Follow this step-by-step tutorial for creating French-inspired candles from simple terra cotta pots and beeswax. Bring oodles of old world warmth and charm to your home or create as a unique gift. A list of materials needed and a FREE PRINTABLE TRANSFER is provided.
Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Old World Charm
For those of us seeking to recreate old world charm, we are always on the hunt for the perfect “old” item to add to our collection. We’re not going to put just anything on the fireplace mantle, the dining room table, the bookshelf, or kitchen counter. These items must evoke emotion within us and speak to our hearts. They must add atmosphere; help create the right mood. Speak of bygone generations.
While creating these French-inspired candles I listened to the soundtrack from The Discovery of Witches. It’s dripping with old world architecture, style, and design because it’s set amongst the manors and castles of London and France. I found myself drooling over the backdrop and forgetting to actually watch the action. The soundtrack provided a perfectly inspirational atmosphere for creating these candles. I’m hoping they bring as much old world charm to your home as they do mine.
This tutorial is for 4 candles, but obviously you do not need to make all of them if you don’t want to. Adjust the materials according to your needs.
Materials Needed for Four French-Inspired Candles
- (4) 4″ Terra Cotta pots : Walmart or Home Depot for about $1/each
- Small Container of Plaster/Spackling
- White & Gray Chalk Paint: Feel free to choose your own hues and brands. I used the Behr Designer Chalk Paint in Tweed Coat and the Rust-oleum Linen White
- Dark Antique Wax: Any antique wax will do but I like the Behr Designer Antique Wax from Home Depot
- French-Inspired Candle Printable Transfer: Available at the end of the post
- 2″ Paint Brush
- Clean, Pill-free Linen Cloth
- 120 or 220 Grit Sandpaper
- 3 lbs. of White Beeswax Pellets
- 1 1/2 cups of Coconut Oil
- 4 Wicks
Home Depot has a designer line of Behr chalk paint that includes a color named Tweed Coat. How appropriately old world is that?? I had to order some. I gave each of my terra cotta pots a good coat of Tweed Coat chalk paint. You can certainly use any dark gray or earthy brown chalk paint you have on hand or whatever brand you prefer, but if you really want to conjure up all the right feels whilst working on this project then get yourself a quart of tweed coat. And queue up the soundtrack to Discovery of Witches while you’re at it. I’ll make fans out of all of you yet. 🙂 Apply a good coat, or two, of gray paint. Then, let the pots sit until they are dry to the touch and move on to the next step.
Adding Some Texture
Now, it’s time to apply the plaster. Generously schmear the plaster onto the pots with your fingers. But make sure it’s an uneven application. You don’t want to cover up the entire pot with plaster because you want some of that gray color to show through in some places. The plaster will create the textured, aging affect when the antique wax is applied later.
Before letting the spackling dry, pick a spot on the pot where you plan to transfer the French design. Apply a nice even coat of spackling roughly the size of the transfer. This will make the transferring process much, much easier. Don’t worry, we will sand down all those spots that are bothering you. Now let it dry.
We like aging here
Really. The more worn, rustic, and aged it is, the more we love it. It has a story to tell. A life lived. If only we could learn to appreciate human aging the way we treasure old things. *sigh* But I digress. Truly old things can be expensive and time consuming to acquire, so sometimes we just have to fake it. Here we are going to sand down the plaster with a fine 220 grit sandpaper. The goal is to remove some super rough places but don’t sand so much that you lose all of that beautiful texture that gives the appearance of aging over the centuries. But it’s good to sand down to the terra cotta color in some places to add depth of color. It’s all an art and a preference so just make it yours.
A little more paint
After sanding, apply a thin coat of white chalk paint. I prefer to use Rust-oleum Chalk Paint in Linen White from Home Depot. I like the crispness of the color. When applying the paint be careful not to completely cover the surface, allow for some of the gray paint and terra cotta color to seep through. A dry brush technique would be good to use here. Let dry.
Adding some depth and age
This is where the old world look starts to take form. Using a dark antique wax (I prefer Dark Antique Wax from the Behr Chalk Paint line, or Dixie Paint waxes) and a brush, start applying the wax to the pots. This is where the artistry comes in. How much wax you apply and how much you wipe off is completely up to your taste. I tend to like a heavy dose of wax because I want a clearly aged look to my creations.
Using a lightly damp, pill-free cloth work the wax into the crevices and wipe off the excess. Work very gently and carefully around the pot. Again, there is going to be some experimenting with this. Use your inner artist and just play with it until it makes your heart sing. And I mean that quite literally. Then you know it’s done. Let it dry.
