Brad Swift began his business, Portland Bee Balm, with one goal: to make the best beeswax lip balm available. While most businesses that work with beeswax are quick to branch out to other products—lotions, salves, candles, and more—Brad wanted to focus on perfecting this one product first. After all, the whole venture began when his wife ran out of lip balm and Brad decided to use some extra wax from his backyard hive to make her some himself.
Eventually he began brainstorming how to combine his desire to make unique beeswax candles with his love for the Pacific Northwest. From there, Cascadia Candle Company was born. After running a successful campaign on Kickstarter, Brad was able to get up and running.
Brad’s candles-making process starts with a 3D printer. He first started experimenting with and learning how to use a 3D printer at Portland makerspace ADX. Currently, Brad uses the most up-to-date topographical data available to 3D print accurate molds of Mount Ranier, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Hood. Brad’s inspiring process combines the ancient practice of beeswax candle making with the modern technology of the 3D printer. Brad has confirmed that imparting new technology on age-old processes can yield surprising, striking, and elegant results.
Brad attributes much of the candles’ success to the personal connection many Portlanders feel towards these mountains: many of us have spent many weekends hiking around Mount Saint Helens or camping out on Mount Hood that they have become a core part of what it means to live in the Pacific Northwest.
In the future, Brad hopes to expand his line of candles to include other natural landmarks, like different mountain ranges around the world or haystack rock on the Oregon coast, as well as architectural landmarks like Portland’s Big Pink building or the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. For now, though, he’s working on perfecting the same three mountains in various sizes.
Of course, we couldn’t leave without asking Brad how his backyard hives were doing. Brad has two Bee Thinking hives in his backyard: a Langstroth and a top bar hive. When asked what he loved the most about beekeeping, Brad gave a perfect answer: He spoke about how beekeeping forces him to be in tune with his natural surroundings in a way that most people aren’t anymore. “You notice when it’s raining outside, or when it’s particularly cold, and the first thing you think about is if you need to do anything with your bees,” Brad said, “Beekeeping is a sort of catalyst. It helps inspire you to make other good choices for the environment, too.”