Photography by Corey Villicana
There’s no better way to refresh your space and improve your mood than by lighting a wonderfully scented candle and enjoying the glow and warmth that it brings. Through the lens of photographer Corey Villicana, we tour the California shop of chandler, Shem Gott of Mr. B’s Luminaries. Shem is gracious and humble, and takes some time to share with us his passion, how he got started, and what keeps him going.
Tell us more about yourself and Mr. B's Luminaries.
I’m 26 years old and was born and raised in southern California. I love history, writing songs/playing music, and camping. I’m a born again Christian, a Vegan, and a tea enthusiast. Mr. B’s Luminaries began when I started repurposing my son, Abraham’s, baby food jars. I started making candles as gifts for friends, just as a hobby, and it turned into a full time gig.
Can you walk us through your process?
Sure! I start by purchasing the raw ingredients, essential oils, soybean wax etc. To me, this is the most important part. I am passionate about pure, healthy ingredients. Then I put the wax into a large 160 gallon melter. While the wax is melting, I prepare the jars by fastening the wick to the jar so that it remains stable when it comes into contact with the hot wax. Once it reaches the ideal temperature (135-145 degrees), I collect the liquid wax in pour pots, add the essential oils and pour them into containers.
What led you to become a full-time artisan?
A series of events led to my becoming a full time candle maker (“chandler” is the official term). After several months of growth, I had some dear friends, who are also business owners, encourage me to make the leap into full time candle making. I never believed that it was a possibility. This support from my friends and my wife pushed me over the edge and I have been on an incredible journey ever since.
Did you grow up in a creative household?
Not really… Haha. My dad, and both brothers, are police officers. My mother was an extremely loving stay-at-home mom. I would say that they encouraged creativity but never fostered it. None of my immediate family members has any sort of artistic outlet that I know of. Maybe my brother is a closet painter. Ha!
What inspires creativity in your day to day?
Community and relationships. I have never desired to create anything apart from sharing it with others. If I create something, it has to be practical. If someone else cannot use it or benefit from it, I don’t want to make it. This is just how my brain works, I guess. However, I admire people who can “create in a vacuum,” so to speak, the kind of people who can make something just for the fun of it.
Can you tell us why this photo is so precious to you?
Being a father has been one of the hardest and best things in my life. I didn’t know what I was getting into when Abraham was born. I never new how selfish I was until I faced the challenge of giving up what I want to do. Parenting has made me a better person. I’ve got a long way to go, though.
Do you have any advice for creatives wanting to start a business?
Work hard and give it all you’ve got, but don’t make compromises. I’ve met a lot of people who would do anything, good or bad, to make their dreams come true. It’s just not worth it. I never want to exploit, use, or manipulate someone to make my dreams come true.
Ultimately, owning my own business is not what brings me joy, and your business/creative endeavor won’t bring you complete joy either. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but I’m learning to be more openhanded and less stressed about whether or not I’m “successful.”