RED BANKS — The right scent can quickly transport Raleigh resident Chelsea Locklear back to her native home in the small Robeson County community of Red Banks.
“It’s the same feeling I get when I go home,” Locklear said.
For a year now, she and her husband, Dakota Lowery, have been bottling up that scent, and many others, in the form of organic candles named after communities in Robeson County and tribes in North Carolina. The candle Red Banks contains hints of peppermint, eucalyptus and sage.
“It’s just a really clean scent that calms me, and I guess when I’m home I’m calm,” she said.
This past year, after a six-year-stint in New York, 27-year-old Locklear moved back to her home state of North Carolina and wanted to start a hobby outside of work — one that would pay homage to her home of Robeson County, Scotland County and to her American Indian roots.
“I’ve always had an interest in candles and designing different things, so that’s kind of where my starting point was,” she said.
She taught herself how to make the candles by going online.
“YouTube was my best friend during that time,” Locklear said
All of the candles are organically made with 100 percent soy wax and all natural cotton wicks. A choice Locklear made because of her sensitive sinuses.
Soy wax is a vegetable wax made from the oil of soybeans. The oil is then extracted from the flakes and hydrogenated.
Locklear said they heat up soy wax chips and then add the fragrances. When she is choosing oils, she makes sure they contain no harsh chemicals and that they contain essential oils so each candle is as natural as possible. They then add it to the jars and let it cool with the wick in place.
“We’ll leave those overnight to set,” she said. “It ends up being a lengthy process when you’re making 60 to 80 candles at one time.”
After they sit, Locklear and her husband test the candles.
“You have to let it set for about 24 hours so that the fragrance can properly combine to the wax,” she said. “… It’s not a hard process, it just takes some time and it can be frustrating.”
Sometimes the candle’s fragrance won’t be robust enough, and it’s back to the drawing board.
She mixes different scents with the hope that will play well together.
“I’ll have like two bottles of oils in my nostril and I’m continually sniffing and I’ll say, ‘That might go together,’ then I might add a third,” she said.
After Locklear finds the right fragrance profile, she then tries to name it. One popular scent named after a well-known community is Saddletree Summer. The scent includes bright fresh notes, such as cucumber, raspberry and mint.
“I think people are really drawn to those fruity-like smells,” she said.
Another newly developed candle that is becoming popular is the Cohari Berry, named after the Cohari Tribe. The scent includes black raspberry.
“There’s all types of trial and error that goes into it,” Locklear said. “Since we’ve been doing it for a year now, I’m starting to understand what scents go together.”
Locklear and her husband also make by hand other products, such as shirts and socks with graphics about Robeson County and Lumbee history.
“Everything that we have, our hands have touched it and that’s just something that is really important to us,” Locklear said.
Locklear and her husband will set up a table at the Lumbee Homecoming, which runs June 29 through July 7.
Last year after a drawing, the couple gifted Fairgrove Middle School and Oxendine Elementary School enough supplies for a classroom with the earnings coming from Lumbee Homecoming.
“We try to attend as many events as we can back home even though we’re not in Robeson County,” she said.
A percentage of the all of the products’ earnings go toward the Public Schools of Robeson County because of her belief in the importance of education.
The couple gave Fairgrove Middle and Oxendine Elementary schools enough supplies for a classroom.
Locklear and Lowery’s candles, shirts and socks are sold at the Museum of the Northeast American Indian at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Nancy Fields, the museum’s director, said that the items reflect in a fun and creative way the culture here in Robeson County and attracts tourist all around the country.
“I think it transcends all races; not just Native people,” Fields said.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.