by: PAMPLIN MEDIA PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Camelias shelves are stocked with her re-created candle art. Other wax products are recycled into blocks.Ever hear about the candlemaker who was so broke he had to work wick-ends?

Camelia Moss isn’t broke like the man in that old saw, thankfully, but she’s found a way to make a living off the cast-off ends of candles.

The proprietor of Camelia’s Candles in Beaverton, Moss has recycled 13 tons of candles bound for the trash heap the past three years, in a creative partnership with Value Village thrift stores.

“They used to throw all their candles that are burnt, broken, damaged, into the landfill. And anything that they don’t sell after a period of time, they throw into the landfill,” Moss says. 

She gave some Value Village stores a counteroffer: If they would set aside imperfect merchandise for her, she would turn it into inventory for her store while also supporting a jobs program.

“Value Village is my sponsor, is what I call them,” Moss says. “Value Village has 279 stores that I potentially can get my wax from.” 

Once reclaimed, the most salvageable candles might be cleaned for resale, priced at a considerable discount if they’ve already been lit. Other high-quality, scented candles often get melted and remolded into “tarts,” small wax cartridges that can be warmed to produce a fragrance, rather than burned by a wick.

Every other Sunday, Moss travels south to gather candles from Eugene-area Value Village stores. While there, she attends church with a friend, and on Mondays drives to Sunshine Industries Unlimited, an employment program for developmentally disabled adults in the community of Sweet Home. The staff is paid to create new candles from some of the Value Village cast-offs in a supervised setting, and also to craft fire starters made from reclaimed egg cartons and wood shavings. The products are sold in a couple of area stores, with proceeds going to support Sunshine Industries. 

A human cast-off

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Camelia Moss has found her calling in life, recycling and repurposing wax candles and wax products and giving them new life.Moss understands the value of overcoming obstacles to find meaningful work. She says she was abandoned by her parents at a young age, and has fully supported herself since she was 15 years old. She didn’t finish school, and worked a variety of odd jobs before asking an artist friend to teach her how to make candles nearly a decade ago. 

“It was a hobby. Then it went into an addiction. Now it’s a passion,” Moss laughs.

It was a passion she pursued even after undergoing two brain aneurysm procedures. Still, she established her first store in Beaverton.  

“I don’t like to sit down, and I don’t like grass growing underneath my feet,” Moss says. “I just keep pushing myself.”

Her products proved popular, but she had to make money back on the materials, which drove the price of her candles up.

“I said, ‘Why don’t you bring in some old recycled wax you have at home you’re not using anymore? I’ll charge you for the melt-down and pour,” Moss recalls.

“I started getting people just dumping out wax at my door because they liked the idea of recycling. I was trying to help people save money to have my artwork.” 

Melting away

She acquired three large wax melters — two that are used in recycling and one that is reserved for beeswax. The majority of recycling and molding is done in her home and garage near the Hillsboro airport.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Camelia Moss repurposes her donated wax supplies into different creations, such as this guitar candle. The recycling operation is fairly laborious. Since candles are rarely just wax and wick, Moss strains debris like nuts, bolts, shell fragments and glass out of the wax, repackaging it into blocks. Yet she has become so efficient that she finds herself supplying other businesses as well, such as Georgie’s Ceramic and Clay Co. in North Portland.

“I used to buy wax from them, now they’re buying wax from me,” Moss says. 

After all, she’s dealing in a medium that has dozens of practical purposes.

“There are so many uses for it,” she says. “You can put it on your dresser to slide easier, your window slides easier, you can dip your tent in wax and waterproof it.”

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