In a time before the shop I used to work with a small team of web developers and computer technicians building online projects for change-making organisations, out of a computer and cable-tangled office in Old Street.
I sat at a desk next to the person who answered the phone to users who were struggling with technical crises like emails not sending or the internet not connecting. They solved problems by listening and talking things through in reassuringly human sentences, whilst simulteaneously tapping out back-slash rich code on a black screen. The users regarded them as super-heroes and showed their appreciation with a level of customer loyalty and unsolicited testimonials that bigger IT providers would have killed for.
My decision after 15 years, to leave and open a wool shop came from a hankering for a way of working which would be less mediated by a screen, and more about being with people in real life, specifically providing all of YOU with what you need to knit things 🙂.
Now all of that looks like ancient history, as Wild and Woolly seems to have filled a wool-shop-shaped hole on the Lower Clapton Road that surely must always have been there, and my life as a shopkeeper feels similarly pre-determined. But as is the way with long journeys, these days I’m increasingly struck by the threads that link me back to what I learned in the company of those clever, geeky techies.
Sitting at the table in the shop, searching for the source of a knitter’s rogue extra stitch, deciphering a badly translated explanation of how to knit diagonal basket-weave, diagnosing a mis-shapen sock heel – I can see that I’m now doing the User Support job I once watched others do – albeit a knitterish version. Most importantly, I learned to do it thanks to people who really understood that materials and equipment are only part of the story in helping people make things, and that human support is what makes up the rest.