Joyful Olfactory Encounters
①Affecting Mood ②Evoking Emotion
Journal / Musings, Tales ● 13.10.21
In Conversation with Alicia Bermingham, Founder and Creative Director of Jon Netti
The evolution of Jon Netti - A conversation with Alicia Bermingham
We sat down with Alicia to find out more about the origins of the brand, how the name Jon Netti came about and the reason she chooses to work with the medium of beeswax.
Congratulations on your first collection. We'd love to know more about what drew you to making candles and ceramics.
Thank you! It’s been in the making for quite some time, so it’s lovely to finally be able to share it with our family, friends, and community. There were two aspects that prompted the creation of the candle range. The first was the lack of beautiful candles on the market that could create ambiance and be left out as a sculptural item to add to the aesthetic of a home. The ones I did find, were mass produced offshore and contained quite a few chemicals. When I became pregnant, I couldn’t stand the smell of any fragrance – it immediately made me feel nauseated. I began researching waxes, the industry of each type of wax, as well as the use of synthetic and naturally fragranced candles. What I found was shocking – however it really shaped my vision to create a candle that was good for the environment and for the people. I’ve always been drawn to the rich history of ceramics, and this coupled with the sole use of beeswax in our candles, feels quite ancient in practice. It makes me really excited!
Can you tell us a little more about Beeswax?
Of course. First and foremost, it is a product truly created by nature – the work of the humble honeybee. Within their lifetime, one honeybee will make enough wax to cover the pinkie fingernail of a newborn baby. They extrude this wax from their abdominals to cap the comb in the hive, protecting the honey source. When the honey is collected by the beekeeper, the wax is scraped off and collected. From here, our beeswax is refined through natural water filtration methods. It’s a wax that has been revered and used throughout the ages – dating back to the neolithic period.
Is this why you chose to make beeswax candles?
Yes - it's a renewable wax that can be enjoyed by all, and it has a very safe fume rating. I wanted to support Australian beekeepers and Australian small businesses and really foster the act of sourcing locally and sustainably. In addition, beeswax has incredible properties – it helps clean the air, improving indoor air quality, and has the most beautiful flame – sharing the same colour spectrum as the sun.
Very interesting! Could we please circle back to your statement at the beginning of the interview about other waxes, what pushed you away from using these?
There were some alarming things that I discovered. Firstly, most waxes used in nearly all candles are paraffin and soy. Even a 'beeswax blend’ is made of a marginally small amount of beeswax - usually only enough to stop the other waxes in the blend from burning too quickly, as they have a very low melting point. There is also a growing number of companies adding colour to their candles – these too, turn toxic when they combust with the heat of the flame.
Paraffin wax is a by-product of the petroleum industry. It starts off as a thick, bluish sludge that sits on top of the petroleum and is mechanically extracted from the top – it is a petrochemical. It is then chemically bleached to get it a creamy white. It suprised me how many high end candles are made from this wax, fragranced, and then sold as a 'luxury' item. Soy wax often deemed as ‘natural’ is a by-product of the soy industry. The oil is extracted from the soybean (often genetically modified) and is then hydrogenised with heavy metals before being bleached. It is unlikely that you will ever find a soy wax candle that hasn’t been fragranced – purely because the wax has a terrible odour. On top of this, soy production is one of the biggest contributors to the clearing of the Amazon.
You also mentioned fragranced candles at the beginning of the interview. Do you plan on having any in the future?
No. We have no plans for ever releasing a fragranced candle. There is a growing amount of evidence that suggests synthetic fragrances interrupt hormone signalling, attribute to headaches and allergies and cause nausea and fatigue. This is before you introduce the act of literally lighting them on fire. Through the capillary action of the candle (where the wax is drawn up the wick to create the flame) the fragrance, mixed with the wax, ignites, and combusts. This action releases potential carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Even natural, essential oils, have flashpoints, and become toxic when combusted. My mission was always to create candles that could be enjoyed by all.
Have you always been conscious of natural products?
Yes, my mother Lynette really shared her love of natural products and sourcing local produce with us growing up.
Can you tell us a little about the name, Jon Netti?
Yes, of course. Essentially, it’s a homage to the legacy left behind by my parents – John and Lynette. Dad always encouraged us with the fine arts, including painting and photography, and my mum, was raised on a country farm and instilled a strong respect for nature throughout our childhood. Mum and Dad adored each other and their love for one another and their family and friends was frequently shown. My parents passed away during my teenage years. I've always wanted to honour them, so when it came time to name the brand, it was a natural decision. We instil the values that were so important to them, into the creation of each Jon Netti piece - charged with the belief that they have the power to bring joy to you, your surroundings, and the ones you love.
How do you take a more thoughtful, joyful approach to living?
The biggest change we’ve implemented is investing more time in our decision making and being more considerate with what we purchase. We live in a time and place that is both opportunistic, yet chaotic - inundated with choices, information and messaging. With so many avenues for media to reach us, we are bombarded with glamorised cultural trends - often leading to a feeling of lacking. Through intention, we try to take a step back and engage with life more consciously. We sit with what we truly value, invest in quality over quantity and make decisions that really light us up.
How does this approach translate into your business?
It has always been our intention with Jon Netti to foster a sense of slowing down - to learn how to sit comfortably in stillness. From the outset we wanted to craft products that would enhance daily rituals, create atmospheres that were safe for all, and provide opportunities for deeper conversations and true relaxation to occur. Sustainability is engrained in our products and processes, and we’re very mindful of our ecological footprint. Beeswax reflects these core values – nothing can be hurried with nature, and we are so appreciative that we get to work with this medium. From a design aspect, each piece has been composed to be timeless in form, drawing inspiration from nature and eras past.
Do you have a favourite piece?
Gosh – I love them all for different reasons. Can I pick three?
I think the compleanno candles are the unsung hero – they add such a beautiful aesthetic to any cake and the drip free nature of beeswax means you don't end up with wax all over the cake.
The famiglia are perfect for travelling to make a new space more homely – or to add to the dinner table to foster warmth and intimacy.
Finally, the hand painted checked Tazza is such a humble piece. I have reused mine as a pencil holder in our office and I love looking at it everyday.