We start learning language from birth when we have an experience and someone gives us a label for it - a word. Our son Tim’s first word was a whispered ‘dark’ because we would take him outside to see the dark and the stars and whisper ‘darrrk’ as we held him close.
Sometimes we learn a new word by receiving a verbal explanation and often by a combination of both methods. Years ago my children tried to explain the meaning of hipster to me (in my teen years it meant bikini briefs or low cut jeans) and I really struggled to understand the type of person they were talking about. In the end one of them found a humorous Youtube clip on the topic and then we went through people we knew, classifying them as hipsters or not. I eventually got the gist.
Sometimes we get it wrong. For a long time I thought the word ‘ubiquitous’ had a negative connotation, that it meant something bad as well as pervasive. I think I was combining ‘ubiquitous’ and ‘iniquitous’.
A while ago my lovely post office owner, whose first language is not English, asked me what is the difference between a cup and a mug. He had spent his whole English-speaking life thinking they were two words that meant exactly the same thing (but if that was so, why would I have used both words in the name of The Cup and Mug). He in fact had always used the word cup for any drinking vessel. I was stumped, although if you’d put an array of cups and mugs in front of me I’m sure I could have divided them quickly into the two camps.
I had to go away and mull this over for days before I could formulate an answer.
I felt pretty silly because although I was positive that I could distinguish between the two without hesitation I’d never consciously thought about it and wondered if I was the only native English speaker who couldn’t immediately articulate the difference.
I tested this out on my husband. After thinking for a short while, he said a cup is used with a saucer and a mug is not. I quickly dismissed this definition as insufficient.
Next port of call - Google. Google was not especially cut and dried either.
Finally I managed to put it into words - a cup is wider than it is high and a mug is higher than it is wide and reported this back to Patrick.
Recently I posted a parcel from another nearby post office where I was served by another person of Chinese background who also asked the same question.
‘Funny you should ask that ..” I grinned, and told him the story.
‘Ah, the fat guy and the skinny guy,’ he chuckled.
Many Boleslawiec pottery patterns are traditional patterns which are used by every manufacturer in Boleslawiec. Newer patterns reference traditional themes and motifs and all use a particular colorway which enables effortless mixing and matching across patterns and manufacturers.
Here is a snapshot of the designs that are currently our top sellers. You might be able to predict some but be totally surprised at others.
Spots and dots in one guise or another feature in many patterns. These two patterns
(D41 and O13) are so well-loved that we stock the same patterns from two manufacturers - can you spot (no pun intended) the difference between the two versions shown below?
More dots .... (O10 and D42)
You can see how all these patterns make eye-catching, complementary, mix and match sets.
Other customers are drawn to prettier patterns. These two best sellers (O63 and O2) are often chosen together. Both the stylized five-petal flowers and the small berries appear in various forms in many other patterns.
Blueberries appear as a featured motif and as part of more intricate designs. We have a number of blueberry patterns but this one (D1208) was an instant hit as soon as it was placed on our shelves. It’s the one design we have which I consider looks as nice on its own (or better) as it does in a mixed design set.
The rich, strong colours of this design (U9) are so striking that even people who enter the shop declaring their love for simple blue and white patterns often walk out with a piece in this pattern. The variations that come with being handmade are more obvious in the more intricate patterns. Sometimes U9 seems predominantly blue but at other times the green will stand out, or even the red. Other pieces will have a more pastel appearance.
With very heavy hearts and many tears, last week we said goodbye to our beautiful cat Smokey.
I was never a cat person, having grown up with pet dogs but my husband, Graham has always been adored by cats and old ladies (with the exception of his mother-in-law).
Our older son, Tim, was cat crazy almost from birth. He went through a long stage of identifying as a cat ‘ “Don’t call me Timothy, call me Tinkle!” (or Mog, or Orlando, or Huckle or whoever was the cat-character he was obsessed with at the time). He would meow rather than speak when spoken to. His father was worried but I assured him that it was a phase - no 12 year old thinks he’s a cat.
