Learn to Speak Tree.
Smell is powerful. It can stop you in your tracks and transport you back to a specific moment in time. As humans, we often unknowingly cling to certain aromas for their sentimental qualities. For Tobias Douglas, Hollow Tree candles exist as conduits to bring the forest’s natural fragrance, and the sanctuary it offers, to your home.
Growing up exploring the infinite backcountry of British Columbia, Tobias would often find herself wandering between spruce and cedar, asking “how can I bottle this scent?”. A career in forestry planted the first seed of what was to become Hollow Tree; an organism of a different kind. Hollow Tree is a thriving line of hand poured, beautifully scented and plant-based candles that offer an immersive, calming experience. The fragrances are so convincing that if you close your eyes, you may just believe you're standing amongst the trees, inhaling the rich aromas of bark, moss, and earth.
"I want to evoke feelings of happiness, adventure, and joy through scent."
- Founder, Tobias Douglas
Tobias began tree planting in the early '90s, where she became enchanted by the poetical symbiosis of the forest dwellers: the soils, the fungi, the wildlife, the intertwined micro and macro communities of the earth. A protestor at War in the Woods, where she defended the Clayoquot Sound from logging, Tobias wanted to learn everything there was to learn - socially, economically and politically - about the rainforest ecosystems of B.C. It was a natural progression for her to pursue a career in the forestry industry, which had challenges of its own as an environmentally-invested woman in the '90s. These formative years inspired her beautiful collection of coconut wax candles.
Four hundred unique recipes of scent have been narrowed to just fifteen, in which Tobias has managed to recreate seemingly indescribable scents. Each candle is proudly embellished with the Stanley Park icon, the Hollow Tree, and hand poured in her modern cabin-style studio in Function Junction. Her workspace is home to not only hundreds of candles, but also to an original Whistler Gondola, a red Quebecois canoe, and two very content huskies - her 'co-founders'.
A commitment to sustainable business practice meant years of fine-tuning and endless product testing. The use of paraffin and GMO soy wax was off the cards, despite being two of the most popular candle ingredients in today's market. Looking for a new, ethical alternative, Tobias set her sights on coconut wax. Once they discovered the perfect natural binder, apricot, the recipe was complete. Their wicks are made of the finest organic cotton so they burn cleaner and longer, each one for up to sixty hours.
Tobias' scents are distilled in Grasse, France, where she works closely with some of the finest perfumers in the world. Her first scent, The Lions, took almost a year until she felt it accurately embodied the flora and fauna of the famous north shore peaks. Fireweed, her personal favourite, took over two years to curate, and another has been in the works for over four years.
Hollow Tree now has three collections: the 1871, the Backpacker and the Library of Trees. The brand is already wildly successful. and Tobias hopes to use it to spread the message of conservation. Her goal is to inspire people to experience the Pacific Northwest, to pay homage to its history and to protect its future. Locally, her heart resides with WAG, Whistler’s local animal shelter. She donates six candles a month for WAG to sell and raise funds so that they can continue to work tirelessly to ensure all their animals find safe homes. On a larger scale, Tobias doesn't shy away from her political views and uses her new platform to raise awareness of the plight of B.C’s wolves, donating a portion of her sales to Pacific Wild.
“Currently we live in a place where our elected officials, specifically the New Democratic Party, have been killing wolves in British Columbia. Wolves are a keystone species that play an integral role in the health of our forests, the growth of our trees, the flora and fauna. Killing them, as we have seen in Yellowstone, is detrimental to the environment, to where we live and the place we call home." - Founder, Tobias Douglas
You can sign the campaign to help save B.C.'s wolves here. In her parting manifesto, Tobias encourages us as rainforest dwellers to embrace nature: to take a hike in the backcountry, walk on forest floors, dance barefoot in the rain, love our wilderness, love where we live and above all, learn to speak tree - they have many stories to tell.
Hollow Tree candles can be found in 3 Singing Birds at their Olympic Plaza and Fairmont locations. There are also a few select scents at the Audain Art Museum and the weekly stall at the Whistler Farmers’ Market. For out-of-towners, you can check out their online store, hollowtree.ca.