On my gifts wish list this past holiday season, I had included an oilcloth backpack. Keep in mind, I had no idea if such a thing existed but I had decided that I wanted one. Since I knew about oilcloth and had other items made from it, I decided that a backpack must be available, too. Thanks to the power of the Internet and search engines such as Google, it took me simply a matter of minutes to locate a dreamy, pink patterned oilcloth backpack from a company in Georgia.
Besides it being a mouthful to describe, this bag embodied several of my favorite design elements. First, was the color pink; next was the pretty blue floral pattern on it. And last but essential, of course, was that it was made of oilcloth. I have had a love affair with oilcloth ever since a dear friend of mine introduced me to it when she gave me some sample pieces about 20 years or so ago. I immediately realized where they had come from since the name of the company, Oilcloth International, was stamped on the back of each sample piece. I wasted no time in contacting the company to order more since the sample pieces were only about a foot square each.
- When I contacted the owner, Cardie Molina, I found out that Oilcloth International is not a retailer but a wholesale importer of the product. Oilcloth is no longer made in the US but in Mexico. Although Oilcloth International is not a retailer, Cardie kindly agreed to send me some yardage of a few different designs. I was in oilcloth heaven.
Over the years, I used the cloth to line shelves, cover footstools, decorate pocketbooks, and have great fun playing with my various colors and patterns of cloth. I also purchased some oilcloth items that included a purple book bag and a large red tablecloth.
It was not until I decided that I could not live without an oilcloth backpack that I really started thinking much about oilcloth again. Once I started doing research on the Internet and discovered the number of companies that either sell products made from it or sell the oilcloth itself (whether it is retail or wholesale) that I became both enthusiastic and very curious about its history.
According to this link, History of Oil Cloth Tablecloths, on the website, lovetoknow.com, “Oil cloths were first created for use on the floors of eighteenth century English homes as rugs. They were also used as coverings for leaky roofs. Artisans stretched sheets of linen cloth on a frame and through a sizing process the cloth was prepared to be painted. This was the point where the oilcloths came to life and were transformed. Various designs evolved as artisans experimented with this new utilitarian artform. After the design was painted onto the cloth, it was sealed with coats of linseed oil.
“This artform traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to America, where it was used to grace the floors of Colonial homes. Eventually, as the textile industry grew, the floorcloths were replaced with yarn rugs and the oilcloths eventually found their way onto tables.” The article continues with ‘Modern Oil Cloth’.
“While the traditional linseed oil cloth is no longer produced, the modern versions are just as serviceable, and in most cases, the tablecloth is a better quality product. Today’s oilcloth is made out of vinyl that is printed with various colorful designs. The vinyl is then adhered to a cotton mesh backing to give it support and form. Some of the backings used are flannel cotton, very similar to the kind used on vintage tablecloths. Some fabrics use PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) for the top side of the fabric and a mixture of polyester and cotton mesh for the backing.”
Oilcloth was made in the US from early colonial times into at least the middle of the 20th century. All that remains of its making are a few references. These were provided by Carlie Molina. According to the book, Jamestown Colony to the Revolution, 1607 to 1775, there is an old oilcloth in the collection of the Mercer Museum, affiliated with the Bucks County Historical Society in Doylestown, PA. No picture of an oilcloth could be found of it but may other fascinating domestic colonial items are on permanent exhibit.
The more recent references are the Columbus Coated Fabric Corporation, the definitive domestic source for oilcloth up until at least the middle of the 20th century. The two references to that company are some cast iron fabric cutting machines on encyclopedic sites like worthpedia and etsy as well as the cover of their catalog which Oilcloth International uses on their website home page.
Today, oilcloth is made in Mexico. It is still durable, waterproof and comes in a myriad of irresistible colors and patterns. There are also still companies back across the Atlantic in England and France, where one can purchase all kinds of items that are as hard to resist as the cloth itself.
To get back to my backpack, I ordered it in early December so I was surprised as Christmas approached that it did not appear. Actually, I started to hope that it would not arrive since I had decided that I no longer wanted pink with a blue floral pattern (at least not until the summer) and that something more subdued, like a black and white design, would be better for winter wear.
By the time Christmas weekend came, there still was no backpack. So the day after Christmas, I called the company inquiring what had become of my much wished for gift. I left a message alerting them that if it had not already gone out, that I wanted to change my backpack order.
On Monday, I got a call from Suzanne Coffey, the owner of Mary Jane Bags, apologizing profusely. She told me that they had run out of the pink pattern fabric temporarily. Every time she looked at my order, she said that she felt so guilty that my holiday had been ruined because my gift did not arrive on time.
I told her that the situation turned out to be quite the opposite. I had decided after I had placed my order that I wanted a different pattern. Actually, ‘it was meant to be’ that there had been a delay. Had the pink bag come, I would either have had to return it for a winter wear pattern or held onto the pink one until the summer and also ordered another one I could use now. When my bag arrived, it was perfect. It is black and white gingham on the outside and white with black polka dots on the inside. In addition, Suzanne had included a matching cosmetics case as a gift for me. Needless to say, I was and am thrilled. I wear my holiday dream gift just about everyday.
