PETALING JAYA: If you ever pay a visit to the Juu Candle Studio, make sure you don’t go on an empty stomach. Visitors will encounter many mouth-watering displays, which, at first glance, appear to be delicious foods.
Your tummy may end up growling at the sight of muffins or burgers or French fries, or a plate of nasi lemak with all the trimmings. But don’t take a bite, or you’ll end up with a mouthful of wax!
This is because nothing here is edible – they are all custom-made candles created by Juu Candle Studio founder Hazel Wong.
“When they see photos of my work, some people insist they must be real food. They don’t believe they are candles until they see the wick,” the 42-year-old shared with a laugh.
Wong recently invited FMT Lifestyle to her studio in Sungai Besi in Kuala Lumpur, where she demonstrated her process. She made candles shaped like steamed Hainanese bread – part of a Hainanese breakfast-themed set – alongside others shaped like half-boiled eggs and a cup of hot kopi.
A jaunty French tune played on a Spotify playlist – Wong enjoys working to music – as she heated up a pot of wax on a boiler. Her candle making requires her to use several varieties of wax, depending on what kind of texture is needed. These include coconut, bee, and soy wax.
After the wax has melted, it is left to cool down, before being either shaped by hand or placed in a mould. Once properly formed, the candles are then placed on actual cutlery, the only non-faux part of her culinary masterpieces.
Watching Wong craft these candles with such precision and confidence, you might think she’s been doing this for decades. Believe it or not, this Melaka-born wax worker began only two years ago, picking up the art form to pass her time during lockdowns in 2021.
“I was very free at the time, and I came across this Japanese Instagram account. They showed you how to make candles shaped like food, such as mochi and ramen. It was so ‘kawaii’ (cute)!
“I’ve always loved art, so I’d also give it a try,” the soft-spoken Wong shared with a smile.
Her first creation was a burger, which took about a week to make. Wong’s process, of course, has substantially improved since then: she can now craft a candle within a day, given that more elaborate foods usually take 12-16 hours to form.
Wong especially enjoys making candles shaped like cooked eggs, thanks to the variety of shapes they can come in. She also likes crafting fried chicken and nasi lemak.
Has there been any foods she hasn’t mastered yet? Oh yes, Wong laughed: a common request on social media is for candles shaped like bak kut teh!
One day, she said, she will try to make them. She is also trying her hand at more specialised Malaysian noodle dishes, such as asam laksa and char kuey teow.
The biggest challenge of her art, Wong revealed, is getting everything right. For example, just getting the correct textures and shades of green for the cucumbers of her nasi-lemak candles can eat up about a day!
Nevertheless, “what I like about this is you don’t have to be perfect with your art, because no real food is perfect”, Wong said warmly.
Wong currently operates her studio alongside a wig specialist business, which is run with her husband. She enjoys posting her creations on Instagram, and occasionally conducts candle-making classes.
She has since lost count of how many projects she has completed. Her studio, however, is a veritable buffet of many of her creations.
Her works have drawn the attention of netizens, who enjoy buying her candles for themselves or as gifts. They can cost from RM80 to RM150 for one candle, and even up to RM700 for a whole “meal set”.
Wong also occasionally gets orders from overseas but is having some challenges fulfilling them, so she is now looking for a way to effectively pack her unique creations to send across borders.
She also hopes that in future, she will be able to bring her art to a wider platform – for instance, by using them to help promote Malaysian food.
“I also love creating candles shaped like kuih, such as kuih lapis and puteri ayu. I think we have the best food, and I hope more people all around the world discover and appreciate it more,” she said.
Truly, Wong’s work deserves to be admired. After all, the resemblance to their real-life food counterparts is so uncanny, you could even say they certainly hold a candle to the real thing!
To learn more about Wong and her gorgeous candles, follow Juu Candle Studio on Instagram.