TO meet Serena Dignola-Russignan, founder and talented artisan behind La Lumière du Temps, you soon understand where the warmth and playfulness emanating from her elegant, handmade “photophores” (wax candle holders) come from.
Inviting me into the kitchen of her home in Eysins, just above Nyon, Lugano-born Serena insists on preparing me a cup of coffee. Not the instant kind, of course, but the real kind that bubbles away in a stove-top espresso maker until it announces its readiness with — a musical rendition of the Italian national anthem.
A first for me and admittedly, the most original introduction to an interview that I’ve ever had, but it speaks of the way in which its maker approaches her life and her métier … with joy and enthusiasm.
It all started with un coup de foudre
“It all started by accident,” Serena tells me, “when I went on holiday in Italy in 2007 and we had dinner in a restaurant that was filled with these candles. It was a ‘coup de foudre’. I was totally drawn to them.”
Upon returning home, Serena emailed the candlemaker, Alessandra, and struck up a friendship that three years later transformed into a student-teacher relationship when Alessandra decided to retire and, literally as well as figuratively, passed the torch to Serena, who travelled to Vincenza, in Italy, to learn the craft.
Serena insisted on bringing back to her home in Signy all the equipment — vats and shelving — that Alessandra had in turn inherited from her teacher, in order to “retain all the energy” that had been passed down the generations. Extensive alterations to her home were needed, but it’s clear that Serena does nothing by halves.
“There were times when I could have let it all go, but there was something in me saying “keep going”. Volere et potere — there’s nothing we cannot do if we believe in it,” she states.
Multipurpose and distinctly unique
Serena takes the same passionate approach to meeting her clients’ special requests as she does to crafting her photophores. “Working with my client, I try to create something that speaks to the person for whom it is intended,” she explains.
She has worked together with an architect to create a one-of-a-kind photophore that resembles an elongated torch to compliment the decor of Château Le Rosey at Bursins. Her work can be found in restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, country clubs and of course, for sale at florists. She also helps to plan wedding decor where her photophores are a feature, whether they are purchased or rented for the occasion.
In addition to their use as candle holders, photophores also serve as water-proof flower vases and cache pot for plants and dried flowers, or quite simply, as elegant sculptures to beautify their surroundings.
Whether they sit on a tabletop, float in a swimming pool, or mysteriously light the path through a garden, up a flight of stairs, or along the length of a church’s main aisle where a bride’s feet will tread, photophores imbue every occasion with soulfulness and mystery.
As they are handmade and tinted with natural pigments, each photophore displays unique characteristics in their pattern and texture and in slight color variations. Personalized with a photo, a special piece of text — a favorite poem or saying — or even an excerpt from a musical score, they capture a special moment in time: birthday, anniversary, thank you gift, career highlight. Durable and lightweight (depending on the design), with proper care they can grace a private or public space for years to come.
Candles that do more than transmit light
As well as being a creative outlet, the work-intensive task of hewing photophores out of wax by hand also served to help Serena overcome great personal sadness with the loss of her first son, Sirio. Clearly, passion for her work is grounded not only in the pleasure of creation but also the power of healing and the strength of the spirit.
“With my candles, I try to transmit hope and strength to try to do something positive with all that happens in life,” she says.
Her three favorite vase shapes are named for her sons: Sirio, for an elongated vase that gently tapers open to the heavens, Geo, (for her 13-year-old); featuring a low, cylindrical shape, and for Zeno, 10, a vase with elegant, long proportions. She’s justifiably proud of the business she has created and nurtured with her own passion and conviction.
All’s in hand for the busy Christmas market season
Serena has been working in overdrive for weeks (the summer’s warmer temperatures don’t allow for making candles, which must be dried at room temperature) in preparation for participating at a number of local Christmas markets and events.
Whether you choose Serena’s photophores as a gift for someone else, for your own home or your most special events, you can be confident they will create a haven of beauty, serenity and elegance on every occasion.♥
La Lumière du Temps
Tel: +41 (0) 76 366 88 74
Photos by Creative Living Geneva unless otherwise indicated.