Before Natalie Edwards decided to open her own shop ‘The Worshipful Little Shop of Spectacles’, she has been working as an optician for a long time already. Now, she’s part of an inspiring community of makers at Netil Market: “East London is creative and I feel lucky to live in this part of the city as I feel that all is happening here, pop-up shop, cafés, art, creative life,… .”
I was born in London, my granddad lived in east London and back then it was a little village. I went to art school in Cornwall. I love London but I wanted to study somewhere else and Cornwall is so pretty and smaller and it’s so amazing to study there. When I got back, my sister lived in East London and so I decided to stay here. I love the village feeling we have here in Netil Market. London gets too big sometimes, it’s too anonymous for me.
When you were born in the city, other things are amazing to you and London is something that I’m used too. I don’t notice what other people see, but this is my city and it will always be part of me. All my friends are here, people that I went to school with, it’s a place where I was brought up. I lived in different places, but I always came back. I lived in Spain and came back, lived in Istanbul and came back, lived in Brighton and came back, a bit in Cornwall – and came back. I’m always back, it’s almost that I cannot leave London. There is just always something that brings me back home:
There is lots of opportunity here, the things that you can do. I wouldn’t have been able to open my own shop in Brighton. London, especially East London, is more open and arty, more experimental and for that, I love East London and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but here. East London is a bubble and the rest of London is real London with its busyness and overcrowded underground, it can be too much. East London is like a village, you have everything here and easy access to the real London if you want to go to West End to the theater or the galleries. London is hard when you have to commute from one side to the other, the tube doubled the amount of people since when I was a child and I’m happiest when I’m just here. My home is here, my studio is here and my shop is here – I have my little triangle here.
East London is creative and I feel lucky to live in this part of the city as I feel that all is happening here, pop-up shop, cafés, art, creative life,… . I like walking the streets where my granddad and dad used to walk, it was a whole different place then. It was used as a watercress farm and people came here to retreats on holiday from London to get fresh air.
A year ago, I started thinking of opening my own shop. I had a car boot sale in my friends back garden and made lots of money in about 3 hours and then I thought, why don’t I do this instead going to work – and that would mean I don’t have to go to West End and stand in the shop, why don’t I open my own shop close to home? I’m a dispensing optician, I have been working in optics since I was 19, for a long time already. My next step is to design frames. I have designed my own frames and I had lots of fun with it, but it’s been a long time. Now that I have my own shop and more time to be creative, I want to focus on not only designing the frames but also learning how to handmake them. I already have found the right person to teach me.
Opening my shop, at first, I didn’t like it – it gave me lots of anxiety. It’s different doing things for yourself, organizing everything, buying all that stuff, it was horrendous. And then I went on holidays to Cornwall and when I came back, I worked my first Saturday here and it was so good working for myself, I loved it and now I really love it! I guess it’s like with new things, with any new business, you get the anxiety at first, because you don’t understand it, but then you love it.
The shop has done better than I thought. For the first few months, I still worked part-time in my old job, just to make sure I would have enough money to survive. But now it’s just me and my shop and we are doing good, it feels good. I enjoy doing everything here, I’m more motivated because I know I have to do it and want to do it, so it’s very different working for myself, but it’s also dangerous because I cannot switch off. At the same time, being in charge of your own time is amazing. It really feels natural to me.