Teri Johnson’s Candles Celebrate the Harlem Renaissance

Harlem, New York City was home to artists, poets, and performers during the Harlem Renaissance. And although 100 years have passed, Teri Johnson, the owner and founder of the Harlem Candle Company wants to make sure these legends aren’t forgotten.

Johnson’s luxury home fragrance brand infuses scents associated with greats of the time like James Baldwin, a novelist, playwright, poet, and activist, with a “Baldwin” Candle that hints at his love for his St. Paul de Vence garden with notes of apple and cloves. There’s also a candle called “Speakeasy” that relates to Harlem night life with auras of bourbon and palo santo.

Johnson started making candles in 2013 for friends and family, but she changed it into a business after hiring a chemist to create fragrance oils. This ignited her passion and she got into the process of making them before creating a story for each one. As a Harlem resident since the mid-2000s, she decided to start selling her candles to local pop-up shops and spreading her business on Instagram. And by 2014, the Harlem Candle Company was created.

Her greatest struggle is finding inspiration for each candle and also balancing art and inspiration. Johnson believes that “scent is powerful, scents are tied to memory,” she told Martha Stewart. “If we can really awaken the spirit, remind people, and relax people through the fragrances and through the little flicker of light that’s glowing from our jewel-toned vessels—then that makes me happy.”