The new artisans part 2: Elise Pioch Balzac
Sydney draws creative cookies and bright sparks from all over Australia and the world. It’s a city that isn’t afraid to reinvent itself. And it’s no surprise then, that it’s home to some truly inspired innovators: the kind of people who twist tradition with imagination and a little left field thinking to create magic – whether in a sourdough loaf or a scented candle. From the florist, baker to the candlestick-maker, we meet some of Sydney’s brave new artisans.
Walk into any boutique in Sydney and beyond, and you’ll find it awash with scented candles. And while it’s always good to refresh your home with beautiful fragrances – just ask scent designer Ainslie Walker – it’s hard to know where to start.
But Maison Balzac candles stand out. They’re minimally designed but bursting with colour. Succinct in language but full of intrigue. Irreverent even: get your hands on a Ménage à Trois. And yes, then there’s the French. Le Soleil, La Rose, L’Obscurité. You wouldn’t guess they were handcrafted here in Sydney. Oh, and the scents? Heavenly.
Elise Pioch Balzac is the fashion buyer-turned-creative entrepreneur behind Maison Balzac and over the past three years, she has poured herself and her life’s passions into creating a brand that resonates with people in Sydney and around the world. She’s French, and her candles have a certain je ne sais quoi that has seen them quickly go global – selling everywhere from Incu to Paris’ coolest concept store, Collette. It’s even taken Elise by surprise. “Okay, I have thrown my heart into it and have been as personal as I possibly could,” she levels, “but the competition in the candle world was so fast growing that I truly don’t know how I made a difference.”
The difference, perhaps, is not playing by the rules. Elise describes herself as a self-taught candle maker and perfume amateur, and works very much on intuition and improvisation. “I guess when you haven’t received official training you do things more personally, more organically and this is exactly how I approach everything Maison Balzac.” This – following her instincts – has led to some cutting-edge collaborations with some of Australia’s “most ridiculously talented artists”. She’s collaborated on and developed candles for talents including eccentric fashion label Romance Was Born, unorthodox floral artist Doctor Cooper Studio, artists and jewellery designers Lyn & Tony, and most recently, contemporary abstract painter Miranda Skoczek. “Developing their dream fragrances was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life,” she muses.
Now living in a converted weatherboard church along the Hawkesbury River with her husband and young daughter, Elise knows the power fragrance has to transform a space – and transport you some place else – and launched Maison Balzac to recreate memories from her own childhood. “I started my candle collection out of nostalgia from the south of France (where my entire family lives) and out of fascination for the sense of smell, and the perfumes that can trigger so many different stories in people’s mind,” she says.
“Immediately after smelling a candle, each person will tell you what it evokes for them – linked to past memories – and open their intimate lives like that, instantly. This is a new form of literature for me and I will keep on exploring it.” www.maisonbalzac.com