Delaware artist turns hobby into business [video]

After a Martha Stewart moment, artist John Flournoy was inspired to turn his antique tin chocolate mold collection into a business.

In the basement of John’s Lewes, Delaware home is a workshop. John makes beeswax candles using silicone molds that started out as antique chocolate molds. He also makes garden statuary.

He started working in fiber art for about 20 years, displaying his work in galleries up and down the East Coast. Before turning to art full time, though, he worked as a warehouse manager for almost 30 years.

Now retired, John has the freedom and time to pursue his artwork on a full-time basis.

It started with the molds

One day while searching eBay for garden molds, he stumbled across a listing for an antique chocolate mold. The mold sparked his interest and after some research John discovered where and how they were made and began his collection.

John currently has around 50 of the molds. His most recent purchase was a mold of ‘Puss in Boots’ from a man in England. The molds originally came from countries like Germany, France and Belgium. They date back to the turn of the last century up through the 1940’s and 50’s. They were originally used to make solid chocolate, some as high as two or three feet tall.

Not happy with 50, John is still on the hunt for more. “I have a search set up on eBay anytime anyone lists a chocolate mold or ice cream mold; I get an email on a daily basis.”

The Martha Stewart moment

The collection evolved into something else with a little help from Martha Stewart. “She was doing a segment on how to make silicone molds. So I put two and two together and started making chalkware (Plaster of Paris) with the molds, and took the chalkware and made the silicone molds and made the candles from that,” John said. 

From the molds, John makes candles for different holidays and some just for fun. He’s created everything from cats to cowboy boots, easter bunnies, gnomes and, of course, Santa Claus.

But the Santa molds John uses don’t look like your average Father Christmas. In Germany, Santa is called Belsnickel. He isn’t depicted as a jolly guy in the red suit that most of us have grown up with. This version of Saint Nick is a woodsy-type of guy who looks a bit peeved, carries a switch, a bag of charcoal and sometimes a bag of apples. At least he isn’t as bad as Krampus. Krampus if you aren’t familiar is sort of the anti-Santa. He comes to punish kids around Christmas-time who have misbehaved. Yikes, so be good for goodness sakes.

Treasured memories

After John’s mother passed away a few years ago, he went through some of the things in her house. He found Christmas ornaments that she had saved over the years. It was a nice treasure that sparked many memories. John hopes his creations will make joyful memories for other families; not only his candles, but also the ornaments he makes.

“I hope that they’re getting a tradition that they can pass on to their kids. Hopefully they will buy my Santa Clauses and some point in time, someone else will be cleaning out a house and they’ll find them and they’ll be something that they can remember their family by — better times when they were little kids, celebrating Christmas.”

You can find John’s work on the internet shopping site Etsy.  If you are in the Lewes-area, you can find his work in various shops around town.

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