Tree Line Candle Co. creates unique, sustainable candles

Ty Davis

Candles are more than just a means of freshening up your home; for some, they’re also a craft for illuminating life and creativity.

Instead of making another jar of lavender and vanilla scented wax, Tree Line Candle Co. creator Jeremy Gilsdorf found a way to combine his passion for invention with his love of the outdoors by creating unique mountain-shaped candles.

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From a young age, Gilsdorf had shown a passion for creating and inventing, according to his childhood friend Sam Straka

By taking the USGS data, Gilsdorf creates 3D models of certain peaks, which then become the molds the wax will be poured into to create the end product.”

“The thing you (have) to know about Jeremy Gilsdorf is he’s been a builder and a tinkerer since we were in elementary school,” Straka said.

Straka recalled two moments of Gilsdorf’s ingenuity: one when he made him a skateboard during their childhood and another where Gilsdorf made his own skis. Propelled by the urge to create, Gilsdorf would pursue a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Gilsdorf has gone through many creative interests throughout his life, according to Straka, but for the last three years, Gilsdorf has been focused on one thing: candles. 

After college, Gilsdorf became fascinated by candle making and design. With the help of much online research, he began making candles out of his own home. In the early stages of making prototype candles, Gilsdorf could only make one pitcher of wax per batch and used his Coleman camping grill to double boil the wax.

I thought (the candles) were really unique. I’ve never seen anything like it before.” -Peri Bolts, founder of Eclectico in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Gilsdorf knew if he wanted to compete in the cutthroat candle industry, he would have to make a candle that stood out from the rest. Combining his love of hiking and skiing with his new interest in candle making, he came up with the idea to use the United States Geological Survey data to make candles that represented mini topographically correct representations of his favorite mountains.

By taking the USGS data, Gilsdorf creates 3D models of Rocky Mountain peaks, which then become the molds the wax will be poured into to create the end product. The candles are made from three different waxes, including soy wax and beeswax, which Gilsdorf said were chosen over paraffin wax for their softer environmental impact and cleaner burn.

Many commercial candles are made from paraffin wax, a petroleum-based wax, which is usually applied to a wick through repeated dipping sessions. While there is debate on the cleanliness of soy versus paraffin burning, soy is considered to be a more ecologically friendly material because of its renewability and longer burn time.

After refining his process, Gilsdorf created his first prototype based on Pikes Peak. In the first year, Gilsdorf began selling his candles on Etsy and Shopify but admits his manufacturing process was disorganized and needed to be streamlined. Still new to the business world, he lacked a concrete catalog of everything he offered.

“My manufacturing processes weren’t there; things weren’t organized,” Gilsdorf said.

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After meticulous planning and organizing, he was able to come up with a manufacturing system that kept up with the demand. Gilsdorf said he began to call stores in the Colorado Springs, Colorado, area to see if any would be interested in selling his candles, which led him to Eclectico, a local cooperative store. 

Gilsdorf presented the candle to the store’s founder, Peri Bolts, who said she was immediately impressed by the product.

“I thought it was really unique,” Bolts said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Gilsdorf bought a space in the co-op to begin selling his candles, and, according to Bolts, customers were immediately enamored with the product. Gilsdorf said Eclectico helped him collect feedback about the product and spread the word about the company.

Now, Gilsdorf says they’re pouring 50 pounds of wax per batch of candles, and the manufacturing has improved to the point of having their own specialized equipment. Gilsdorf said they’re now looking for a larger studio space to expand production, and they hope to find a space in early summer to grow their national parks and ski resort collections.

In addition to offering an aesthetically unique candle, a portion of the company’s profits are donated toward maintaining hiking trails. 

“I think it’s really important to give support to the things you love to do,” Gilsdorf said. “We get to go out and destroy these mountains by hiking on them, and you can’t be selfish by saying, ‘Oh, that’s only for me.’ Everybody deserves to go hiking on these awesome trails, but these trails need help. You need to help them so they stay around.”

Ty Davis can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or Twitter @TyDavisACW.