在西貢長大的Xavier，在BeCandle成立十年之際，把品牌回到原點——西貢，店舖在西貢最熱鬧的地段，同時也開展了「Our Land」的項目。「六、七年前在西貢開始了工作室，希望BeCandle能慢慢地發展成西貢的一個小產業。開始時是在西貢設立工場，後來想到物料是否也可以來自西貢呢？於是我找了對物料很有研究的藝術家Niko Leung合作，一起做一個本土實驗。」於是，他們在店舖附近的天主教聖心堂地盤回收泥土，又請來工作室在西貢的陶藝師合作，製作蠟燭器皿，上面印有「97JC＋V64」工程地段的名稱，代表著本土的精神，以及對本土工藝的願景。「香氛蠟燭系列是第一章，之後會嘗試生產香座、擴香石，甚至是杯碟，慢慢發展成一個中小規模的生產模式。」
「創作Our Land的蠟燭器皿時，Niko沒有把重點放於外型上，而是生產過程和物料的研發上。」BeCandle店內展示了一系列研發過程，包括失敗的試驗品。「過程中最大的挑戰是器皿內的防水層。我們希望外面保留泥土的原貌，讓人能觸摸到它的原始質感；而器皿內因要做蠟燭的關係，需要有防水層，所以我們要不斷地試釉。這些釉不是可以買回來的工業生產釉，沒有已知的配方或標準。因此，我們做了很多測試，例如是什麼配方的釉、多少溫度燒製。經過多次試驗，仍有漏水的情況，本來想改為掃上一層蠟，但最終Niko本著不放棄的實驗精神，最終研究到一種最適合的配方。」除了用西貢泥製成蠟燭器皿，Niko與她的團隊Hong Kong Soil還利用回收泥製作了夯土台，是一項以本土泥製作成建材的實驗。」Xavier說，這是東南亞地區製造建材的傳統方式，而Hong Kong Soil的團隊裡有一位是建築師，他們正是藉此尋找把本土泥製成建築材料的可能性。
很多人說，香港是一個彈丸之地，無法獨立生存，必須依賴其他地方的入口。「我想藉著Our Land表達每個人與自己身處的地方之間的連繫。我和Niko都是在西貢長大的，小時候我就住在這間店的樓上，那時在店外面四處跑、四處玩，對這地方充滿了感情。一直以來，一些制度跟你說，這裡沒有天然資源、沒有工業生產，要你向外尋找。但我不相信這一套。Our Land是一個很直接的宣言，每天在你腳下的泥土，能夠轉化成很有價值的東西，只是大家一直忽略了。」Xavier找來世界級的調香師Frank Voelkl和Firmenich來調製了兩款香氛，證明本土製作也可以帶來世界認可的高質素產品。
The sense of smell is the one among the five human senses that is often overlooked. While we typically record the special moments in our lives through photographs, videos, and paintings, the sense of smell is a unique and personal way of storing and engaging with memories.
“I once worked on a project about memories and smells. The whole process was like sketching with the details getting more and more precise and delicate over time. It was the memory of me and my mum sweeping leaves when I was a child,” said Xaiver, the founder of BeCandle. “I grew up in a village house in Sai Kung. In autumn, the parking lot next to us was always carpented with fallen leaves. My mum would take me to sweep and then burn the leaves. As I was trying to transform this memory into smell, I needed to recall the scene in detail—the fallen leaves on the ground, the moisture inside them produced a musty smell over time, and eventually, everything was burnt and turned into ash. When it was turned into a scented candle, the memory became way more profound than before. It was an interesting experience.”
