It's no secret that the 2016 presidential race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump is also the worst popularity contest — ever. Both nominees are breaking records left and right when it comes to unfavorable ratings, and one local small business is using that un-likability to their advantage.
Standard Wax, the Tempe-based candle company whose designs are must-stocks in boutiques across the Valley, has launched a new line, "2016 Head of State Candles." The collection features two wax designs each depicting the head of the Democrat and Republican nominees.
"Love a candidate?" the tagline reads. "Your candle will stand tall and proud as a symbol of hope for our country. Loathe a candidate? Burn that sucker until there's nothing left."
"We knew we wanted to do something political just because it's all so ridiculous," says Samantha Thompson, who co-owns Standard Wax with her business partner, Andrew King. "It's kind of nice, because you can buy them because you like the candidate and you want to see them sitting on your desk or table, or because you really hate them and you want to burn them. It can go either way. We're not making anybody choose sides."
The white soy pieces stand two-and-a-half inches tall with extremely detailed laugh or frown lines, distinctive facial features, and yes, The Comb-over. The wax creations ($15 each) can be purchased online through standardwax.com and will be available through the general election in November.
The Head of State duo debuted on Thursday, September 8, but those who attended last month's Phoenix Flea After Dark got an advance preview of the designs, which sold out almost immediately.
"People [were] walking up and saying, 'Oh my gosh, I have to get this and send it to my dad or my uncle,' basically trying to piss someone off," she says. "We posted them on Instagram and had comments right off the bat. Most of them were like, 'Oh my god! Hahaha!' People were just straight-up shocked by it. It's been really fun."
And in an election cycle where menstrual blood paintings and shit-inspired murals have gained attention alongside nutcracker figurines and sexist T-shirts, candidate candles are on what Thompson calls "the low-key controversial side."
"I don't see it as that controversial because it's not just a Trump one or just a Hillary one," says the designer, who adds she'll "definitely" be voting for Clinton. "We try to keep it pretty balanced. I have no shame putting my views out there, but [we're] trying not to offend too many people. Yes, you're lighting a person's head on fire, but it's all for fun."
Though the home-goods company is known for housing its candles in reusable, multipurpose ceramic containers and signature scents like whiskey and fig, white tea and thyme, and forest floor, the Head of State collection, which was created more as a gimmick for show, has neither.
"We considered making the Donald Trump ones smell like shit," Thompson admits, laughing. "Like real poop."
What scent would she attribute to candidate Clinton?
"The first thing that comes to mind is maybe money?"
Instead, each is unscented and intended to fall apart as it melts. (The soy wax is easy to clean, Thompson says, but it's best to avoid burning it on a favorite desk.)
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Thompson has been experimenting with the idea for months, she says, drawing inspiration from You, Me & Bones, a Melbourne, Australia, company that specializes in creepy vintage dollhead-style candles. That led to creating the Head of State line, which actually began with a test candle of Abraham Lincoln. Though the molding process takes longer — hours longer — than their other products, Thompson says shoppers can look forward to seeing more molded wax figures in the future.
So can we expect a Sheriff Joe candle soon?
"Oh my gosh," she says, laughing. "That would be really fun, actually. We should look into that."