We refused to get a real cat because at that stage of life where you’re barely keeping the work / school / home / life balls in the air the last thing you need is another responsibility. However, when Tim was 13 we gave in and let him have two cats because we’d heard that if they’re going to be left to their own devices most of the day it’s better for them to have company. He chose two Selkirk Rex kittens with very patient, laidback personalities. The gorgeous semi-long-haired tortoise-shell Smokey, and the boofy, gentle but stubborn ginger, Garfield (what else would a 13 year old boy name a ginger cat?).
Much to my surprise, I doted on Smokey and Garfield as much as anyone in the household and I don’t think there could have been two more loved and spoiled cats. Time passes quickly, children grow into adults and leave home and mum and dad are left with the pets.
I called Tim numerous times over the years to say that one or other cat was probably about to depart this earthly life and he’d better come to say goodbye. However, modern medicine has done much the same for elderly pets as humans and they lived on into extreme old age. They were occasionally openly affectionate, or cross, with each other but spent most of their time sleeping near each other. They were life-long companions and we wondered what would happen when one died and one was left.
They both enjoyed the COVID lockdowns immensely - having people to sleep on or near all day long and venturing into the shop space as they pleased.
Garfield passed first In June 2022, aged 18 years, and not long after this Smokey took on her new advertising role as the shop cat. She was obviously lonely by herself so would come and scratch at the inside shop door so that I would let her in.
At first she played with the curling ribbon and paid attention when I wrapped parcels. She sometimes looked at dogs (the enemy!) through the glass, knowing they were safely on the other side.
In her last months she spent most of her time camouflaged and asleep in the comfortable armchair in the shop. That chair was informally known as ‘the man chair’ as older men and teenage boys, totally enervated by the mere prospect of entering somewhere as mind numbing as a crockery shop, would immediately spot the armchair and flop into it. However, ancient cats take precedence over everyone but incapacitated people and many a man had to content himself with the dining chair. One or two did try to share the chair with her but she wasn’t moving over an inch.
She was a very beautiful, quiet, gentle creature who was more than happy to receive the attention of all who cared to give it. I watched, fascinated, as after asking permission to pat her, people approached her in such a tender fashion, slowly stroking her and talking to her in little more than a whisper. It was such a privilege to observe the way this literally soft, vulnerable creature allowed people to show their own soft, vulnerable side.
I was especially moved when a man who looked, (to use very old-fashioned parlance), very down on his luck, entered the shop and asked if he could pat my cat. As I watched them both I wondered how long since he’d had life-affirming physical contact with another beating-heart and was glad that although it’s not acceptable to ask a friendly looking stranger for a hug, you can ask to pat a friendly looking pet.
Nineteen years old is very old for a cat and in the end Smokey, although still quite lucid, affectionate and able to use a little step to get on our bed, was very frail and struggling.
A former boss of mine was very fond of aphorisms, including one along the lines of
“Don’t be sad that it’s over but glad that it happened,”
and I’m very glad to have had two such lovely fur-grandchildren in my life.
I’ve had customers asking after Smokey so I thought I’d acknowledge her life and death.
Sometimes a customer in the shop will say “I thought I was on your email list but I never get emails from you. Hmmm ….. Guilty feeling here.
There are a number of reasons that might be the case. It might be that when they’ve left their details I have not been able to correctly read their email address, especially if it’s an unusual or cryptic version of their name. It may be that my communication has ended up in the spam folder - this does happen, even if two people have already been communicating by email. Or, it may just be that I haven’t sent an email for so long it feels as though they’re not on my mailing list any more. 🙁
My New Year’s resolution is exactly the same every year - be better about self-promotion … oops, I mean social media. I rarely write a blog-post, haven’t posted anything on facebook (meta?) for years, have put a few pics on instagram and have, a little more often, sent out an email because there has been a message I needed to convey. I don’t even have a tik-tok account and I’m sure there are plenty of other platforms I’ve not even heard of.
Some of you are probably marvelling that I have any customers at all with that attitude! It’s surprising it’s legal and I imagine, considered by certain politicians to be “Un-Australian”.
I guess the crux of my problem is that I like personal interactions with people and flinging a little something into cyberspace feels so unsatisfying. Not to mention the fact that I do it so seldom that I keep forgetting how to do it, or can’t work out the continual changes (which, no doubt, are there to “improve the user experience” and have nothing to do with keeping a programmer in a job.)
