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October 2013 – Russian Hill Bookstore

04 Oct


Give Candles a Chance

October 4, 2013 | By |

In my youth I was never fond of candles. I found their heavy scents suffocating and disliked the sooty halo that inevitably formed around the lips of the jars. Visit my house now and you will find candles in every room. What happened? I gave the candle industry an opportunity for redemption and I’ve never looked back. Now let me share with you some of what I have learned about alternative candle options and maybe, just maybe, you too will give candles another chance.

Beeswax candles are by no means new to the candle making industry, but their mellow honey scent and virtually smokeless slow burn makes them a favorite for many. They are virtually dripless, burn longer than paraffin wax candles, and have been shown to be a good choice for individuals with allergies as they release negative ions while burning that attract positively charged allergen particles. Beeswax is a non-toxic, renewable resource that is well worth introducing to the home. All of our beeswax candles are hand made in America by family businesses who use wax produced by local bees.

Soy based wax

Soy based candles are becoming increasingly popular as they are clean burning, and last much longer than traditional paraffin wax candles. Soy wax candles have a low melting point, which provides for not only a higher level of safety, but when paired with an electric warmer allows for multiple cost-effective meltings with no smoke or soot. As an added benefit, the wax on its own has virtually no scent; this allows for manufacturers to achieve more pure, delicate scent combinations. All of our soy based candles are produced in America and many of the companies that we carry are hand made to ensure the highest quality available.

I realize it may take more than expanding wax choices to open your self and home to candles again. And thankfully the candle industry recognizes this as well. A plethora of Eco-friendly options are available from sustainably sourced waxes, wicks, and scent additives to recycled and reusable containers and packaging. Sustainably harvested wooden wicks are a relatively recent addition to the industry that when burned provide a soothing crackle evocative of a rustic hearth in wintertime. Essential oils have come to play larger roles in creative scent options. We are no longer prisoners to the indescribable odor of yesterday’s Ocean Breezes or Tropical Sunsets. Today we can explore the intrigue of such unique fragrances as spearmint and tea tree oil, tobacco flower and vanilla, bamboo and green tea, or even basil and lime. The focus on environmental responsibility does not end here. Presently, many candle manufacturers are packaging their handmade creations in everything from recycled wine bottles to reusable juice glasses. Now, with an expanded understanding of what today’s candles have to offer, I beseech you to give these affordable luxury items another chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Tonight, I will light a candle for candles.

04 Oct


The Queen of Cards – Constance Kay

October 4, 2013 | By |

The queen of cards is, without a doubt, Constance Kay. Her Collection of handmade art cards adorn the top rows and end caps of card racks throughout the store. Her cards are certainly beautiful to look at, especially the Holiday selection. And for those special people or special occasions, consider a handmade art card from the Constance Kay Collection.

So who is Constance and what is her story? David Illies, husband and partner, explains.

Constance Kay started her company in 1985, shortly after arriving in New York City. She saw a niche in the “commercial” market for handmade original art cards designed and made by American artists in their studios around the country. At that time, it was not easy for artists to get their art into the marketplace, and she felt she could help. Constance saw cards made by American artists an alternative to both mass-produced printed cards and handmade cards designed in the America but produced in Mexico and China.

With a passion for art and art cards, Constance started her business in her apartment with one artist who worked in acrylic abstracts. Her first account was a stationery store in Philadelphia, who remained with her for over 20 years until it closed.

It was never the goal of Constance Kay to be in every store on every corner. She wanted her art cards to be in the best stores in the country and in the world.

In San Francisco, Russian Hill Bookstore has always been the flagship for the Collection. Constance felt that the owner, Carol Spencer, understood the product and made a commitment to it that has endured for many years.
The Constance Kay Collection currently encompasses about 60 artists and over 14,000 styles. The art cards have become increasingly refined over the years. Just about every medium can be found in the collection from collage to watercolors. Most styles could be described as sophisticated and elegant, but a touch of humor can also be found. Each card is signed and accompanied by a freestanding “bio,” that includes information about the card and the artist.
There are now collectors around the world and some cards are bought and sold for hundreds of dollars. Many of the cards end up framed and held as keepsakes.
Constance says she always looks forward to seeing Carol and her store on her periodic visits.