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Washington D.C._Temple_At_DuskPreparations for renovating the stone facade of the building of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in Maryland have just begun. Thousands of cubic metres of white Alabama marble need a thorough renovation. The building of Washington D.C. Temple is located in Kensington, half an hour drive from the centre of Washington.



And what about ways that led us to professional identity? Most of us could say that our professions are extremely useful. That's it – most of us “could” say it.
na otwarcie_fot.1My mate's profession is quite unique. He works at a stone company. When he speaks about it, those that listen to him are usually … perplexed.  
This quote from the Internet proves, and the author of this short text admits to it, that reasons for choosing the profession of a stonemason are hard to understand. One of the most basic components of material culture that has been with us since the beginning of settlement are cemeteries. Should the perception of our profession be limited to sepulchral art and be associated only with funeral industry? Or perhaps, in the near future, it will be done only by archaeologists?  

Knowledge of professions is an interdisciplinary branch of science. It integrates research related to psychology, pedagogy, sociology, economics, technology, occupational medicine and other sciences which provide knowledge about the world of professions and professional work. This is an area of knowledge situated at the intersection of social, natural and technical sciences. Why are we writing about this in this issue of Świat Kamienia? I am sure that nobody who is employed in a broadly defined stone industry belongs to the group of workers who do simple works. This group includes professions which require knowledge and experience that are indispensable to do mainly simple and routine jobs. They are, for example, diggers, cleaners or porters.  

The above can be proven by a structure of classification of professions and specialisations that corresponds to the International Standard Classification of Occupations ISCO88 (COM). In the classification there are ten big groups. The basic criterion of the division is a qualification level based on skills which are required to do the particular profession (specialisation). The skills level corresponds to the level of education. So, architects – but also tomb designers and letterers – are in the group of specialists. This group includes professions that require high level of professional knowledge, skills and experience in technical sciences. Sculptors need to be fluent also in natural sciences since their task is to put concepts and scientific or artistic theories into practice. Stone industry is a very general term, therefore, except for stonemasons who deal with manual processing, there are also stonemasons who deal with machining, assemblers or stonemasons who are also conservators-restorers.   

When speaking about a profession as a sociological category, it is worth to discuss other aspects of this issue. I mean a cultural aspect of work and life as well as professional ethics. The culture of profession is related to the way of doing a certain job according to some values and standards. It varies according to the type of social divisions: it is different in different social circles. What about a stonemason? Over the years this profession was at one point prestigious and at the other the opposite – it was a kind of stigma. How is it today?  


The immanent feature of a stonemason category is striving for improving qualifications and getting better and better in the profession where the main “subject of work” is rather not about interacting with people but with things (materials, raw materials, tools, products). It goes without saying that right now we are experiencing the technological progress that is also revolutionising stone companies. Professionally engaged individuals are expected to possess not only competences of an expert, but also appropriate ethical attitude – especially among those who specialise in cemetery architecture works or sacral building works.

It is hard to imagine history of civilisation, including history of architecture, without stone. Thanks to stone we can see first manifestations of human crafts, we can also see how the man evolved from a picker to a hunter and then from a hunter to a city builder. The stone clue leads us also to history of writing. Some examples of old writing were preserved thanks to stone steles.  

- Stone may have many applications and meanings both in construction and in language – says Dr. Maciej Zweiffel, who analyses linguistic nuances.

- Generally, stone is associated with something specific, hard and inaccessible – that is a rock, which is solid, like for example basalt or granite. But pumice, limestone or even slag, not to mention loose rocks – sand, gravel, etc. are also stones. History of civilisations, manifestations of human's crafts, architecture, sculpture … - the stone clue leads us also to history of writing. Some examples of old writing were preserved thanks to stone steles.  Let us then ask what the origin of the word kamień (stone) is and how it functions in the Polish language. The Polish word kamień contains a very old root – Indo-European kam-, which is a true “linguistic fossil” (the term created by Prof. Miodek, who is a famous Polish linguist). When we have a look at this word in other Slavic languages, we can see similar forms: the Czech kámen, Russian камень (kameni), or Lithuanian akmuo. Interestingly, the part kam- does not appear in the words which mean “stone” in Germanic languages. There are stone in English or Stein in German, but in the word hammer (Hammer in German) we can see the part of the Indo-European name for stone.  
Since early settlement times, a craftsman who was skilled in processing hard materials is one of the clues that leads us to architectural stone industry which developed 1,000 years ago in our part of the world.


