Vendor Spotlight: Highland Bluff Studios
Name: Samantha (Sam) Meeks
Business: Highland Bluff Studio
Wand: Alder with Unicorn Hair
Patronus: Basset Hound
When we first started using Highland Bluff Studio candles, we knew we had hit a home run when it came to finding artists we wanted to use over and over again. Her product is beautiful, simple, and something subscribers rave about every time her candles are featured. And as her products are vegan, we are proud to include them in our cruelty-free subscription box!
Based on customer feedback, our subscribers agree that the scents Sam comes up with are amazing. (My obsession with the Flying on the Pitch candle from the December box was so extreme that I wanted to crawl inside the tin and live there.) But something that subscribers don’t see is the care Sam takes in her craft and in her business practices.
One thing that has always impressed us with her is how passionate she is that our subscribers have a fantastic experience from start to finish with her products, and that starts with making sure our orders are prepared to her high standards behind the scenes. She has never cut corners with quality, and to top it all off she’s a big Harry Potter fan. However, she works perfectly with our aesthetic in that her fandom products are delightfully subtle, and we tip our hats to her witty references and imaginative scent combinations that bring our subscribers so much joy. It’s why she is an artist we hope to work with for years to come. There is nothing better than lighting one of her candles and curling up with Goblet of Fire or Chamber of Secrets (again) and going home to Hogwarts.
We asked Sam if we could pick her brain and let our subscribers learn a little more about where their candles come from.
Accio!: So can you tell our subscribers a little bit about yourself? Where are you from and what’s your background?
Sam: Hi! My name is Samantha, but I go by Sam. I am from a very small town in Middle Tennessee, happily single, and the mom of a five-year-old Great Dane named Storm. I received a Bachelor’s degree from MTSU in Journalism as well as a Master’s in Mass Communication. I have spent the last six years working full-time as a marketer and then as a business systems analyst for a startup software company. I’m an entrepreneur through-and-through. About three years ago, I found myself grinding at the full-time job and really wanting a new passion for my evenings and weekends. Next thing I know I own a candle business and have been trying to make candles fast enough ever since. Last December, the company for my full-time job was acquired by a larger company. I was asked to stay but in April, I took a leap. Highland Bluff Studio is now my full-time, and I am excited for what’s to come.
Accio!: How long have you been an artist (professional or otherwise)?
Sam: I believe that my craft is not only what goes into creating candles but also all of the business things it takes to get the candles to our customers and make sure they are happy. I started my first “business” at age 12. I made cotton candy for local gas stations and sport concession stands. Even then, I was already thinking about quality work and customer service. When someone leaves feedback or posts a picture of a Highland Bluff candle, it sometimes seems surreal. Something I make travels great distances and becomes treasured by someone else. It feels absolutely amazing!
Accio!: How did you find your craft? What took you to candles?
Sam: When working to find my new evenings and weekend passion, I started a group called “Handmade in Nashville.” My goal was to bring together makers who had a craft but didn’t have the time or funds to attend craft shows and events. I looked for the makers who knew plenty about their art but not much about marketing. The makers could make, while I took care of marketing and promoting our events. Over time, I noticed how much care and thought the members put into making their art and found myself wanting to make something of my own. I quickly found myself drawn to handmade candles. I spent weeks researching and watching videos, and then weeks more trying out my first candles. Even today, I am still learning and improving.
Accio!: How much time do you spend on a batch of candles for Accio?
Sam: Today, we have a team of three that puts together a batch of products for Accio. It usually takes us 3-4 days total spread over 1-2 weeks. Our first order from Accio last year was our largest order ever. We were thrilled. Our orders from Accio have made us driven and determined. With each one, we look for a way to improve our process and get better at making large quantities of candles. For the glass candle in the Luna box, we had such a large shipment that it was the first time we had to ship using a pallet. That day was a very victorious day for Highland Bluff.
Accio!: Your candles are always so beautiful. Can you give us a brief walk through of your process in making your product? What goes into it?
Sam: Making candles is very much like cooking. Temperature means everything and ingredients must go together at certain times. While wax is heating up, we begin by preparing our containers, either the glass or tin one. We then place wicks in the container and position them with wick bars. Once the wax has reached a certain temperature, we add fragrance. From here, the wax must cool some more. We then use pitchers to ration off smaller amounts of wax and hand-pour it into the container. We tend to let the candles sit for a good while before disturbing them. Once the candles look good and solid, we then trim the wicks, wipe any drips of wax from the sides, add lids, and any labels or packaging. The majority of this process is done with the latest radio hits playing, frequent attempts at singing, and a good amount of laughter.
Accio!: So spill for us, are you a Harry Potter fan? What is your favorite HP book? Do you have a favorite character? How about a favorite quote?
Sam: I am definitely a Harry Potter fan. Release day of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2005 is one of my favorite memories with my youngest sister, Haley. We stood in a linethat extended out of the building and along the sidewalk for what seemed like forever. I asked her to go see where the register line even began, and she came back not too long after carrying two copies. We rolled down the windows as we pulled away and cheered to the line of Harry Potter fans, and they cheered back. As soon as we got home, we started reading and didn’t stop until we finished. This pretty much describes how she and I were for each book release and each movie release. It’s hard to pick one character and one quote, but I can say my favorites are the moments when Ron and Hermione are there for Harry. The world can get tough sometimes for us wizards, and friends make all the difference.
Accio!: Is there anything else you’d like our subscribers to know about you or your art?
Sam: I would like Accio subscribers to know how thankful that we are for their love and support. We have lost track of the number of messages received from those of you that found our items through Accio. Those messages fuel our motivation. Thank you for reaching out to us!
So now you can see why she is one of our favorite and longest-running artists. The products you receive in Accio! Boxes are made by fans who love the HP stories as much as we all do. As much as it is our goal to bring you fun, high-quality, artisanal products, it is also our goal to find and support makers who share our vision. It’s easy to employ a factory that is churning out hundreds of duplicate items an hour, but each product we put in our boxes has been designed and crafted by a talented and passionate artist like Sam. We hope you enjoyed getting to know her a little better, and we hope you get as much joy out of her candles as we do whenever we burn them around the office or in our own homes.