Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Gift of Thanks - Ice Candles

 One year, when I was a child, I wanted to make something special and unique for Christmas presents. I pored over library craft books (this was waaayy before the Internet) and found this fantastic idea for ice candles. The creations were each unique from each other due to the way the wax cools around the ice as it melts. The closest thing I can think of to relate it to is the from the movie Sweet Home Alabama, when the lightning strikes the sand and turns it into glass sculptures.

Fast forward quite a few years. My son is about to finish his first year of preschool. Not only have his teachers helped see him through some of his biggest milestones (potty training, teething his last molars, etc.), they've also protected him through 2 lock downs (one in immediate danger zone), cuddled him through strep and a handful of ear infections, and rocked him to sleep on his off days. They've done an incredible job keeping him stimulated, learning, caring, and independent. They've instructed, consoled, encouraged, and corrected him. They are angels. And I want to give them something unique and special to show them Steve's and my appreciation for all they've done the past 9 months. But what could I offer that wouldn't be overdone, or useless, or ruin a diet? Then I remembered the ice candles.

Before you can begin, you must collect as many tin cans as you need in the size you want. The only stipulation is that these must be of the "old school" design - meaning, both ends must be able to be cut off in order to successfully extract the candle from the can. I don't know how recently the "stackable" cans came out, but the bottoms are rounded and cannot be cut off. Avoid these for this purpose. Below, I have two pumpkin cans - one upside down so you can see the ridge that enables the can opener to cut the bottom off.
You will also need whole candles to fit in the middle of these - if they're too long (as you'll see in my picture below), heat a knife and cut these to the desired length.

Next, I was able to garner a large quantity of slightly used crayons off of I discovered each teachers' favorite colors and began to separate the crayons. This was a practice in 'browns' 
First, peel the crayons. 
 Mark the insert candles with the length requirements and cut them with a heated knife to make the cut cleaner and prevent damaging the candle as a whole. 
 Using an older (or buying a cheap pot just for this purpose) pan, melt the wax.
 I used a popsicle stick to stir the wax as it melted. This is a lovely chocolate brown color.
 As the wax melts, pour a tray's worth of ice cubes into a freezer bag (thicker than regular storage baggies) and hit on a safe, hard surface to break the ice up. You do NOT want shavings or tiny pieces. Try to keep these fairly large. You may purchase a bag of from a store, too. I used our basement floor, since it was concrete, as I didn't want to damage the surface beneath the baggie.
 Pour the ice chunks around the center candle.
 Using the baggie (or newspaper) as protection, pour the melted wax over the ice. One key note of advice: make sure you have enough melted wax to come to the top of the can. As you can see, my practice candle was, thankfully, practice. I did not have enough wax to fill it. After the can is filled, let it sit long enough for the wax to harden. I initially put them into the freezer to speed that up, but only long enough for the top to solidify. After that, pull them out so the ice will melt.
 I let them sit overnight. Then, pour out as much melted ice as possible. Placing a towel on the counter, cut the bottom of the can, but leave the bottom on. Very gently, and pressing as evenly as possible on the bottom piece, push the candle out the top of the can. There will be pieces that break off, but you should be pleasantly surprised with the myriad of designs that appear.
Here's the collection of candles I made for Syd's teachers. Notice that the cans are full to the brim with the various colored waxes.
After extracting, these are each unique. I hope his teachers are able to enjoy these, and I hope it conveys, in some small part, our appreciation for their time, energy, and love for our son.
It's odd. I've been a public school teacher for 8 full years, now. I've always enjoyed the letters, the notes, the small gifts my students bring me - before the holidays and sometimes at the end of the year. But I find myself pondering the thank you gifts we're giving my son's teachers more than expected. It is an interesting dichotomy of thought, and it makes me appreciate the time I have with my students even more.

No comments:

Post a Comment