Emma Pratt is the Founder of Elsie&Tom hand poured candles. Here, she explains how experimenting with essential oils and candle-making – whilst recovering from a stroke – inspired her to get better
If you had to describe your life up to 2016, when you had the stroke, what would you say?
Life was busy, running my own marketing company, two young children my husband commuted to London every day, so his hours where long and weekends and evenings were filled with activities for the children. It was fun, but I remember feeling stressed.
How has your recovery journey been? And when did you first have a go at making candles?
Recovering from my stroke has been hard. Because I slept for 20 hours a day in the first four months, and I had physio every day when I wasn’t sleeping. My husband had to work from home and my children became involved in my care. Friends would help cook and help me shower and wash my hair. I had to learn to brush my teeth again and it took ages just to do the movements of brushing up and down.
Everything went from a million miles an hour to a sudden stop! My husband came to the hospital with an eye patch which he had decorated with glitter. He hoped it would help me with my sight and my co-ordination as I often stabbed my face with a fork when eating. The first time I did this I think we found it quite funny!
My speech came back first, but word recall was a challenge and I still call the fridge the dishwasher and get in a muddle. My sight started to slowly return. I began to see my children’s and my husband’s faces. I apparently pulled an odd face when I tried to focus my eyesight on them, but it wouldn’t last for very long as I couldn’t hold on to their image. It was fascinating in a way to see, physically, my damaged brain trying to re-route itself. I was fortunate enough to have physio every day with a team from the NHS who came to the house every day. It was gruelling and if I was too tired and I had to sleep it would be pushed to the next day.
I started to blend essential oils to help me with my own energy levels as I suffered and still do with stroke fatigue – the candles were an extension of that. I had nothing to do as my marketing business collapsed in the second lockdown and I wanted to do something creative, so I turned my hand to candles and blending my fragrances together – but it didn’t work at first – my curiosity got the better of me until I had mastered it.
Do you find the process therapeutic?
Very, yes. It’s also good for my processing and memory. It’s very good for me as the process (16 in total) requires patience, attention to detail and being meticulous – all things I find hard as I am in constant chaos.
How was everything looking for you at the start of the pandemic?
I was very conflicted at the beginning of the pandemic: worried about my mum who lives alone; worrying about my business which had lost all its clients and then relishing the time we all had together as a family in our home. I was also diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis which put me on the at-risk list as I started immune suppressant therapy.
When did you first have the idea for Elsie&Tom and what’s the thinking behind it all?
It was a while after I had been making and filling the house with my test candles. They were my inspiration to get better and keep going. I wanted them to be part of this journey and so Elsie & Tom was born.
When did you launch and what makes your candles special?
I never really launched. It just happened. My fragrances make my candles extremely unique, as you cannot get these fragrances anywhere else. The way they are meticulously made also ensures a quality product. The fragrance oils all made with pure essential oils are blended with the soya wax at a precise temperature which ensures the oils bind with the wax. This enables the fragrance to last to the very end of the candle. They also clean burn. I had to go through the process of getting my fragrance blends regulated and certified with IFRA. This was hard work but so worth it.
Is Suffolk an inspiration to you?
I love Suffolk. We are so close to the countryside and the coast. I love the coast – one day I want to live by the water. I went to school in Ipswich and Norfolk and then came back to Ipswich to go to art school. I have lots of friends from here and we are very lucky to live in such a beautiful county.
Where can people find your products?
Coes, a family run independent department store, were the first to stock our candles and reed diffusers. They stock Elsie&Tom in their Ipswich, Felixstowe, Newmarket and Kings Lynn stores. Flex Studio in Ipswich also stock us and Make Holt in Norfolk carry our candles. The Green House, a beautiful plant shop in Halesworth who also host a number of workshops and community-based events, stock Elsie&Tom. We are also now in Woodbridge at Phoebe and Flo and in Hadleigh at Rachel Boutique.
What would your message be to anyone recovering from a stroke?
This is a very hard message to give as every stoke impacts on its victims differently. No stroke is the same. However, I follow a Paleo diet and I try to do yoga daily.
What are your hopes and dreams for 2023 – and beyond?
To keep working on my health and to get fitter and stronger and to build the Elsie&Tom brand. We are now focusing on Essex this year and beyond that looking at taking Elsie&Tom into London. Most importantly though is making sure we continue to make great fragrances and look after our existing stockists and customers.
Featured image of Emma Pratt, taken by Tom Pratt