From a simple oilcloth backpack order came a story filled with its history as well as color and detail to delight anyone who has a liking for oilcloth even a fraction as much as I do. In fact, here is an Amazon.com direct link to purchase the very same bag that I got. I am sure you will love it, too.
I had two experiences recently that have brought home to me the golden rules of how not to treat customers unless you want to lose them. I call these the ‘Bad Biz Bye-Laws’. They should never happen and especially in this economy one would think that a retailer or service business provider would want to go out of the way to keep customers happy rather than alienate them.
You network often. You have a stack of other people’s business cards that could fill a file cabinet. Yet, you don’t seem to be getting much business. Could it be that you have not learned how to do THE NETWORKING DANCE: 6-Steps 4-Networking 2-Success?
Step One: THE ‘ATTEND A NETWORKING FUNCTION’ STEP
Make contact with ‘your partners’ by chatting with them, listening to their needs and getting their business cards. Bring a pen and plenty of your business cards so you can give cards to all your partners. Make notes on the back of their cards including where and when you met, details about their needs and any other pertinent info. (That is why it is important, when you design and print your business card to leave the back blank and unlimited to have plenty of space and be able to write notes).
Step Two: THE ’FOLLOW UP MEETING’ STEP
(This is also known as the F/U Step). Follow up with your networking partners either by phone, personal note or e-mail to remind them of your meeting and to indicate your interest in reconnecting with them, preferably in person.
Step Three: THE ‘ESTABLISH A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP’ STEP
(This step is often called the ‘One-on-One’ Step). Meet over a cup of coffee, breakfast or lunch to get to know each other better. At this point, you still want to listen more than talk to get to know them personally and to find out common interests and other aspects of your lives where you both connect.
Step Four: THE ‘ESTABLISH A BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP’ STEP
Once you have built up a bond of trust and ‘good feelings’ about each other, then it may be time to start feeling out the situation to learn more about their business needs and how you can help them.
Step Five: THE ‘DO BUSINESS’ STEP
You feel their pain and show them how you can help alleviate it with your products and/or services. You do business together.
Step Six: THE ‘MONEY RAIN’ STEP
You receive financial compensation for your work. Remember to follow good, clear business practices so that you are both on the same page and know exactly what each is getting from and for the ‘6-Steps 4-Networking 2-Success’ dance.
Just to get you in the mood for this blog post about garbage, enjoy the following video courtesy of YouTube.
On a daily basis, I receive mail that I do one of three things with:
• if it does not have my name on it, I immediately throw it away in the lobby trash receptacle provided by our landlord.
• if it has my name on it, I rip off my name and address and then throw it in the receptacle.
• If it is something that I need to read, research or keep, it either becomes part of the to-be-read file sitting, sometimes for weeks in my apartment, until I have time to read and act on it. Then I throw it away attempting to recycle it. If I need to keep it, it is filed in one of twelve file drawers I have for that purpose.
In any of the above three cases, I accumulate much too much paper. At this point, I have about a month’s worth of local newspapers to read, bags of paper and cardboard to recycle and drawers of old bills and other information which I probably no longer need to keep.
The other day, as I attempted to go through one of my mounds of collected paper, I spontaneously came to a conclusion and immediately took action. I began to call every company that I do business with, every organization that I belong to and everyone seeking donations from me.
The words I found coming out of my mouth were as follows, “I will only do business with and support companies or organizations that go paperless with me”.
That meant that I would no longer get my weekly local newspapers in the mail but would be notified when they were available on line, donation requests would be made by e-mail with on-line rather than printed newsletters. Not one single call I made was responded to with any objection.
I was actually dumbfounded. If this action was so easy to take, why were all these companies and organizations continuing to send paper rather than using electronic communication?
Then something Gandhi had said about becoming the change one wants to see in the world came to mind. So although I will not protest the avalanche of paper that is mailed out everyday, I can stop the flood from entering my life and my home.
It is also my hope that when other people read this blog, they will be inspired to follow my example because it is no longer enough to simply recycle. We need to reduce and reuse because recycling is not enough.
When I moved back to my childhood home on LI from NYC in 1988, I was both excited and hesitant. What would I find? Would there be plenty of what interested and was required of me? Or would I find that my exodus from the great metropolis had led me to cultural scarcity devoid of the kind of community I had come to expect. Would I find the foods I loved, the art I cherished, the holistic health services I required and opportunity to pursue my interest in architectural history?
I was greeted with many surprises upon my return to my childhood home. The City of Long Beach had begun to have a renaissance. The LIRR Station had been restored to its original glory. The beach and boardwalk were still main attractions; there was a thriving holistic community and the arts were about to take off in a way previously unparalleled on this barrier island.
But as much as I rejoiced in the return to the home of my birth, I some how knew that return would not be permanent. In fact, a vacation to the mountains of both upstate NY and in NC instilled in me a yearning to migrate in that direction. But that was not yet to manifest.