As a native of Sai Kung, Xavier returned to his origin with BeCandle when the brand celebrated its 10-year anniversary. A storefront was opened in the most lively part of Sai Kung and the project, “Our Land” was also launched. “I set up a studio in Sai Kung around six or seven years ago hoping that BeCandle could slowly evolve into a small local business. As we started in Sai Kung, the idea of sourcing locally came about. That’s how I started the experimental collaboration with artist Niko Leung who is an expert in materials.” They started to recycle the soil that is disposed of from a nearby construction site at the Sacred Heart Church, and invited local Sai Kung ceramists to create candle containers with it. Each container produced was stamped with “97JC+V64” which is the exact location of the construction site; it’s not only a manifestation of local spirit but also lays out a vision for local craftsmanship. “The scented candles are only the beginning. We are going to explore with incense holders, diffusers, and even cups and plates. We hope to gradually develop into a small and medium-sized production.”
“When crafting the candle containers for the Our Land series, Niko didn’t focus on the outlook but on the production process and materials research.” Visitors can learn about the research and development processes of BeCandle’s products in the store, and even get to look at the various results produced during trial and error. “The biggest challenge in the whole process is to create the perfect waterproof lining for the containers; we wanted to preserve the soil with its original outlook so that people can feel its raw texture, but we also needed to waterproof the inside of the containers so that they can hold candle wax. We have done tons of experiments in glazing. We didn’t use the ready to use industrial glaze so there was no formula or standard we can make reference to. We just kept running tests on glaze formulas and firing temperatures. We couldn’t get the waterproof layer right even after so many tests and experiments. We thought about applying wax instead; but it was Niko who kept trying and eventually found the perfect formula.” In addition to creating candle containers with recycled soil of Sai Kung, Niko and her team Hong Kong Soil were also working on an experimental project, “Rammed Earth Pedestal”, that uses recycled soil to create construction materials. According to Xavier, the rammed earth construction technique is commonly found in Southeast Asian countries. With one of its members being an architect, the Hong Kong Soil team is making use of their expertise to explore the possibility of turning local soil into construction materials.
Many people say that Hong Kong is a small place that can’t survive on its own and must always depend on others. “I wish that Our Land could be the connection between people and the place that they are in. Niko and I both grew up in Sai Kung. I used to live upstairs from this store when I was a kid. I was always running around, having fun. I have so many feelings for this place. For a long time, the systems have told us that there are no natural resources here in this place and we can’t afford to have industrial production; we need to seek opportunities outside. But I don’t believe any of that. Our Land makes a very straightforward statement: The soil that you walk on everyday can be transformed into something of great value, just that everyone has been ignoring it.” To prove that local brands can also produce high-quality products that are recognized by the world, Xavier commissioned world-class perfumers Frank Voelkl and Firmenich to concoct two fragrances.
These two exclusively formulated fragrances connect with Xavier in a unique way. The first one, Cipresso, is a collage of Xaiver’s old days in Italy and childhood growing up in Sai Kung. It comes with a top note of slightly sweet citrus and a musky and woody base note, making for a fragrance that reminds one of the beautiful scenery of Italy and everyday life in Sai Kung. The second fragrance, Velvet, captures the essence of growth and desire. Xavier hopes that this light and airy scent can render the enthusiasm for life that he feels in both Italy and Sai Kung.
Smell is a part of life; yet it might be true that our sense of smell diminishes as we age, especially while living in such a fast-paced city. “There is a lot of focus on sight, hearing, and speaking while we are in school. We don’t pay much attention to the smells around us. In fact, smell is something really delicate and hard to describe. Even though we can tell what smells good and what doesn’t, there is only a limited amount of words that we can use to describe smell.” Xavier said that smell is like the color of a wall. It has a great impact on the space around it and can reflect one’s lifestyle or state of life. “It’s like when you walk into a foreigner’s house, you might smell the scent of baking bread; while in a Chinese household, you might smell black bean and pepper sauce or that greasy smell from stir frying. Aroma can create and change the atmosphere of a living space, and even change our mood.”
Studies have shown that smell, unlike other senses, can take a direct route to the regions in our brain that are related to emotion and memory, hence the various emotions associated with smell-induced memories. Light a scented candle and the aroma fills the space. Let that moment of life transform into a smell and forever stay in our memory.