Adding the French-inspired Candle design
There are a few different methods for transferring designs onto objects, but I prefer to use wax paper method. You can find many tutorials online for different methods of transferring if this doesn’t work for you.
Wax Transfer Method
Cover one side of card stock with wax paper. Tape it down well so it doesn’t snag in your printer. The French-inspired candle design should already be in reverse and ready for you to print. Feed the wax paper into the printer and be careful not to smear the ink. Cut out the designs and remove the card stock.
Carefully place each transfer onto the pot right side down and hold tightly into place while using a credit card (or something similar) to rub the design onto the pot. Rub thoroughly so as not to miss any of the details. Then lift the wax paper away. The design should be in place. Allow to dry for a few hours before proceeding.
Once the transfer has dried I like to mess with it a little to make sure it doesn’t look “too new”. I use a very fine sandpaper and gently sand away small areas of the transfer. Then I go back with the antique wax and ever so gently work some in and around the design. Be careful not to smudge the design while doing this.
To make the process more manageable, make the wax in three batches. Use a double boiler or a glass bowl placed on top of a pot of boiling water. Add to the bowl:
Gently melt the wax mixture over the boiling water for about 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. You will need this later in the process.
Securing the Wick
While the wax melts, start securing the wicks to the bottom of the pots. The brand of wicks that I purchased included heat resistant stickers that hold the wick in place. However, one the the wicks pulled away from the bottom while I was pouring hot wax into the pot and it leaked out, creating a terrific mess. I suggest using hot glue on the sticker to firmly secure the wick. If you use this brand of wicks then the sticker should adequately cover the hole at the bottom of the pot.
Make sure you keep an eye on the melting wax and giving it a stir once in a while.
Steadying the Wick
Wrap the excess wick at the top around a pencil or stick and rest on the rim of the pot. This will keep the wick steady (and out of your way) while pouring the hot wax into the pot.
Continue to keep an eye on the melting wax.
Adding Scent (optional)
When the wax is completely melted you have the option of adding scented oil.
I haven’t had any luck finding a scent powerful enough to contend with the aroma of beeswax and coconut oil (which is quite pleasant). Some people say that 5-6 drops of an essential oil will work but not in my personal experience. If any of you figure out how to create a beautifully scented candle then please let me know. I’m very curious about this.
Transfer the melted wax into a glass measuring cup with a spout. The wax hardens very quickly once it leaves the heat so you will need to move efficiently. Don’t stress out too much about moving fast. Just know that you can place your measuring cup in the oven at any point and melt the hardened wax so it’s workable again. Start pouring the wax into the pots, using the oven as needed.
Melt down the 2nd and 3rd batches of wax as needed (don’t forget to add the coconut oil). Breathe, relax, and have fun. And remember, the oven is your friend.
Once you’ve poured your last candle, let cool, and cut the wick to a desired length.
Use the oven to melt down any hardened wax on your tools for cleaning.
Tip: place a cookie sheet under the measuring cup to catch any dripping wax from falling to the bottom of the oven.
The candles are finished: time to dress them up
The candles are finished! And didn’t they turn out beautifully?
I created some rustic candle holders out of an old banister as a permanent home for my French pot candles. Unfortunately, this project would be difficult to duplicate so I’m not going to share how I did it. But no matter how you choose to dress up your French-inspired candles they are going to be stunning. Place them amongst your treasured old things and they will get along just swimmingly.
Some enchanted evening
As a final treat, I’m sharing the magic of these candles when lit up for the evening. The French candles cast a moody atmosphere throughout the room that I just loved. But I’m obsessed with the glow of lit candles.
Movie scenes that feature Scottish manors, French castles, Shakespearean cottages, old hunting lodges, vast cathedrals, etc., are my favorite because there are lots of wood beams, marble statues, dark wood paneling, massive stone fireplaces, heavy wooden doors, tapestries, stained glass windows, and……lots of lit candles.
Hopefully, this French-inspired candle tutorial helped you create something meaningful, magical, and long-lasting. I’m always so appreciative of people who share their knowledge of old things with me: how they acquire them, care for them, create them, decorate with them. I promise to continue sharing my ideas and projects with you.
Other French-Inspired Projects
Upcoming Project Posts
Rustic Wood Lavender Rack: using a simple piece of 2 x 10 wood and a drill bit.
French-Inspired Antique Frame: using a cheap dollar frame purchased at Michaels and plaster molds.
Scottish-Inspired Candle Posts: using a simple 4 x 4 post and a dremel.
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I’m planning on giving away some of my future projects to instagram followers. So don’t miss out!
As always, take care and continue being creative. Enjoy lots of cozy winter nights in front of a warm, glowing fire and I’ll see you on the other side. 🙂