Inspired to transform the way we experience our homes, Noka.Design founders, designers, and friends Noémie Vanoli and Karima Weber set out to design objects that deliver a multi-sensorial experience – something that’s not only a pleasure to have in your space, but also gets more beautiful with every use. Drawing on common memories and those undefinable feelings that can’t be put into words, Noémie and Karima developed a range of modern, hand-sculpted candles that bring unique forms and fragrances to your space. With every burn, the sculptural candles melt into new shapes, activating the senses through their evolving form, colors, and fragrances – functioning as their own kind of performance art.
Committed to an ethical and eco-conscious practice, Noka.Design candles are all designed and made in collaboration with local independent artisans using a veggie-based wax blend and lead-free eco wicks, all sourced from suppliers that are just as passionate about sustainability as they are. They’ve even eliminated plastic from their business, and use recycled paper and fabric for their packaging. To achieve the one-of-a-kind look that makes every candle special, Noka.Design’s production process is rooted in experimentation – from the molding technique they developed in-house to the careful polishing of every candle by hand (which can take up to 5 hours depending on the candle shape!). We caught up with the duo to learn more about the concept behind the candles.
Noka.Design founders Noémie and Karima
What drew you both to candles as a design medium?
We started with countless ideas and finally ended up with our epiphanic concept of creating what we are today, hand-sculpted melting art pieces. We wanted to make something that could transform the feeling of a space, allowing people to curate and evoke in them their own sense of home, especially in a time where people’s home became their world.
You describe your products as melting sculptures – can you tell us more about how you approach form when developing your pieces?
We try to direct ourselves into creating minimalist designs and aesthetics. Our initial idea was to bring functionality and creativity together. Sculptured candles are special in the way that throughout its product life, it continues to evolve. Every time it is lit, the candle morphs into different versions of itself, creating a performance while transforming the ambiance of a room. This is why the design process is so important because we have to think about each stage of the candle and how it will evolve. We love playing with height and the obscurity of fitting different shapes into one piece that don’t seem like they belong together but somehow unite.
The names of your products are very unique, and make them feel even more like works of art. Can you tell us the naming story behind one of your candles?
Our inspiration is based on reminiscing back to simpler times into one’s upbringing, surroundings, and travels. Everything that we create has to evoke an emotion. Our first collection “The Love That Remains” is an eclectic mix of objects and designs within our surroundings that had inspired us. The piece “A Summer In Lago Di Garda” was created by the similarities of our childhood memories where our families had spent summers by the lakes of Italy. The spherical dome shapes sculpted into elegant heights are inspired by the game of stacking pebbles, giving it a sense of joy and playfulness.
Your relationship with suppliers and artisans is a key facet of your business. How hard was it to create the ethical and eco-conscious business model Noka has today? What would you say to designers and entrepreneurs who are just starting out and struggling to prioritize sustainability?
If you already have the mindset and experience of wanting to operate eco and ethically conscious as a business, every decision will surely be affected by the thought “is this the best possible way we can operate?” For us, living in Indonesia, we have seen how plastic is such a contributing factor to the destruction of the natural beauty around us – washed up on the beaches, found in the rivers and on the streets. This exasperation towards it motivated us to eliminate plastic at all costs and to try to leave as little a mark as we possibly can. This drive has made us creative in the way we operate and the way we deliver our products, it has definitely helped shape who we are as a brand. The hardest part is finding suppliers that have the same values which is why when you do find them, they become invaluable to your business. Our advice is to use the passion you have for a specific cause in the world that allows you to constantly question and improve each process. Everything else comes easy after that and you’d be surprised at what you can come up with!
What are your favorite ways to style your pieces at home?
Our new pieces “Pillars of Light” and “Why Blooms Don’t Speak” are large stand-alone pieces that can be put on any favorite home surface as a statement piece. We love to display them in unique spots where they can appear as a piece of art, that will captivate your eye the moment you enter a room.
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Alexa is commerce editor at Design Milk. She lives in Miami, Florida with her fiancé Alex and retired greyhound, Phoebe. A longtime art and design enthusiast, Alexa’s first stops in any new city are the art museums. When she’s not writing about her favorite DM shop picks, she might be buried in a book, binging reality tv or adventuring around her city with her partner and pup.