Several weeks ago I wrote the essay below. I wasn't sure if or when I would share it, but today I finished implementing the first of many new business practices I intend to create for my shop and it seems like an appropriate companion to it:
Conscious, Collaborative, Collective Care
Today (Tuesday, October 17th, 2023) I reread a book I bought a couple years ago, before I opened my shop: Proposals for the Feminine Economy by Jennifer Armbrust. I cried at a few places in it, and remembered crying the first time I read it too. She writes about the kind of world I want to live in, and in a way that makes me feel like it’s possible. In a way that makes me feel like it’s possible for me to help create!
I’ve been thinking so much lately about how my business fits into my life, the Brooklyn community, and the larger mess of the capitalist world we’re all struggling through. It’s easy to feel small, helpless, alone, and disadvantaged in the midst of it, especially as a disabled person who lives with chronic pain. Those aspects of my identity are not ones I often share publicly. I am still working on integrating what they mean for me as a person overall, and have barely started to consider how they can be joyfully integrated into my business as well.
I was very lucky to grow up in a family and city that (mostly) celebrated my queerness and my womanhood, and because of that I haven’t been shy about branding my business as queer & women owned. The craft community is also largely made up of women and queer people which makes it feel less threatening to advertise. The support and engagement I’ve received from these communities has been incredibly healing to me as an individual. It’s these concepts, healing and community, that I have been mulling on, so of course this quote from Armbrust’s book hit me particularly deep today:
“Everything that you are needing, someone else is needing, too. Everything that you are healing for yourself, you are healing for someone else, too. Where are you most in need of healing right now? What is the medicine? How can you weave that into the fabric of your business so that as you heal yourself, you heal others, too? Make your business a medicine, a salve.”
The glorification of individualism is so easy to get stuck in, especially in a city like New York. In my slow process of prying away from it I’m seeing where that stickiness has caused a rash, a bad reaction. Crafts have always been a salve for me in hard times, but also always a solitary one. Even over the last year as the shop has been hosting craft circles and classes and little music shows that my friends put on for themselves, I have retreated behind the counter of my shop or left the shop to be watched by my employees, overwhelmed and confused and afraid of letting myself be a part of it, truly. I’ve been terrified of letting myself relax into the simple joy of sharing space with other people.
I’ve realized, slowly and painfully, that it’s because I haven’t yet peeled off the last thin layer of the hyper-individualistic, capitalist stickiness. I’ve still been subconsciously thinking there’s no way to succeed unless I’m alone, unless I am doing absolutely everything, at all times, on my own, to keep it going. This is where I need healing, and this is what I want to weave into the fabric of my business going forward: conscious, collaborative, collective care.
Moving forward into my second year of business I am focusing on creating systems that allow for this, for conscious, collaborative, collective care. Until now I have been trying to offer everything I have—my time, my knowledge, my labor, and my attention—to everyone who wants it and it’s been burning me out over and over and over again. I am coming to realize the most effective ways I can contribute to the care of my community is not by giving all that I have, but through the creation and maintenance of systems that allow for the people in our community to give to each other. Every human has, as an individual, practical limitations, especially if you are disabled by our larger society. But collectively our abilities to care for one another are, in every applicable sense, infinite.
I am still workshopping many of the practical applications of the first few ideas I have. If you have any knowledge or skills you would like to share in the creation of these systems I would be so thrilled to discuss that with you. I am not an expert and you don’t have to be either to join me. As Armbrust also says in her book, “Do not wait until you know to act. Anything you don't know, you will learn in the process.” Life and business are perpetual WIPs, and it’s okay to sometimes have to frog things and try again.
It’s easy to say yarn isn’t a need (for those who aren’t already obsessed, anyway). It’s easy to assume that if someone can’t afford to shop at a local natural-fiber yarn store, it’s okay because no one needs access to a yarn shop to survive (again, too many jokey counter-arguments from fellow yarn snobs like me come to mind writing this, but that isn’t the point I’m trying to make! Stay with me!).
Our survival, especially under capitalism, isn’t entirely dependent on the basics like food, water, and shelter. It is in fact desperately reliant on joy, expression, and community. Before I opened my shop I was more depressed and fatigued and lost than I had ever been in my life. I was struggling to survive in a very real sense. I want anyone who is feeling overwhelmed or alone or uninspired or incapable to be able to come to the shop and maybe find a small piece of color to bring home with them and keep them tied to us. This scholarship fund is for everyone who feels they need it.
I've made this Scholarship Fund with the intention that it will be contributed to by the shop and our community to help those who need it attend our classes and events. We will also occasionally host events where 100% of ticket sales will go towards the fund.
When signing up for a class or event, anyone is welcome to purchase a Scholarship Fund ticket at a discount. When a Scholarship Fund ticket is purchased, the amount discounted is taken from the Scholarship Fund to pay the shop, the shop's staff, and the teacher or host of the class or event the full regular ticket price. All of the management involved in the upkeep of this system, including processing fees, will be covered by the shop.
Again, this is the first of many systems I am eager to create and integrate into my business. In the next weeks and months I will be making a Little Free Library for yarn and craft supplies that will be in or outside our shop, and setting up a system for free communal teaching to happen at the shop and around the city.
If you have questions, or would like to be involved in any way, please reach out via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Instagram DM (@cleosyarnshop). And if you would like to contribute to our brand new Scholarship Fund you can do so here!
Thanks for being here ♥