FATHER. FEELINGS. FRAGRANCE.
Dominic Ferraro, founder of Casa dell’Unknown, has taken the spotlight at makesy for our Father’s Day Q +A!
We caught up with Dominic to virtually ask him some questions (during his daughter’s naptime) that shed light on his love for luxury candle making and being a new-ish dad. Dominic made it clear that he loves what he does as both a Maker and a father - he’s very aware of the time it takes to build a candle making business and we love his honesty about the process. A lot of his heart and soul go into making products that speak volumes about his origins and values, and the love he has for his daughter is incredible. We think she got pretty lucky to have him as her dad.
We appreciate Dominic for taking the time to speak with us and hope his answers inspire other Makers to keep making and creating what they love!
Tell us about yourself.
I’m 36 years old, I am from Chicago and currently live here, and my daughter will be four years old in October. I went to school in Iowa, moved back to Chicago, then spent about seven years living in San Francisco with my husband before we had our daughter. Then we moved back to Chicago about a year after she was born in 2019 so we could be near family for support. Before the pandemic hit, my daughter was going to daycare and I was going to school for interior architecture and working as a graphic designer. I’m still employed part-time, but any work I do I have to do at night so I can watch her during the day.
How did you get started in this industry?
I worked at a Bath and Body Works in college and really found my love for fragrance when I was there. I got my start making candles about four years ago, but that was also around the time my husband and I had our daughter, Naya, so I had to put my business on hold. It wasn’t until last year when the pandemic hit that I was encouraged to revisit my candle making business. I kind of built a strong foundation for it early on with custom-made fragrances I created about five years ago so I was able to use the formulas I had saved and launched my website to start selling for the first time when the pandemic started - “I kind of just thought, “If I’m ever going to do it, I should do it now.”
Tell us about your business + what makes it stand out from others?
The whole concept and name of my brand, Casa dell’Unknown, which means “House of Unknown'' in Italian, comes from the fact that my family originated from Italy. My grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1950’s, and the “unknown” refers to the time I launched my business during 2020 when there was a lot of unknown due to the pandemic. I also took the time to perfume my own scents so you can’t find them anywhere else. As a graphic designer, I’ve been able to own the design and aesthetic of my brand and make it something original. It’s pretty modern with black and white and high contrast, but there are little things embedded in each product that are personal.
What is your favorite product you’ve made?
The three candles I have now are my favorite products I’ve ever made, but my most favorite is my Bergamotto candle. It’s just really fresh, but also warm and inviting and reminds me a lot of my grandmother who’s from Siracusa in Italy (the map that’s on the label of this candle), so there’s a lot of warm feelings I get from it. I also made a soap to “match” each candle I’ve made so those are pretty cool, too.
What are your favorite making supplies from makesy?
So definitely the Aura Vessel - every color I’ve used has pretty much been great. I use the black one the most and then the white one also looks really nice. I created a candle using the black and white Aura Vessels for Pride Month called, “Pace Candle.” For each candle sold, I am donating $5 to the Center on Halsted in Chicago, which is dedicated to securing the health and well-being of LGBTQ and at-risk youth. I also use the Coconut Apricot Creme Wax, which comes out perfectly pretty much every time and is so consistent so it’s just one less headache.
What advice do you have for Makers just starting out?
Just know that it’s going to take a lot of time. I don’t think there is such a thing as a failure either. You have to realize you’re building on your experience and that it’s going to take a lot of time because you are going to have to try a lot of different things that you weren’t expecting. If it’s something you’re really passionate about, don’t give up on it. If you feel the need to step away from it for a while, it’s okay, but I would say to eventually go back to it. It’s worth it and is rewarding to be able to say I did this all by myself so don’t get discouraged if it’s something you really want to do.
Tell us about your daughter.
Her name is Naya and she will be four years old in October. She is a sass-monster really - she is very opinionated, knows what she wants and when she wants it. She is very kind, intuitive, friendly, and loves to say hi to strangers, which I think is good and bad. She has a very fun-loving, free-spirted ersonality, and is very curious and wise beyond her years. Obviously my husband and I are a same-sex couple and neither of us have sisters so when we found out we were having a girl we just thought, “Well, we’re going to learn a lot.” She was born in Palm Springs and then we lived in San Francisco for a bit before we moved back to Chicago so she’s well traveled for her age. It’s been an adventure for sure.
Did you and your husband come up with Naya’s name together?
Yeah so Naya means “new” in one of the many Indian languages and since it was a very new experience for us, we felt like it fit very well. And we have a hyphenated last name that’s very long so we wanted her to have a much shorter first name.
Does she ever get to make products with you?
I don’t ever have her make products just because she’s very much a kid that puts stuff in her mouth, but she helps me pull orders. I have a shelf that has all my candles on it so I’ll ask her, “Can you go get the red one? Can you go get the yellow one? Can you go get the blue one?” She really likes to be involved with everything my husband and I are doing whether it’s cooking or cleaning or packing up candles.
How do you and your daughter spend quality time together?
We are together all day every day. When the weather’s nice, we’ll go for walks and to the park while my husband works from home. She loves to scooter and ride her bike. We watch a lot of Disney movies, do puzzles together, and play with toys. We’ll go get ice cream or since she really likes donuts, we’ll go get donuts sometimes and really, we just try to spend as much time outside as we can.
If your daughter could describe you in 3 ways what would they be?
She likes to tell me I’m loud and that I need to be quiet, probably that I eat a lot because I snack a lot since we’re always home now, and that I like to chase her.
Do you have a favorite moment or memory with her?
There was a time in San Francisco when we went to a winery and they had a petting zoo set up and she was very curious about all the goats and walked around the pen of goats petting them. I specifically remember that when we were in California and I just thought that was very sweet.
What’s your favorite part about being a dad?
I would say watching them grow up. It happens so quickly and they learn things so fast. A year ago she wasn’t really talking a ton but now she’s making full sentences and telling you what to do and in the span of a year it’s such a huge leap. And they make these leaps from time to time that just seem extraordinary - sitting back as an adult watching your kid do it lets you know you’re doing it right and that kids are so much more than you think they are. They pick up on emotions and feelings and it is such a simple thing but kind of a marvelous thing to see how quickly it happens.
You can visit Dominic’s Instagram @casadellunknown to see his incredible creations and check out his website here.
Happy Father’s Day + Pride month!