I just got home from one of my favorite places in Dobrich: the ceramics shop. It’s a little room in the Old Town part of Dobrich, the one rebuilt in 1976 as a model of old Bulgarian architecture and artisan work.
I go there a lot.
When there is someone in town, I’m always sure to take them by the shop at some point. They’ve purchased whistles and bowls and cups.
I’m the shop owner’s favorite.
She gives me a hug and a cheerful zdrasti when I enter. She pets my hair and pours me and my friend a shot of apricot rakia from her village. Rose flavored turkish delight is a regular treat. It pairs well with the rakia. She asks how I am and I try to explain who my friend is: my sister, another teacher, boyfriend. She nods as if she understands, though I know I get my possessives mixed up and very likely called my colleague a man and my boyfriend a girl.
Then the shop owner takes a bowl or up and raises it high above her head; she lets gravity work and adds some umph into the drop too, slamming the piece into the counter. I jump every time, even when I see her arm raised. “Very good, very strong quality” she says is strongly accented english. The bowl or cup is unharmed– not even a scratch. The first few times I visited, I let out a surprised yelp each time. I finally learned to say Mojali, ctiga after the first slam. She knows that it scares me now and gives me fair warning.
The room is a tangle of baked clay, brightly colored, swirled blues and greens and browns. Someone has written DOBRICH, BULGARIA in black marker or paint in swirling letters on the plates and bowls. There is always some special find: a plate with a special color, an egg holder, ash tray, magnet.The oven is in the back of the store, behind a loose hinged wooden door. If I could fit out an entire kitchen with these dishes, I would.
My shopkeeper friend is part of another time, where artisans were the norm and businesses were the basic livelihood. In many ways, Dobrich is still on this economic structure, though it becomes less so with more agricultural brands setting up shop like Husqvarna and Bayer Crops. Her family makes beautiful things, everyday objects that I love to have around and use.
Through her craftsmanship, I’ve also had a friend. I’ll miss her pottery slamming ways. I’ll miss seeing her in the post office and our cheerful greetings. That’s about all I can manage in Bulgarian before the complexity gets out of my depth. But it’s enough.