Knowledge Matters blog

10 February 2021

Meet the maker: Literati & Light

In this new monthly blog series we shine the spotlight on some of the independent creative businesses behind some of our product ranges in the British Library Shop (both online and at our St Pancras, London site). This week we meet Philip and Justine, the husband and wife team based in Berkshire, and founders of Literati & Light. Together they make hand-crafted scented candles inspired by works of literature.

Literati & Light aims to share the fragrances of the greatest stories ever told. The couple create literature-inspired scents in their hand-crafted candles and reed diffusers.

Justine trims candle wicks

We like to think of our products as scented stories. The inspiration might come from a particular scene in a literary text – like Dorian Gray’s hedonistic experiments with frankincense, ambergris and violets – or the olfactory landscape of a text – such as our rain, heather and paper Wuthering Heights fragrance.” Justine Shaw, Literati & Light.

Their products are made using eco-friendly ingredients and materials sourced from British suppliers wherever possible. Their packaging is largely made from recycled material and is recyclable after use. Their business started in 2016 on a memorable car journey from London to Brighton, where Justine was studying for a PhD in Modernist Literature at the University of Sussex.

During the journey, I told my husband how I missed working with my hands and wanted to create a side hustle that would let my creative juices flow. Having previously worked as a professional candlemaker I knew I wanted to work with fragrance, but I was keen to make something that told a story too. While ruminating out loud, my eye fell on the battered copy of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse poking out of my bag and a lightbulb went off.” Justine Shaw.

By the time the couple got to Brighton, they had the first six fragrances planned and they launched their first collection just a few weeks later. Philip and Justine continue to research, design and produce their candles together in the garden workshop in their Berkshire home.

Pride and Prejudice candle and book 2

One of the products stocked in the British Library Shop is their Magical Lands Collection of hand-poured soy and beeswax candles inspired by Wonderland, Rivendell and Narnia. For the Wonderland fragrance, they took the perfumed roses of the Red Queen’s garden, the sweet vanilla and fragrant black tea of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and sumptuous strawberry notes to capture the sticky scent of the stolen strawberry tarts. The Narnia candle has an enticing hint of Turkish Delight backed by a landscape of rich pine oil and crisp snow.

As with so many independent makers and creators, Covid-19 has impacted Literati & Light, who usually host regular candle-making workshops.

We have certainly missed having the chance to talk scented stories with readers and the opportunity to mingle with and be inspired by like-minded folk at literary festivals. However, we have been touched by the beautiful and thoughtful gift messages that people have asked us to include in packages for loved ones at home and abroad this year.” Justine Shaw.

Tin candles with book

Literati & Light are currently making miniature versions of their existing scents and are planning new scented stories. Beyond fragrance, Literati & Light are looking to branch out into other literary-inspired items, so 2021 will be a year of designing and innovating in their workshop. Justine offers this advice for anyone starting out with their own small business:

I would say to walk before you run. We have grown our business slowly whilst both working other jobs and this has allowed us the freedom to play and innovate without the financial pressure of needing success for survival. We have also been fortunate to meet, collaborate with and be inspired by some wonderful creators and makers along the way so I would also say find your tribe and follow your nose – you never know where it might lead!” Justine Shaw.

Justine researching fragrances

We could not be more delighted to be stocked in the British Library Shop. The fact that the shop’s profits from the sale of our products will go towards the Library’s mission to make the country’s intellectual heritage accessible to everyone is a source of endless pride to us.” - Justine Shaw.

Browse the British Library Shop’s Literati & Light range
Visit the Literati & Light website
Follow Literati & Light on Instagram