When Covid-19 hit, Elise Pioch-Balzac decided a little daydreaming was in order.
“I wanted to dive into a dream world and just escape from reality, which is pretty grim at the moment,” says the founder of Maison Balzac, a Sydney-based company that produces perfumed candles, incense and a small range of homewares. So she did. The result is her latest collection, Un Rêve, French for “a dream”.
Pioch-Balzac launched Maison Balzac with a candle range 13 years ago when she moved to Sydney – her aim was to recapture the olfactory memories of her childhood in rural France. In 2016 she branched out into candle accessories and homewares. Her latest pieces aim to offer a touch of sensory escapism: there’s a marble snail incense-holder (the incense sticks look like antennae); long-stemmed pink wine glasses; coloured carafes and jugs with faceted silhouettes; and – coming soon – opulent smoked-glass fruit platters and slender pastel candles with bulb details.
“The idea was to create a dream place where everything is amusing, calm and pleasing,” she tells Broadsheet. “It’s a bit like reading a children’s book to your child in the evening. You’re snug in bed and you’re taken into another galaxy and mood, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do with this collection.”
Monsieur Escargot (the snail incense-holder) embodies the elegant playfulness that runs through the range: it’s made in France from recycled white marble dust from Carrara in Italy, and is inspired by a decorative garden snail that Pioch-Balzac found in an antique market in France.
“My idea was to have a snail where the antennae were incense sticks, and initially people said ‘Elise, you’re crazy’, but the artisans said, ‘We like it’ ... We’ve already sold way more than we initially made,” she says. “Lockdown made us all slow down and go back into our shells, with our homes being our shells, so I feel like he’s symbolic of what’s been happening.”
The range includes new incense sticks – including the floral Sainte T (created in collaboration with Sydney florist Doctor Lisa Cooper) and the rose-scented Paris, both of which are made by a cooperative on the Japanese island of Awaji, where the use of incense dates back to the sixth century.
Pioch-Balzac’s personal favourite in the new collection is forthcoming Silent Waiter fruit platter – an homage to her grandmother.
“It’s a bit like an old-fashioned cake stand, so not something we use in today’s life very often, but we wanted to try to bring it back into fashion,” she says. “My grandmother always had one on the table and she called it the Silent Waiter, someone presenting you with something delicious to eat.”
No Maison Balzac collection would be complete without a new candle, and this season it’s the aptly named La Rêve, which is scented with amber, jasmine and Moroccan cedarwood to capture a sense of escape. French artist and film director Herman Terre designed the evocative packaging, with a large eye and dreamy graphic swirls.
“The eye on the box is either the entrance to your dream or someone looking at you in reality,” says Pioch-Balzac. “It perfectly captures the whole dream world I wanted to create.”