It is interesting to see what the way to professional identity in 21st century looks like. Can we take care of the ethos of work? In the Internet era we are tempted to analyse websites of stone companies. We can observe that it is quite common to boast about your competences by recalling the stone-related family traditions. The website of Zakład Kamieniarski Mariusza Szumińskiego from Bydgoszcz can be a very good example here. In the “Tradition and craft” tag we can read that “in summer 2014 I visited my father's stone company more often than usual. I grew up there and lived there until I was six years old. I used to play in that yard which was always full of stones. I have a sentimental attachment to this place (…). I was spending more and more time on work. I examined different types of granite (...)I got respect to that raw material. I felt that every stone has its soul. It absorbed me completely. I really enjoyed it. I got to know four people who worked for my father. Two of them, Rajmund and Jerzy, have been working there for over 35 years and were hired by my grandfather!

- My grandfather was a great man! – says Mariusz Szumiński.

- He graduated the art high school in Bydgoszcz in 1930s. When he was preparing for his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow (under the supervision of true specialists), the war changed his plans. Due to the fact that he was good at woodwork, he started working for a joinery which produced goods for the concentration camp in Oświęcim. After the war my grandfather was able to develop his passion. The money he got from selling his sculptures often saved his family. My father, who was working hard with my grandfather, was gradually taking more and more duties and gaining experience. No school can offer me experience I can get from my father. In summer 2014 I understood one important thing. Our company has been more than 40 years on the market. We have overcome a lot of difficulties. Our company survived till now so I can't waste it. There is only one thing I have to do: create.  

I think that many family business heirs could tell similar stories. Their message could contribute to building ethos of our stone companies. Why aren't we doing this?

- The misunderstood modesty is the problem, in my opinion – says Miłosz Puławski from ONEBOX creative agency.

- Stone industry, unlike other industries, does not like publicity and, what is worse, does not care about the image of its companies. Any proof? Once revolutionary gabions became the leitmotif of the stands at – surprise, surprise – automotive fairs. It took, however, a long time to make a similar arrangement become a characteristic element of stone fairs. It is the same with company catalogues. The motif of tradition is sometimes neglected, which can be seen by the fact that archives (photos, for example) are not used as much as they should.  

The company was established as a result of a long experience in stone industry, creativity, the need for self-fulfilment and, most of all, as a result of passion – this is the most common introduction, but sometimes also conclusion, of presentations on competences of stone companies in the Internet.  
In order to make the way to professional identity complete, however, we need to add information about the history of our profession and then about how we became stonemasons and how we gained our professional qualifications. Finally, we should not forget about mentioning the reasons for choosing this profession.


of occasions to treat exhaustively the ways that led us to our professional identity. Let us recall the latest initiative of this kind which was inspired by... skiing fans. The website, which is devoted to the past and present of a Subcarpathian village Cieklin, published an article entitled "FOLUSZ" in which we can read that "Folusz was established by Mniszek family in 16th century. Later it was owned by Stadniccy family and in late 19th century the property was in the hands of the Norbertine nuns' monastery (...) After 1945 the whole Lemko society that lived in the village was resettled. The people living in the village were not able to live off the land. Therefore, nearly all men in the village used to do some stone work. The raw material was extracted in the quarry on the southern slope of Kobyła hill, east of the village. The sandstone, however, was not of the best quality there. It was not good for making stone sculptures and crosses. It was easy, however, to break it into thin pieces. Floor and pavement slabs as well as kitchen tops were made of it. Folusz specialised in whetstone. The fairs that took place in the cities nearby were often visited by stonemasons from Folusz. They also used to work in neighbouring villages – they used to come with their own materials which they later used for building foundations. Nikifor, a famous painter, died in the nursing home in Folusz in 1968."  

I have recently seen in the Internet an interesting photographic documentation entitled “A special monument …”. The people who know Ponidzie (Swiętokrzyskie province) should know that place with tens of 18th- and 19th-century roadside figures and crosses. The most interesting one can be seen on the website dedicated to Polish tourist attractions. This monument is located in Włochy village near Pińczów. The name of the village means Italy. Does it have anything in common with this south European country? - asks the author of the pictures. Yes, it does. The name refers to a numerous colony of Italian stonemasons who were once brought by Polish kings to work with Pińczów stone. Santa Gucci, an architect and sculptor, was the most famous of them. Today their descendants have Italian names. This should encourage local stonemasons to write a monograph about local stone industry companies.   

The monograph does not have to refer to the descendants of cultivated family traditions. The old machine, the story of transport or installation of the work of art which was produced in my grandfather's workshop – there are many fascinating stories to tell (by the way, if you know a story like this, please contact our magazine).