I can laugh at myself when my adult son shows me a humorous internet offering depicting boomer parents struggling with similar modern issues - at least it’s nice to know I’m not the only 21st-century Luddite.
That’s a very long-winded way of excusing my lack of communication and kidding myself I might be better.
PS My other on-going, unrealised NY resolution is to lose 5kg. That’s never going to happen either - I’m way too fond of cooking and eating 😂.
It feels as though someone took the scissors to the fabric of life and snipped out 2020 and 2021.
Now, suddenly, Melbourne’s Polish Festival at Federation Square is back better than ever on Saturday November 12th (11am - 6pm) after a three year COVID hiatus.
Our shop at 153 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy will be CLOSED on this day to enable us to have our usual stall BUT will be open on Sunday Nov. 13th from 1 - 5pm instead.
Do I remember the routine for this big day? Probably, but I’m feeling a little rusty and am glad to have found some of my old organisational lists.
We will take as much stock to Fed Square as we can squeeze into the limited space of our small van but we always feel quite in the dark about what and how much to take. Customers inevitably ask for pieces we haven’t packed and last time we even rang our son to have him bring some requests down to the festival (it’s not far by tram, we’re not too demanding as parents, I hope).
However, you can help us by letting us know the shape and pattern of any pieces you would like us to bring. Even better, you are welcome to purchase online (or by phone), choose ‘store pickup’ at the checkout so that you’re not charged for shipping and we will have your pieces ready for an easy collection on the day.
We will of course take many mugs and many tealight Christmas trees but don’t have room to pack duplicate pieces. So if you are hoping for example, to purchase a particular tree or two or more identical pieces, please let me know beforehand.
Any pre-purchases or special requests need to reach us no later than November 6th otherwise we possibly won’t have room to bring them. Limited space and my over-enthusiasm for taking as much as possible can lead to marital tensions. Last festival my husband ended up riding his bike down because I used the passenger seat to transport yet another box of gorgeous crockery that I couldn’t bear to leave behind. LOL!
Hoping that many of you can make it to this special event, Heather
Packing, packing, packing .........
Most of us will have been at least vaguely aware for some time that there are disruptions in almost every part of worldwide supply chains. There are continuing severe shortages in all areas of production of goods including scarcity of raw materials such as timber, metals, wool, all types of food and rising energy, labour and transport which in turn have caused a shortage of many goods and driven up prices.
The production of Polish ceramic goods is not sheltered from these problems.
Unfortunately, you will be noticing considerable price hikes over the coming weeks and months as every aspect of our business experiences escalating prices including huge cost increases in obtaining stock from our suppliers and transporting it from Poland.
I’ve never been one of those people that somehow is always ahead of the pack, knows what new trend is coming, a fashion leader, a workplace leader, or any other leader, embracing every sniff of change with open arms. I guess I’ve just wandered off into my own little world and done my own thing in a way that seems good to me.
And so as customers have asked me over the past couple of years how things are going I’ve politely and briefly explained a few of the ups and downs of doing business in an atypical manner during such turbulent times but not felt too fazed about most of it. (Just sometimes annoyed at the nanny-state treatment). I’ve been totally out of Nicholas Mosse stock since Christmas but as Polish crockery has always been the mainstay of the business that hasn’t really mattered. I should have been paying closer attention.
I know that the number of places within Australia where Polish Pottery has been available for purchase has been declining. New customers have told me about shops where they first purchased pieces but either the business no longer exists or no longer stocks Boleslawiec. I spoke at length to a man browsing in the shop who told me he imports and distributes a large range of goods but nothing European because the cost makes it unviable.
Over the years I’ve tried to minimise expenses so that even as the principal cost - the cost of acquiring the crockery- gradually climbed I was able to minimise our price rises. I’ve been conscious for years that generally incomes have not increased even when the cost of living has. We weathered the first couple of COVID affected years okay because of the very long lead times for obtaining new stock but this just delayed the effects of what has been happening worldwide.
It’s tricky trying to find the fine point of balance between under-pricing and therefore pricing yourself out of business and over-pricing and therefore pricing yourself out of business. I guess this is where many small businesses come unstuck.
