In 2014, Liz and Ian Wells were compelled by exceptional circumstances to move to Cornwall. “We found ourselves, within a few months of each other, in A&E,” explains Ian. “I had a suspected heart attack. I was working all the hours God sent, in London, and had very high blood pressure. The consultant told me I needed to change my lifestyle immediately – or die.”
Meanwhile Liz, a nurse and health visitor specialising in families and children, was involved in a major road accident on the way to work. “They thought I might have been paralysed,” she says.
“We had nearly orphaned our five children,” says Ian. “We were looking for a better work-life balance. We came to Cornwall for a break, and while on Crantock beach, we got chatting to a couple who had relocated from Milton Keynes. They said: ‘You only have one life. There are no re-runs.’ Within nine weeks, we’d made the move, and have found nothing but opportunity since doing so.”
Liz transferred within the NHS to provide an income, while Ian became principal carer for the children and turned to photography. “I was blown away by how beautiful it was,” he says, “and even more surprised when people wanted to buy my images.” He launched a greetings card company, which gathered pace quickly.
However, having come to Cornwall for a more relaxed pace of life, Liz was rather put out to see Ian as the sole beneficiary of the move, while she was still managing a caseload. “I saw him visibly more relaxed, and healthier, both physically and mentally,” she recalls. “I needed to find a way to step out, too.”
If Ian was making things look nice, it would be Liz’s role to make them smell nice. Using her scientific background, she looked into candles and diffusers, and after a year of “nearly burning the house down” a product was trialled at Truro Farmers’ Market in October 2017, resulting in a wealth of useful feedback.
The creation of a candle is a true marriage of art and science. Wax starts in flake or powder form and is melted in vats. Testing has led to identification of optimum temperatures and fragrances, of which there are now 15. The first, Sea Breeze, came about following a family visit to London. “Upon our return, one of the children said, ‘I never knew the air could smell so sweet,’” says Ian. Like wine and cheese, candles mature or “cure”, with different fragrances taking varying amounts of time to reach their best.
Having started the business in the kitchen, it quickly moved into a garden studio, which it soon outgrew. In October 2019, the couple a unit took a unit at Penryn’s modern, wind and solar- powered Jubilee Wharf, which serves as a combined retail and production space. Production is such that the pair have taken on an employee, and the business is now carbon-neutral – plus all packaging is recyclable.
There are plans to host candle-making workshops for small groups. These are as much about having fun as anything else: “We’ve benefited so much from doing this, we want to bring that into the workshops,” says Liz. “It’s all about relaxing, refreshing, restoring – and maybe setting some life goals too. That you get to take a candle home is a bonus.” There are plans to make an event of it with lunch at the nearby Muddy Beach café, and guess what? There’s already a waiting list.
A selection of personalised glassware was launched at the Royal Cornwall Show, and wooden serving platters (using wood from Bude) flew out the door. A range of prints, tea towels and aprons will launch in the spring; all feature quirky water creatures, and come with a “adoption” certificate as a bit of fun.
They joined the Made In Cornwall Scheme, and can often be found at its regular fairs. “It was so helpful. We want to get to a point where we can provide a support network for other people, who have fantastic concepts but no idea where to start.” They have attended countless events, from Padstow Christmas Festival to the Royal Cornwall Show – where they met Prince Charles and sent him away with a scented gift – while appearances at national trade fairs have resulted not only in more than 100 stockists around the UK, but also exports to Iceland and Switzerland.
It’s clear from just an hour in their company that Liz and Ian are entrepreneurial, incapable of slowing down too much yet channelling their energies into something that works for them. “It’s not easy – between September and Christmas, we worked 90 days solid, long days,” says Ian. “But it is rewarding, and really humbling, that something we’ve created from scratch, with no prior experience, has turned into a brand that people treasure.”
“I work more hours than I did before, but it doesn’t feel like work,” adds Liz. “I wanted to make a difference to people’s lives, and I’m still having a positive impact, just in a different way.”
For more information visit www.beautifullyhandcrafted.com
Words by Kirstie Newton, photographs by Charles Francis