As life would have it, situations occurred that allowed me to become both the owner and then the seller of my home. My timing in buying and selling worked out well.
I knew I wanted to move on but did not see how I could do so far away so soon. An ad in the local newspaper announced the opening of a new and unprecedented artists’ loft building in Freeport, LI, a town within a half hour’s drive of Long Beach.
On Valentine’s weekend of 2005, we took the fateful step of ‘just going to take a look at it’. By May of that year, we were it first residents, interviewed by both the LI section of the New York Times and the local Cable TV channel. The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by many local dignitaries as well as elected officials.
Our time in Freeport was another cultural eye opener. Living in an artists’ loft afforded us the opportunity to meet other local talent; residing in the predominantly Latino downtown area gave me the opportunity to stretch my culinary palate to include a love of Salvadorian, Dominican, and Argentine food as well as the famous Portuguese BBQ called Churrasqueria.
As fate would have it our artist’s loft became known to us as the faux loft and in spite of the many new friends we made, great cultural organizations I joined and outstanding food I discovered, we had to move on after two years residence there.
We considered returning to Long Beach or staying in Freeport but at the last minute found a Grandma style apartment in an area I dubbed ‘Oceanville Rockside Center Baldwin’. Similar to where we had lived originally, this area is something of a stepchild with some amenities provided by one community and others by another. In addition, depending upon which way the wind blew when I took a walk, I was either in Rockville Centre, Oceanside or even Baldwin. It took some getting used to but I have grown to love my new home again.
Over the last 20 years or so I have focused in on my life long proclivities including community interests, the arts, foods of many countries, and architectural history. Each of the three towns in which I have lived has an abundance of organizations and institutions serving all of them.
I struggled with where to place my allegiances by the time I had lived in three places within a period of five years. But I finally resolved the dilemma in a unique way.
I have three feet, I decided; one is still firmly planted in Long Beach, another in Freeport and the last in my adopted ‘Oceanville, Rockside Centre, Baldwin’. Within each of these communities, organizations and institutions that are near and dear to me all flourish. Instead of splitting or severing my allegiances, I decided my heart lies in all three and have tied the knot of reconnection and recommitment by joining and participating in as much of the culture and class that exists in all three.
At this writing, I belong to a total of at least nine organizations divided between the arts, architectural history, commerce and community. Most importantly, I continue to enjoy the rainbow of foods that entertain my international palette and have reconnected with friends from all three areas whenever I can. I find that I cannot only go home again but that I am at home wherever I reside.
The Carless Weekend
No, there is not a misspelling in the title of this blog; it does mean without a car, not without a care. This blog is about last weekend and the decision we made to go without having use of a car. Understand that it was not intentional or due to some altruistic, ecological motivation on our part. At least, it was not that way initially.
My name is Alison D. Gilbert. I am the author of MARKETING BYTES, A Spiritual Solution for Business.
My mission is to preserve and promote business as an ethical, responsible and creative means of achieving personal financial success and prosperity while supporting the economy, reducing poverty and bettering the world.
My book presents and embraces a system by which this vision can become a reality for entrepreneurs, business owners, leaders of non-profit organizations and for the rest of us.
The above video, which you can view on YouTube by clicking on the link provided, is my submission for the ‘Next Top Spiritual Author’ Competition. To vote for MARKETING BYTES, A Spiritual Solution for Business, go to the Web site page: http://www.nexttopauthor.com/?aid=2540 to register and then vote for me and as many of the other amazing authors as you like. You can search for my book in three ways:
• by Author last name, Gilbert
• by Top Author ID # 2540
• by the five categories under which I have listed my book. They are business, business development, finance, money and success.
Thank you for your enthusiastic support of this timely subject. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.
I decided this year that I wanted to experience the essence of the holiday of Passover and holy week which ended with Easter basically coincided this year. That somehow made the whole things especially sacred to me; but I was looking for an answer that did not lie in the religious books of either Judaism or Christianity.
One might say something more along spiritual or even (excuse the phrase) pagan roots. It is no coincidence that Spring came on a few days before both holiday and holy days. What made a lot of sense to me was the representation of a renewal of life, spring cleaning, clearing out the cobwebs.
Although I do not follow the tradition of the house cleaning done before Passover to make sure any remnants of leavened bread, crumbs, etc. remain, I found myself doing a major housecleaning which is not the norm for me.
I even had images of movies I have seen where all the rugs were hung outside and banged with a broom to remove the dust; the same was done with bedding, cushions, anything that could use a good airing out. Indeed this was pre-Febreeze time.
I tried to spent some time in quiet reflection when I was not busy cleaning. But I do have to say, it was not easy to slow down, to leave off the computer, to rest and relax. We are a civilization of do-ers not be-ers.
I admire people who observe a Sabath and retreat from their daily lives. I also admire people who know how to take vacations. I am not successful at either; but I do believe if the earth was made in 6 days and G-d rested on the 7th that I should at least attempt to emulate that in some way. But for a mere mortal it is not nearly so easy . . . to make the earth or rest for an entire day.