Please be assured that whether you’re able to buy one simple mug or a whole dinner set of intricately patterned pieces, we’re doing our best to bring you a very high quality product and a fair price.
We’re all still trudging along with Melbourne having achieved the dubious record of highest number of days in lockdown in the world and sometimes it’s very hard to stay motivated. However, recently I received an email that spurred me on a little.
There are times when I explain verbally or in writing (to the not-yet-converted) that yes, these lovely pieces are expensive compared to mass produced, poor quality items from China, and they may have slight cosmetic imperfections because in the making, they have passed through many pairs of human hands, BUT they are beautiful, extremely durable and functional, uniquely crafted pieces which bring their owners daily joy.
I only post within Australia because the cost and logistics of overseas shipping is prohibitive and anyway, why would something as heavy and fragile as crockery be sent all the way from Poland to Australia only to make its way back halfway round the world again to go to a third country. This pottery is available now in many countries and the only place we’re close to is New Zealand.
Yesterday I woke to find an email from Tracy in the USA. She had sent a screenshot of a particular mug begging me, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE to send her four of them. She explained that her mother had broken her absolute favourite mug and the only place they could locate one in the whole world was on my website and she was more than happy to pay the postage.
Well, didn’t I feel like a unique and special snowflake, the only person in the whole world that could do this very small but greatly appreciated kind deed. Of course I couldn’t say no to such a heartfelt plea. And judging by my rapidly dwindling stocks of this very sweet pattern many of you will be able to empathise with Tracy and her mum.
I grew up in a very small country town and my parents were both very practical and resourceful as working class country people needed to be. At my secondary school girls compulsorily studied ‘Home Arts’ or ‘Domestic Science’ or ‘Home Economics’ (depending which angle was the currently PC one). Both at home and at school I learnt to cook and sew (very basically in my case) and knit and crotchet and to enjoy all sorts of crafts.
Despite this background, I have absolutely no memory of how nearly four decades ago, back in the early 80’s, I became enamoured of spinning. I was living and working at my first ever job in Launceston, Tasmania. I bought a second-hand, Ashford traditional spinning wheel and a friend taught me to spin. I don’t remember anything about it except that spinning was now in my blood. This was the era of people dreaming of self-sufficiency, beautiful woodcraft and mud brick houses, wild, woolly hair, and homespun woolly jumpers.
In 1986 I moved to Hobart and during that year I regularly attended a local spinning group. All I remember about this group was that it was fairly small, the other women where all much older than me and were very kind and helpful. I couldn’t wait for these Saturday afternoons.
Spinning is a very time consuming, messy, space-invading activity and after I got married at the end of that year, I never span again. However, throughout a lifetime of moving house I couldn’t bear to get rid of my wheel. I knew I would do it again one day because my body couldn’t forget how lovely it felt to spin.
The Hand-Weavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria is a few minutes’ walk from here. I’d often visited the guild shop to buy gifts or just be inspired by the beautiful handmade items and had promised myself that I would take up spinning again in retirement. I obviously haven’t retired but In the last week of May this year, days before Melbourne's COVID 19 restrictions began again, I started an ‘Introduction to Spinning’ course at the guild. It was so interesting, informative, stimulating and exciting - I’m like a new religious convert, obsessed!
My sons follow in their maternal grandfather’s steps and are very useful to have around. The younger one, Ashley is fascinated by the simplicity and ingenuity of the spinning wheel and was very pleased to restore my old wheel to working order. He grinned at me as he watched me using it for the first time in his lifetime and asked “Does it feel like an old friend?” It certainly did.
I have a new double-treadle wheel on order from New Zealand and to tide me over while I’m waiting the teacher of my course lent me a demo wheel. I found my son sitting at the wheel, gently treading away, saying “I understand why you love doing this.” He makes me smile!
When I enrolled for the course none of us were expecting more lockdowns and certainly not for this length of time. I’m not happy to be told you must do this, you can’t do that anymore than the next person but I’m very, very glad that I have this beautiful, creative, stimulating activity to occupy me and this is the perfect time to do it.
