Meet the Maker: Vanilla & Spruce

Get to know our November Box Candle Maker! Q + A with Vanilla + Spruce's founder who encourages you to strike a match, get comfy and ignite that dreamer from within.
November 28, 2023

Kate Graffeo, Vanilla & Spruce Founder and Candle Maker.

Featured in the November 2023 Vellabox

Vanilla & Spruce is committed to making phthalate-free home fragrances that meet our 3 categories of invitation: nostalgia, dreamy and cozy. Our mission is to create quality products you love, inspire you to grow quality moments in your own life, beginning with believing that you are a quality you.

Use code VELLABOX15 for 15% off your Vanilla + Spruce order!

How did Vanilla + Spruce get started?

When 2020 hit, I was struggling mentally in my career and COVID forced me to slow down. I was able to slow down long enough to try something new – candle making! From as young as I can remember, creativity has always made me feel alive; although, it’d been placed on the back burner as I finished school and worked multiple jobs. During the pandemic, it was in the experimenting with waxes, scents, wicks, scent naming and label design that a part of me came alive again.

That’s what I desire for you too. To come alive in life’s simple moments. Be reminded of what rest can do for your soul and to consider what nostalgic treasures electrify a memory in your own conscious. Dare feel childlike again to what once made you come alive.

Vanilla & Spruce invites you to soak in the nostalgic comforts of your favorite space. Whether that be on-the-go with our inspirational body mists, cozied up with our comforting bookmarks, or feeling more alive in your favorite space with a diffuser, soy candle or wax melt that sets your vibe. We believe in the co-existence of sentiment and growth. And that cultivating rest can kindle the fire of the soul – to live more alive to who you are and more connected to the life around you.

Main St. Café elicits visiting a beloved coffee shop with yummy pastries at any time of year when you feel like getting cozy with a chai latté. Tucked away in your favorite corner nook, wrapped in a chunky knitted cardigan, and ready to dream out the window, you catch the warm aroma of buttered cherry tarts and warm ginger scones behind the counter. To press ‘rewind’ on that memory, simply light this candle.

I squealed at the eureka moment when the finished aroma hit my nose and Grey Sweater came to my mind. If you’re like me with a shock effect to AC in the summer, then you keep sweaters with you all the time with any excuse for a cozy vibe. Pause. This scent was blended to bring you to the present moment. You’re invited to take a pause and let your mind be comforted by that bulky grey sweater of comfort.

Like the other featured candles this month, the inspiration behind Cardigan + Pine was a scent to enjoy during the holiday season and cozy up with year round. This candle has hygge vibes melted through every last note to turn your space into a quiet bungalow in the woods. Grab that puzzle, read a book with a hot tea or have a night-in with friends – and create cherished memories when you light this favorite up!

These featured scents are available in the Vellabox candle shop!

What is your favorite candle that you’ve created?

Grey Sweater has become my go-to earthy scent that feels cozy no matter the season. It holds the vibrant spruce notes of winter while having a comforting base of vanilla that had me burning it all through the summer months leading up to fall. I’m also really excited about one of my spring candles named Bohemian Dream — hands down one of the happiest scents I’ve ever smelled (let alone created). It’s actually the only scent I burn as a wax melt in my home whenever I need that mood lift. It just makes me happy! I’m so excited to be sharing it again with you soon.

Aside from my Hammock body spray, my favorite non-candle product is my coffee table book, Made for Winter. All of my products are made with my full heart and great attention to detail and emotion, but this took the creating experience to another level. It holds my heart, my tears, and hardest lived moments, with the motivation to inspire others to not feel alone in their heavy winter seasons of life.

What values or pillars does your business take pride in?

  • Welcoming + inspirational – provide an inviting space through our products that inspires others
  • Sentimental + cozy – cultivate sentimental appreciations that encourage the art of living from rest
  • Growth + authentic expression – offer a space that encourages authentic inner growth, for others to live out their truest self & own creative expression
  • Quality + satisfaction – create quality products you love, that inspire you to grow quality moments in your own life, beginning with believing that you are a quality you.

We take pride in Vanilla & Spruce being a woman-owned business. I tend to be my own worst critic and running a business has really challenged this personal trait. I’ve realized that it’s led to a lot of change in scent & label design in effort to make something that others really love. Customer feedback has really shaped the direction of Vanilla & Spruce, learning what they like, what sells well and the impact a product has made them feel in their daily life. In the past year, recognizing this has shifted a need to try out everything early in the business to being able to sit back and soak in the fun and beauty of creating something that others genuinely love coming back for.

What has surprised you about being a candle maker and running your business?

My absolute favorite part about creating a candle is crafting the perfect name and description. I’ve spent months on crafting the very description that lights up every note in a candle and it fascinates me how the words I choose can highlight or quiet a note that I smell. It’s an experience of fun that can’t be matched for me that I can’t seem to stop making new candles. Each candle is like bringing a new identity to life. It’s a name with a personality that conjures emotion in the person who picks it up. And getting to witness that introduction in real life is just the cherry on top! It’s an element of psychology and the magnificence of our body’s senses that continues to astonish me, over and over.

It’s also interesting to me that we usually create something really golden when we aren’t even trying to. One of my top selling body sprays right now, Vintage, only exists because I made it from a fall candle for a friend (who said that the scent reminded her of a friend’s house growing up). It received so much positive feedback and requests at her work that I added it to the fragrance line! If it wasn’t for that, this spray wouldn’t have been worn to a Kelly Clarkson show where she commented on it! I will never stop believing that true creativity comes from the heart. I’m excited to continue growing with Vanilla & Spruce and its customers who teach what being present for others can do.

If you had to pick just one, which Thanksgiving dish could you eat for the rest of your life?

Since as young as I can remember, my favorite Thanksgiving dish has been my Mom’s sweet potato casserole with a perfectly crisp brown sugar and walnut topping. I’ve had other sweet potato casseroles before, but hers is still my favorite. She just nails the balance of sweetness and right texture perfectly.

Any exciting launches coming up that we can look forward to?

I will be launching a new “special occasion” collection for gift candles (e.g. congrats, happy birthday, thank you, etc.) to make it simpler for shoppers to find the perfect gift for loved ones while picking out their own seasonal fragrances.