On 22 March 1989 the Sejm (lower house of the Polish Parliament) passed a new act on crafts where the obligation to associate craftsmen in guilds was lifted. Companies of a new type were responsible for enriching the market with exotic rocks. Stone companies of an old type were complemented with highly specialised distributors of both materials and technology.  

In short time the traditional commitment to profession was exposed to inexorable market forces. The result is a rising rotation of employees. Higher demand than the number of people looking for a job is the problem of not only shortage professions like that of a paver. Quick technological changes make improving workers' qualifications important to keep a good position of the company on the market.

Why are there more and more people who decide to change their jobs? According to the experts from Hays Poland, the most common reasons – except for possibility to earn more – are willingness to face new challenges and no development opportunities in the present job. The figures prove this – every third employee says that development opportunities are an important factor that decides about how attractive a job offer is.  

According to the recently published research conducted by Hays Poland, vast majority of employees are optimistic about their professional career in the future. Every fourth employee considers changing the job within the next six months. Similar percentage of employees (22%) think about a change like this within 6-12 months or 1-2 years (24%). Only 13% of those who were asked said they were not planning to change their jobs. Companies have to face the following problem now: what to do to prevent staff turnover and to keep their best employees. The most frequently chosen tool is a salary rise and other financial incentives. This year more than 80% of companies are going to raise their employees' salaries and nearly 40% of employers says salaries will rise by 5%.

At the beginning of the period of transformation, the Polish stone market was influenced by German companies. For at least a decade the market has been dominated by Italian companies. English is still the most popular language in business contacts, but Italian language is getting more and more useful in stone business relations. By the way, let us get rid of the stereotype that can't work today. Now it is time for a new style.  


This term was created by British managers in order to define the attitude to business which is represented by entrepreneurs from Italy: trendy dress code, late night dinners in tastefully designed interiors. We seem to like this trend very much and the knowledge of Italian language is now quite common among Polish stonemasons.

- There are also more and more wine connoisseurs among us – says Jarosław Dulemba, the co-owner of Marmur Dulemba.

- For present-day 30-year-olds, who remember boozy events for stonemasons, expensive wines on their tables symbolise a radical change.

It is more difficult, obviously, to list stonemasons' hobbies. We can say that the excavated material (stone) encourages to take up motor sports – usually off-road rallies or enduro sports. Stone company and quarry owners often do sport shooting (archery, for example).  Among stonemasons there are also people keen on travelling.

Right. And what occupational diseases do stone industry representatives suffer from? Particulate matter, noise, vibrations, problems with mobility – but health and safety hazards are estimated to be on acceptable level. Nowadays risk assessment sheets contain fewer serious and collective accidents as well as fewer occupational diseases related to stonemason's job than in early 21st century. Another thing is that we are more and more often fixing our health and our treatment costs a lot.
We started from saying that stonemasons do not do simple and routine works (like a digger, cleaner or porter). If you want to be a stonemason you do not have to be a strong man. Firstly, there are more and more women doing this job. Secondly, unlike a typically mining profession (like a quarryman, for example), tools and working conditions have improved in an unprecedented way in the last two decades.

Another thing is that qualifications, aesthetic sense, precision or being sensitive to form and colour, urban awareness, imagination and creativity are not enough today. The people who represent our branch must be also familiar with copyrights. They also need to have a good understanding of local business and politics.

Rafał Dobrowolski


We are living in the times when both investors and stonemasons are sceptical about what stone to choose. Do not get us wrong – we do not mean that what nature gave us is now coming to an end. Innovative materials is a very good topic for the branch press, but the “rock” has a still very good position!

Sintered quartz, but also latest generation conglomerates are winning the hearts of consumers and contractors – this is what we can read in communications published by more and more companies. The customer today wants guaranteed repeatability, wants to have power over nature and eliminate all that is perceived as beauty of a rock. All that nature gave us (erratic blocks, for example) or we obtained from earth thanks to conscious actions of a human being is no longer fashionable. Is it really so?

raport1Sintered quartz as a product that has specific properties has been on the market for about 10 years now and is successfully applied in architecture (claddings, floors, ceilings, elevations). In Poland sintered quartz in a wide range of patterns appeared quite late – architects started speaking about “multi-purpose panels” as late as in 2012. Since then we can hear more and more information about its “impressive mechanical properties” (for example much bigger resistance to scratching). Reinforcement of surface for mounting, with fibre glass for example, makes the composite far better than a typical 8-12 mm stoneware tile. The thinner material (3 mm + reinforcement) appears to be also exceptionally flexible.    

