The artisan’s fresh take on a centuries-old tradition has put Oaxacan design on the map
In the Oaxacan village of Teotitlán del Valle resides local artisan Doña Viviana. From her workshop in the small, Zapotec community, she is both the pioneer and guardian of a centuries-old candle-making practice. The origins of her hand-poured floral specialty candles, traditionally spanning nearly 2.5 metres tall, lie in an ancient wedding custom – a symbol of prosperity and abundance for the new couple. Breaking the mould of conventional seashell patterns, Viviana’s new designs honour her family’s 300-year-old tradition, while embracing the future. Flower petals are used as moulds for the bouquet-like adornment of each vela (candle), and before the wax is coloured, it is shaped and sun-bleached.
Filling the streets of Teotitlán del Valle with the scent of burning wood and honey, the artisan hand pours each candle herself, requiring up to 1,000 layers to achieve the desired result. Doña Viviana insists her creations be 100-per-cent handmade, and that no vela leave the workshop without her seal of approval. The floral specialty candles burn longer because of the attention she gives them, and the wicks burn cleaner because of their quality.
The multicoloured works of art have garnered eager customers from around the globe. Obakki’s collection features more than a dozen products to shop in Canada – having added Casa Viviana to its roster of world-class and ethically driven artisans last spring. Though the tradition of the marriage candle has faded, the intricately detailed sculptures have survived. In shades of saffron, marigold, and ivory, among others, this exclusive line tells a story of a traditional craft, passed down through generations, coming back to life. OBAKKI.COM
Originally published in Designlines 2022 Designer of the Year issue.