A Certain Alchemy

Candle-making with Earl of East Words by Sarah Kelleher & Photographs by Richard Kelleher

In the crowded urban jungle that is London, the premises of Earl of East, aptly located in London Fields at Bonds of Hackney, stands out as an oasis of calm amidst the chaos of the capital. During the day, light floods in through the front windows and overhead skylights, bathing the pale wooden accents, trailing greenery and succulents and a coffee bar, where excellent brews are served on demand. I wasn’t here for the coffee however, but to experience one of Earl of East’s equally delicious candle-making workshops.

While Oscar the French Bulldog pottered happily around our feet, the other attendees and I settled in with prosecco and cake as co-founder Paul Firmin introduced the brand. Although the seeds were sown earlier by a love of variously, travel, creativity and a serious devotion to all things east end (the very name is a homage to Paul’s passion for Hackney), Earl of East really came into its own in 2015, when Paul and co-founder Niko Dafkos launched a range of hand-poured scented candles. With a strong adherence to the four pillars of their enterprise – curate, create, collaborate and community – Earl of East has gone from strength to strength, is stocked world-wide, and has partnered with other brands includingPeroni, Canon and Larsson and Jennings

A key part of their considerable success is their focus on integration rather than balance – after all, as Niko said, in a statement so true that I immediately wanted to embroider it on a cushion, balance is ‘not a thing’ in London. Earl of East was never intended as just a candle-making business, but a creative project that draws on several sources, and one that has the capacity to expand into multiple outlets. And Niko and Paul both combine their creativity with their day jobs, proving that artistic endeavour can flourish alongside a pragmatic approach to the realities of living and working in London.

As the workshop got underway, Niko took over, passing out scent sticks for us to guess at, and regaling us with a brief but fascinating history of perfume-making. The art as we know it began in the Middle-East before filtering through to Europe, particularly France. Interestingly, the idea of separate ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ scents was not developed until 1920, largely as a marketing strategy. It goes without saying that Earl of East develops scents that go beyond such rigid categorisations, and to my delight, participants in the workshop were able to pick from two scents for their personalised candle – Elementary, whose scent recalls autumn, and a return to the school year, and Smoke and Musk, which smells deliciously like sweet campfire smoke.    


Through their workshops, Earl of East have provided the perfect way for people to experience the addictive alchemy that is candle-making. Pouring, mixing and blending the scents and soy wax (prized for its ability to hold scents well, and burn at an even and long-lasting rate), while chatting with the other attendees was a relaxing and engaging way to spend an evening, and the venue at Bonds ably assists in slowing the hectic pace of London to a languorous crawl. This workshop was aimed at beginners, but they do offer more advanced workshops, and either way it’s a lovely feeling knowing that the candles you produce can be picked up from Bonds, or sent on to an address of your choice for you to enjoy – a little bit of Earl of East’s light to take away with you.

To learn more and book a workshop, click here.