- By 2013 kitchen tops made of natural stone represented 65% of the market whereas laminated, acrylic and ceramic tops represented the remaining 35%. But as soon as Polish stone companies have started processing and using 3.5 mm thick sintered quartz, the proportions are gradually changing – Adam Pikul from Franken-Schotter GmbH & Co. KG analyses the share of all materials in kitchen arrangements.  

- The year 2014 was the symptom of changes. Since then the Polish tycoon and the main player in furniture industry has been significantly decreasing the volume of orders for kitchen tops made of natural stone and increasing composite ones. Even worse effects brought the change of policy at construction stores. They suddenly started to demand a specific “compatibility” from suppliers of window sills and raw stone counter tops, at the same time reserving the right to make complaints about veins, imperfections and colour changes.  

What is this arbitrary “compatibility” in case of natural stone product? This is a catch-all which was popular a few years ago not only among large investors who carefully stored a “reference” sample of stone and at one point started to confront it with the delivered material using properties and nature of natural material as an argument to get a lower price for subcontractor's services.    

raport2Interestingly, we have not had such a construction boom in Poland for at least 5 years. Last year the biggest number of flats were put into use since the political transformation. We feel we must remind of it because installation companies are undoubtedly the most affected link in the investment chain in Poland. It is no secret that the budget of an average investment is sometimes exceeded as early as installation company enters the building shell. This situation puts a stone work subcontractor in a difficult position because he joins the project as the last one. Then, investors look for savings and do everything to find something bad in the work of stone companies. Facade installations and surface hydrophobizations usually reveal all the “sins” committed by previous contractors.   

It is obvious that contracts between general contractors and subcontractors should not contain provisions which are asymmetric, that is the ones which impose on stone companies obligations related to (in case of real or alleged negligence) excessive entanglement in the payment process or in getting back (after many years) reimbursement of guarantee fee (the so-called “good performance”).  

- There are even anecdotes which say that demand for lowering the payment for installation works on elevations by 50% is sometimes justified by the fact that the elevation is only in 50% aesthetic when compared with the reference model – because when it rains half of the elevation from the western side gets darker – explains Adam Pikul.

- In most cases it is the architect who is to blame. While designing natural stone elevation he sometimes does not know much about stone's properties, resistance and reactions to local climate or, what is worse, hydrophobization of elevation and stone surrounding was omitted. Then we should ask ourselves a question: is anything missing in this craft? Perhaps qualifications, because of no stone vocational schools? Drastic savings which lead to poor quality of materials and poor work reliability? I am asking those questions because something strange has happened recently.

Destructive competition (lowering margins) on the market of stone services and staff shortages lowered the quality and led to reshuffling which resulted in choosing alternative materials and more profitable works. But what works?  


According to many market players, there are more and more projects with the use of composite materials, large size sintered quartz in particular. Statistical analysis of investments in Mazovian Province proves that “non-stone” elevations represent as much as 80%, 60% of which are combined ones, for example sheet and stone. Projects of multi-storey buildings (openwork) are very trendy now. A typical project of an office building is a stone monolith – if it is black, it must be well-lit at night. The higher the floor is the more frequently found combinations of glass, ceramics and composites are.

But there are also people who prove something else: a growing demand for so-called studio works where required precision of installation leads to higher prices and generates higher profitability. Sintered quartz? They are … “noisy”, but so far we have not observed a sudden growth of projects with their use – says Paweł Bereza from Pamir company. Stone companies are just buying the machines now. Some are too weak to cope with production, not mentioning stocking. You cannot rely on warehouses – the customer wants to see the sinters which would mean the necessity to freeze a big amount of money.

The majority highlights that latest generation composites just complement the regular offer of our companies and because of that saying that the time of stone is coming to an end is not justified! There are some, however, who say that stone has become too … moody in the recent years. Did women think that stone is no longer fashionable? There is some truth in it. When we decide to choose a stone it is worth to think about its protection and the way we want to maintain it. Not all stones are acid resistant, for example, which means that if a housewife is not warned that sauerkraut may affect marble, we may be sure she will make a complaint soon.


