Originally published November 2020, updated March 2021.
“I knew I would regret it if I didn’t try” Chris Dwan said of attempting a career in the entertainment business, after a high-school teacher opened his eyes to the possibility. Recently nominated for a Drama Desk award as David Kolowitz in Enter Laughing, the musical, Chris was most recently seen as the understudy for Seymour and Orin in Little Shop of Horrors. Currently, during the pandemic, however, he has found a different, entrepreneurial creative outlet. One that he calls “Duck Duck & Goose”.
“The first company I started was KnittinShit.” And so, the names of his businesses always encompassed humor and not taking things too seriously. But Chris wanted to blend that wit with somewhat of a law firm feel. The result? His new venture, aptly named Duck Duck & Goose, where he sells a variety of goods, including upcycled candles and knitted infinity scarves.
And are they all handmade? Absolutely. “Any crafter you talk to will describe how much they love the material they work with because they work with it all day every day.” And Chris was no different. He learned how to use a loom and hand knits all of his scarves, which are double sided and thick. And so far, always infinity circle scarves. Why? Simply because that’s how he likes them.
The upcycled candles are a process themselves, though. “About six years ago I went to a restaurant and their glasses were recycled wine bottles. I immediately found out how to do that and investigated how much time and energy it would take to cut bottles. I love beer, so I started there. And once I got them, I just imagined what I could do with them.” The idea of candles had been in the works for a long time, and the pandemic opened up Chris’ schedule, so he invested the time and money to stock up on the supplies he needed to “create something new from something old” but not in a kitschy way, riding “that fine line of recycled versus new and exciting”.
“From there I started sampling different fragrances, and once I had them in my hand, I knew that this was going to be so much fun. You can play with scents and naming scents, and I wanted names to be somewhat humorous, but also serious. I was always inspired by coffee table books, and that these candles could be something on your coffee table.” And so, candle names such as Apartmint, Teacher’s Pet, Public Library, Patchouli Andrews, Drunk Vanilla, and recently Curl Up and Chai for his chai and cinnamon scented candle were born. “I learned how to draw and color in Procreate. As new scents come out, you are seeing how I am learning to draw better for their logos.” But beyond logos and names, each candle is packaged with a 3D-printed pendant designed and made by Chris himself, emulating a wax seal.
The entire candle making process takes several days since it has to be done in stages. Preparing the bottle by taking off the label, cutting, and sanding. A day for melting the wax. A third day for doing a second pour of the wax to get a smooth top, since the wax shrinks when it cools. And of course, time for adding his own label, making sure the product is pristine, and packaging it.
Chris knew there would be learning curves, which he has completely leaned into. Starting a business in Manhattan was difficult during a pandemic since space was limited and he was sharing space with his boyfriend who was working during the day with video meetings. And so, Chris has found it helpful to relocate to Michigan where he has the space for the inventory. The garage is filled with beer, and he has his family to help him make sure he has empty beer bottles he can work with. “My boyfriend is very thankful to be employed, and by us having a different schedule, we don’t compete for spaces and someone can always take care of the dog.”
The future of Duck Duck & Goose? “I just made my 500th candle in October. If you told me I’d be making candles professionally… I would have laughed in your face.” But the possibilities are endless. From plans to diversify the products offered, to potentially getting a spot at a craft fair or farmer’s market and letting that lead him into what else he could make.
“There is no right time. There’s just time and what you do with it. At first I resented to find a new path but dedicating time to something you love does nothing but open yourself up to more opportunities.” •
Instagram: @duckduckandgooseco & etsy.com/shop/DuckDuckandGooseCo
Chris Dwan (He/Him/His) is currently appearing in the off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors directed by Michael Mayer. Other New York credits include the Original Broadway Cast of Finding Neverland, Enter Laughing (The York Theatre), Scarlet Pimpernel (Lincoln Center), The Old Boy (Keen Company). TV/Film: Royal Pains (USA), One Bad Choice (MTV). Chris stars as Trey in the hit webseries The Queen’s Project and in the music video No Stranger for Brooklyn-based band Small Black. Chris is a founding member of RANGE a cappella whose YouTube video Hamilton in 7 minutes has been viewed over 8 million times. Stay connected @Blackdwan on Instagram.