"In this economy, if it's a gift that you made by yourself, it will be much appreciated. It's from your heart," Stoia said. She welcomes interested students to take her classes and put thoughts and time into this year's gifts. "I mean, if they could come to take my candle class, soap class and lotion class — in the end, they will be able to put together a nice gift basket all by themselves," she said.
She says her job is to provide the students with a foundation and spark their imagination.
"It's their own imagination that will take them to the next level. Their creativity is their own limitation," she said. "I make the projects simple enough to encourage my students to actually make the products when they go home. They can go further. Sometimes, my students send me pictures and I have seen them making candles like pie and whatever else they had come up with."
Stoia worked in mass communication and marketing until her company eliminated the job. By sheer luck, her journey toward a home-craft instructor began in January 2002 when she first enrolled in a soap-making class at College of San Mateo.
"I have never thought I would be going into craft-making. One day, I saw a brochure and I found, hey, a soap-making class," she said. "I was like, alright, this sounds kind of cool. It looks creative."
Once she took the class, she found it was simple enough for her to continue on to make the craft. She was soon hooked on making her own bath and products, taking a wide variety of courses including making soap, lotions, bath salts, body scrubs, and, about a year ago, candle-making.
"I took one class, then I started to take another class to see if I can learn something new," Stoia said. "Most of them were taught by Lori Nova of The Nova Studio in Point Richmond, Calif."
By 2004 she began to teach at Michaels craft store and developed her own style of teaching, then she ventured out to Palo Alto Adult School and several other schools in the Bay Area.
She admits that she is a "late bloomer" to craft-making, but she has now found her niche in teaching others.
"What I try to bring to my class is a social and fun learning experience. It's an open environment. I have people from all walks of life. Sometimes people come to my class and they already know something. They can add their information to the other students, and I also learn from my students."
What she likes about her current teaching job is that it's actually flexible enough to allow her to return to full-time work. "Even if I started working full-time, I would still teach classes. It's something I really enjoy doing. I felt productive while teaching a class," she said.
Stoia also writes a bath and body products blog, http://homemadebathproducts.blogspot.com, featuring notices of her upcoming classes, information on where to buy products, recipes and more. It helps her to keep track of her progress and promote her classes. She updates it regularly and the blog has since attracted a large following.
"Most of the readers are here in the U.S, but I also have traffic from Australia and Europe," she said.
What: Festive Holiday Gifts: Eco-Friendly Candles
When: Saturday, Oct. 29, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Palo Alto Adult School, Room 103, 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto
Cost: $35 plus a materials fee of $20 collected on day of class
Info: 650-329-3752 or www.paadultschool.org
Soy Wax Container Candles
1. Melt Container-Blend (CB) or "SOFT-SOY" soy wax slowly on low heat in a candle-pouring pot in a double boiler.
2. Stir the wax gently as the wax melts and gradually add more wax to the pot.
3. Color: Once the wax is melted, add an oil-based candle color (wax chips, liquid). Start with 1 drop, stir and just repeat until you reach the desired color you like.
4. Scent: Once you reach the pouring temperature, add candle-safe fragrance or essential oil (2 or 3 squirts of scent for a 6 oz. tin container). Fragrance is always added last.
5. Stir & Pour: Stir gently to prevent air bubbles and carefully pour wax into your container.
6. Wick: Wait approximately 2-5 minutes (depending on temperature of wax) and pre-primed cored wick. (Tip: Use a glue dot at the bottom of wick and insert prior to pouring wax.)
7. Finish: Allow wax to become cool to the touch without disturbing.
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