We can also try to explain the reason for growing scepticism of consumers to natural stone by many years of negligence – both in the industry and because of low technical culture... of Polish people. The amendment to the consumer's act introduced significant changes to the law (valid from 2015) increasing the seller's responsibility and extending the buyer's rights. Recently, new information obligations towards entrepreneurs and consumers have increased. They relate, for example, to the scope of explaining how to use a sold good.  If a consumer is a buyer, then the seller is obligated, among others, to provide the buyer with the manual in Polish language.  

raport3In Poland we can now feel the effects of indulgence as regards the contractor's obligation to provide the customer with clear information and as regards executing contractual recommendations regarding recommended and not advisable methods of “care”, including the methods created by specialists – for example when we think of ventilated elevations (in high buildings in particular) made of stone panels and the risk of their degradation as a result of drying and capillary action which grows together with rising temperature amplitude during the day and at night. And now a titbit: last year we predicted that mediations would be very important and useful for subcontractors. Did they help stone industry? Not really. The contractor sooner goes bankrupt or … change the name of his company than a valuer manages to say something, so the temptation to get money – even if it is 50% less – seems better than getting involved in disputes.

One thing is certain. More and more entrepreneurs revelled in innovative materials and that is why we can observe that ventilated stone elevations are getting less popular. Once mass production of flexible elements (sheets) and now sintered elements with stone powder in the form of a thin facade (sinters) may guarantee incredible savings during transport, installation and maintenance. Sinters are unbeatable in terms of weight (180 square metres of 4 cm thick stone elevation panels equal as many as 5,000 sqm of 3 mm thick sinters), so they are much easier and quicker to be anchored (they do not need 4 people to do that). Another advantage of elevation like this is that no maintenance is required: hardly any absorbability and insensitivity to dirt.  

- There is no doubt that conglomerate or sinter is better than stone if it comes to price and weight – says Małgorzata Bielska from Mega-stone Sp. z o.o.
- Both of them are much lighter (which is important during installation) and cheaper which seems to be very tempting in the early stage of investment. High cost of natural stone compared to synthetic materials is, however, only apparent. It is so, because we need to take into consideration maintenance and life of raw materials. Synthetics must be changed after a few years whereas natural stone always looks the same.   
We love natural stone, but sinters guarantee good margin and do not give us a headache too – this is what the branch seems to repeat.

In the last few years there were more and more “problematic” stone consumers. Therefore, it is not surprising that competition of sinters was getting stronger. In the last year some new or improved sinters were announced. Their qualities are reaching architects in a more and more effective way. Sinters do need any attention from the consumer or user which in Poland appears to be the most important argument. Any proof? It is enough to ask in the nearest public utility department about the so-called pavement and elevation winter maintenance plan – we mean, of course, stone pavements and elevations! Another thing is that municipal services do not clean and preserve stone elevations. Whilst in Vienna, for example, a water cart operator is aware of the fact that he has to turn on side spraying in order to protect stone from anti-sleet agents. And in Germany dog owners may get a 500 EUR fine when their dogs have just an intention to leave urine on the pavement (sic!).     

If you add quite quite a small amount of money to that, we can get a long-lasting well protected stone elevation. Hydrophobization costs about 10 zlotys per square metre (ca. € 2.5 per m2). It does not matter much since today the busiest people are those who deal with removing hooligans' graffiti from stone walls.


To sum up, advantages of new materials are more and more often juxtaposed with natural stone. Nevertheless, projects in which decorative qualities of stone are put first are still very popular. Their biggest advantage is the fact that fashion and time do not affect it since it gets old in a beautiful way! - says Małgorzata Bielska. Customers who are interested in a material like this usually have sophisticated aesthetic sense. They are looking for extraordinary and unique goods.

raport4It is difficult to imagine a better material for sculptures and design installations. Perhaps we do not know how to show qualities of rocks? Natural stone – especially soapstone – is a very good conductor of heat and is able to store a lot of it. All we have to do is to wait (maybe this year?) for highly advanced radiators with innovative heat accumulation system. We got to know about it from one of the entrepreneurs who is right now applying for EU funds. He does not want to give his idea wide publicity. Another very desired aspect of using stone as a heat battery is applying aggregate in hybrid gabion elements such as fire places and gabion stoves – adds Maciej Sroka, the president of Gabeco company. Recently, along with Polish Green – manufacturer of green decorative aggregate – we have made recreational gabion buildings with the use of Polish Green products in the area of antigorite serpentinite pit in Nasławice.

The above arrangement is a public space with a separate fire place. This innovative approach was made with the use of a new green stone on the market.

Additional advantage of applying stone in gabions is using them as noise absorbing panels and fire barriers as well as constructions which significantly reduce dust coming from urban areas.

Another use of a rock which is insensitive to what technology offers? In this issue of Świat Kamienia we are writing about strategic investments: with the use of natural stone (hydrotechnical stone) and about those which make transport costs lower (modernization of waterways). We do not have to prove that natural stone is still very popular in cemetery furniture branch.   

Rafał Dobrowolski


parkRebuilding of the closed cemetery at Ostrowska street in Szczecin has just finished.



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