When her job teaching after-school computer-science classes disappeared with in-person schooling during the early days of the pandemic, Edgemont’s Aubrey Graf-Daniels looked to reinvent herself. A longtime shell collector, she was inspired by a candle she spotted in South Carolina that had been poured into a shell. By October 2021, she had started eleven11creations in her kitchen to sell candles hand-poured into oyster shells and then embellished with crystals, flowers, herbs, and gold leaf. The company name refers to the belief among some that “11:11” represents synchronicity and a sign that one is on the right path. When she made her first sale, on November 11, she took that as confirmation that she was indeed on that path.
Drawing upon a degree in art history and a creative knack, Graf-Daniels started experimenting at her kitchen table. Today, her brand has grown from those one-of-a-kind candles ($10–$30 each) to include her best-selling decoupaged shells. Made using tissue paper and napkins in patterns such as batik, toile, and Chinese dragon print, the decoupaged shells are used as objects d’art, jewelry dishes, spoon rests, etc. She also makes shell-shaped soaps with a light pear and vanilla scent ($5 each) and “cleansing bundles” of natural elements, like rosemary and eucalyptus ($10), designed to promote positive energy.
“The process is therapeutic for me. It’s almost like a meditative state.”
Each item is handcrafted in small batches, using such organic materials as natural soy wax and fragrances for the candles, and shea butter for the soaps, as well as the shells themselves, sourced from Long Island beaches and such local restaurants as Hastings-on-Hudson’s Bread & Brine and Dive Oyster House in Briarcliff. (For the ultimate in sustainability, once the candles are finished, she invites customers to return the shells to her, and she will make another candle in it for them at a discount.) In a process that takes between five and seven hours, Graf-Daniels will make up to four candles or seven decoupaged shells at a time while she listens to music. “The process is therapeutic for me,” she says. “It’s almost like a meditative state.”
So far, Graf-Daniels has sold about 300 shell items, mostly through word of mouth and social media, on her website and at pop-up shops at events like holiday and farmers’ markets. She hopes to sell them next in brick-and-mortar boutiques. She has also started to offer corporate-gift and other custom orders; she’s currently working on 150 decoupaged shells, each personalized with a guest’s name, for an upcoming wedding.
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