Hand spinning has come a long way since the 80’s. It has evolved so many amazing techniques and use of different fibres and textures and colours, - there’s so much to master and so few years left to do so. But, I have more lockdown time to “just keep spinning …”
Well, who has any idea about how this whole pandemic is going to end!
However, I’m pretty sure of a few general consequences, and one of them is that many of us are going to be much fitter.
Take moi, for example. I’m not big on exercise. I don’t like being hot and sweaty or feeling physical pain.
However, getting out for a daily bike-ride has become a much more attractive prospect in this current environment. Of the legitimate grounds for leaving home, I can only access two.
Getting out and exercising is not only looking much more attractive than the alternative these days but the very quiet roads have provided an opportunity to practice on routes I’d normally be too terrified to attempt.
I’ve been a cyclist-of-sorts for over 50 years and yet I’m not especially confident or competent. My original bike was one where you braked by pushing back on the pedals, there were no gears and I had a skirt guard to stop those flowing garments becoming entangled in the spokes. (My son has just asked me "what is a skirt guard?")
I need to be fitter and I need to have a better understanding of city bicycle etiquette and traffic negotiation. My ever patient husband has been coaching me in how to perform a right-from-left turn, avoid being tripped up by tram-tracks, watch out for car doors opening into the path of unsuspecting cyclists and thread my way through bike lanes bordered by bollards. I’m still struggling to perform tasks requiring simultaneous co-ordination of various body parts eg look over my shoulder and continue in a straight line or both brake and indicate.
My current bike is a 20-something-years-old Malvern Star. It’s one of those solid (very solid) old workhorses that just keeps going. It’s best feature is it’s beautiful colour. My son says I’d be surprised how much easier and more pleasurable I would find a new, lighter bike with brakes that actually work. Maybe …..
I’ve set my personal best top speed barrelling down Brunswick St, Fitzroy in the dark. We won’t mention that it is down hill with a tail-wind. It was fun! I’d never have the courage to ride there in normal times.
Looking out on the streets I’m pretty sure that many, many of us are exercising far more than before our enforced confinement. What are the other good things to come out of this?
Have you ever complained about the prices charged by a small business owner?
“Plumbers make a fortune.”
“Selling coffee is a goldmine.”
“ I’m not paying that price!”
“Can I have a discount if I buy two?”
“I can buy ten of those in K Mart for the price of that one.”
Observing a small business is like everything else in life - you don’t really understand the other person’s situation until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
Not for the first time, I recently heard someone complaining about paying $4.50 for a cup of green tea in a cafe. I also read a remark from a very seasoned business adviser stating that shop fitters are the ones who make money from small business.
How can that be? How can someone be making a killing selling green tea for $4.50 a cup but not making money?
Well, here’s the answer.
When you pay for a cup of tea in a cafe you’re not just paying for a cup of tea. Mostly you’re paying a very small portion of the very significant cost of providing the space and making it operate smoothly.
Your $4.50 contributes to the wages and associated costs (workcover premiums, super contributions, insurance) of the people who purchased and delivered the ingredients, took, your order, made your tea, served your tea, cleared up after you and cleaned the premises after hours.
It pays for the furniture you sit on, crockery you use, your napkin and cleaning products. If you sit by yourself you may read a physical newspaper which is provided to entice customers to come in and stay a while.
It pays for the rent of the building and any work vehicles; most of the landlords outgoings: property insurance, rates, fire services levy. It’s retrospectively paying for the fit-out of the building and purchase or lease of all the equipment and appliances. It pays the business owners’ insurances: business, work vehicle and public liability.
It pays for the separate council permits for
You contribute to the cost of pumping out the grease trap (a mandatory piece of plumbing for a food premises), and to the cost of giving to all the schools and community groups who come asking for donations to use in their fundraising silent auctions.
All the essential services such as electricity, gas, water, internet, phone - most of which are charged at a higher than domestic ‘business rate’ and are a considerable cost to any business. You pay a few cents to the bank for transaction fees and to pay the accountant.
A significant portion of your money goes as GST to the government.
So you can see, most of your $4.50 is spent behind the scenes to allow your cup of tea to appear at your table.
On balance, I think you actually get quite a lot for your money.
The Cup and Mug
The adventures of a small business (more interesting than we would have ever guessed!)