ceiling in her home. The thick wicks of cotton of many different sizes are hung from the wheel. The wax is melted in a pan — its original color is yellow. If the wax is placed in the sun, it turns white and for other colors, she adds powdered dyes.

The pan is placed on the floor and she scoops out a cup of wax and pours the liquid over the hanging wicks. She moves the wheel to the next wick and so the operation is repeated as many times as necessary until the required size of the candle is achieved. Another method is to use a tilt wheel which puts the wicks directly into the melted wax.

To make the flowers and the different figures that adorn Zenaida's candles, molds are used made of clay or wood. They are with very thin layers of wax. To make figures such as fruit, birds and angels, two molds are used to make each side. Then the hollow center is filled with liquid wax. Immediately she puts a hole in the wax so that it expands away from the mold and can be easily released. Then she places the design in cold water to the wax — it then separates from the mold, leaving the correct shape and size of the design she intends to make.

The flowers are also made in molds with are marked where the petals will be attached. The petals are dipped several times in the liquid wax and then put it in cold water. Using scissors, she then cuts the petals and molds them by hand until the desired shape of the flower is achieved.

Sometimes the designs are glued directly to the hot candle wax and sometimes they are affixed with wire. The final part of the decorative process is adding gold leaf, metallic or tissue paper.

Zenaida's candles adorn the interior of her church. A Oaxacan courting custom is for the intended groom to take the bride's family an adorned candle, flowers and bread in order to secure the hand of his intended bride.

Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca