In a bid to bring a little bit of the outside world into her apartment during lockdown, Clare Neilson turned to iconic Australian scents to create an environment that smells like the place she now calls home.

Having grown up between Sydney and Indonesia, Neilson has a lot of core memories that she associates with uniquely Australian fragrances. “As a kid we would travel back to Australia and often visit friends and family who lived in the outback. Eucalyptus, wattle – those smells really connect me to my childhood memories.”

Neilson’s first foray into candle making was almost nine years ago when she made thank you gifts for her first child’s baby shower. “Honestly, they were so bad, I’m shocked that they turned out because I really had no idea what I was doing. But it sort of started a little spark.” A workshop with Elise Pioch Balzac of homewares brand Maison Balzac further cemented her interest in the craft.

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Clare Makes officially launched in October 2020. “Because we were all stuck at home and spending so much time inside our apartment, I wanted to find a way to bring the outdoors in,” she says.

Hand-poured in Sydney’s inner west, each candle in the range is named after a historical Australian figure. There’s the Elizabeth, with notes of lilly pilly and frangipani, named for horticulturalist Elizabeth Isaac, who propagated a new variegated lilly pilly with a combination of pink, green and cream-margined leaves. The Louisa is scented by native boronia that grows in Tasmania, and pays homage to Louisa Anne Meredith, a writer, illustrator and one of Australia’s earliest photographers, who widely documented wildflowers. The Quong, with its marriage of Australian botanicals and Asian herbs, is a nod to the entrepreneur and philanthropist Mei Quong Tart, who set up tearooms which held Sydney’s first suffragette meetings.

But if you’re not sure exactly what fragrance will suit your space, you just have to ask. “Being a small business, I’m available to help customers decide what they might like, either over email or on Instagram” Neilson says. She has created a quiz to break down the scents you’ll like most, based on your preferences for places and activities (there’s a discount code available once you complete the form too). The brand is stocked in boutiques around the country, and hosts market stalls across Sydney. It also offers a sampler of its 12 scents.

“Bringing the whole line together was about creating a little something for everyone, but it was also about finding scents that would trigger a memory or a moment for people,” Neilson says. “The idea of a sense of place is really important to me.”

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