With equal amounts of presence and mystery, twin sisters Harriet and Carter Were live their lives as if they’ve been granted a practice round. Perhaps this instinctive wisdom comes from their family and upbringing or perhaps it’s from their close peers, either way they have managed to strike a beautiful balance between life’s fundamentals and what’s worth striving for.
The Were-ideal is to gain freedom by simply doing the things that they love; walking their English Bull Terrier Mabel to the nearby beach, creating one-off pieces for friends, or making food and entertaining friends in their own back yard. Constant reevaluation of what is important to them as individuals, feeds the girls’ drive to create their own unique movements. Using the city and its appreciation of locality to fuel their endeavors, it is the vast and rugged landscapes on the outskirts of the city that really ignite their spirits. A constant yearning for their ultimate destination; a space to grow vegetables and farm their own animals, not only keeps the Were sisters’ priorities in check, it also allows the bigger picture to stay in focus.
This portrait is part of our ongoing collaboration with ZEIT Online who present a special curation of our pictures on ZEIT Magazin Online.
When did you move into this house?
Carter: It was about one year ago.
You guys are twins and are obviously close, how is it living with each other day in, day out? Do you think you’ll always live in the same city?
Carter: We have lived in different countries before and did so for about two years. While we are in the same city and country though, it is nice to live together because we are super close. I think we will live in different cities again. I love the country, Harry enjoys the city.
Harriet: We are really different, so maybe that’s why it works so well. She makes me really happy and I love her confidence and her smile. She knows a lot about food and nutrition which I like learning about. We won’t, and don’t always, live in the same city, but I love living with Carter when we are. I lived in Paris and London while Carter was living in Sydney. I only have one tattoo; a stick-and-poke ‘C’ that I did on my ankle one night because I missed her so much. I always miss her the most out of everyone.
Can you tell us about where you grew up.
Carter: We actually grew up at Birkenhead Point, in a big old villa built in the 1890s. That will probably be the best house that we will ever live in! There were ghosts. It had a big section and we spent a lot of time in the garden climbing the Jacaranda trees. We were very close to our neighbors so our dad’s installed a gate in the hedge so that our gardens would join up! It was quite magical. We moved to the South Island when we were thirteen years old so that our parents could build a house and live rurally. They still haven’t built that house!
How do you find living in the Ponsonby area?
Carter: Ponsonby wouldn’t be our first choice of place to live, but it is easy. We love that we are close to the Herne Bay beaches but sometimes we’d rather be back at the Chelsea Sugar houses over the bridge. We lived there once, they are on a public park and next to the water. We decided to take this house on as a rental because it was big enough to house five people. It is functional for us for now because it’s close to where we all work, but our heart is really outside of the city, we’d ideally rather be living on the outskirts, somewhere like West Auckland.
Where do you like to spend time in your area?
Carter: We don’t eat out too much, we are on a tight budget! Our favorite, though, would have to be Malaysian. Dad takes us there every time he’s here. Sri Panang on Karangahape Road is great and has a bring your own – BYO – policy so you can take a nice bottle of wine with you for a corkage fee. Dad loves the sago pudding. There is also a great fish and chip shop on Jervious Road called Fishsmith, just around the corner from here, that serves the best fish and chips I have had in ages. So, we will definitely be going there a lot more as it gets warmer! Xi’an Noodle Bar in the city is good for great cheap hand-pulled noodles. We also like Freida Margolis in the West Lynn shops for a drink. Our cousin took us there last weekend. It had such a good feel and a great selection of New Zealand beers on tap. We’re going back there to try the food soon.
When did you get your English Terrier pup, Mabel?
Carter: I got Mabel last year in early July when she was six weeks old. She was an angel then, now she has a lot of energy and a massive personality. We walk her around the streets and to the beach. Along the way, she can remember every house where she has seen another dog or cat.
Can you tell me about some of the furniture in your place. Are they all sourced by you, or were they here when you arrived?
Harriet: The furniture is all ours. We were given the couch from some friends who were moving, and everything else is either gifted from friends or sourced from Trademe.com! We are really good at shopping online. A few of the pieces are my boyfriend Felix’s grandparents, like the Arne Jacobsen chairs and the armchair in the living room.
I really love the colored elephant mobile in the spare room, where is that from?
Harriet: That’s mine! It’s an old Danish one. Felix’s mum gave it to me. I love it. It reminds me of Copenhagen a lot. Elephants are everywhere there, it’s the highest order and an image I would always see on my beer can.
Can you tell us about the book of Maori portraits?
Harriet: Oh, those books are photographs by Ans Westra! I love her work so much. She is from the Netherlands but moved to New Zealand in her early 20s – I think! I love her older photographs, they explore parts of the New Zealand culture and lifestyle that I find really beautiful. And the people are smiling. I hope to own one of her works one day.
You guys have created a lovely feeling in your kitchen, what sort of meals do you cook here?
Harriet: I can only make pancakes, pumpkin cheese and a good pumpkin soup. Carter and Felix are amazing cooks so they make all sorts! I’m on dishes.
Carter, you run your own Organic Sprouted Bread under the company Were Bros. Do you make your sprouted bread from home? What else are you experimenting with?
Carter: I make my sprouted bread from a commercial kitchen close to home. I am currently making about 80 loaves a week. Recently, I have been experimenting with some sourdough and managed to make a really nice seeded loaf just before I went travelling a few months ago. Right now, I need to make another starter and do some more experimenting. Another thing I like to make is sauerkraut. I really like to use my hands and like to grow vegetables. I have just had another business idea, it’s really simple and I think it will work well! The more I experiment with things the more I think about simple ideas and bringing things back to basics.
Can you also tell us about the Were Bros name and its history?
Carter: The Were Bros brand dates back to our great-great-great-grandfather, Charles. He was a butcher who started Were Bros Christchurch in the mid-1880s as an all-natural soft-drink label, making things like homemade lemonade and ginger beer, with the help of his 13 children. My dad had collected the bottles and one-hundred-and fifty years later we are reusing the name and label which feels really good.
How do you make your sprouted bread? What are the benefits of eating sprouted?
Carter: The sprouted bread recipe took me two years to perfect, it consists of a combination of buckwheat – that I sprout myself in a commercial sprouter – blended with flaxseed, coconut oil and sea salt, and then baked for a long time. I start baking at 4.30am each morning and am lucky enough to have the help from my brother Fergus, or Harriet. Sprouted bread is lower in starch and has higher proportions of other nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals. It’s easier for people digest, plus it’s great for people with allergies and lasts at least a week in the fridge!
Your home has a lovely welcoming atmosphere, you obviously like spending time here. How do you typically spend your weekends here?
Harriet: We like spending time at home. When the sun is out it gets quite a lot of light in here, which is nice. I am home quite a bit during the week, too, sorting through photos or working on my hand-knit designs. Recently, we have been hosting a lot of group dinners with everyone who lives here. On the weekend I am either working, walking Mabel or dreaming about the good things from our family home. If we have petrol in the car, we like to get out of the city. In summer we will be spending more time at our Grandad’s kiwi fruit farm in the Coromandel Peninsula. We’ll go camping and Mabel can eat the possums!
Do the weeknights have the same vibe? How many of you live here?
Harriet: Yeah, the weeknights are great here. There are five of us all up – six if you include Mabel. We are all good friends and like laughing and cooking together and having a couple of drinks.
Harriet, you like to knit and design beautiful pieces for yourself and your friends. What are you working on at the moment?
Harriet: I do like to knit, but at the moment I am getting all my hand-knits knitted by a beautiful – and fast – knitter. I am working on a tiny collection made from New Zealand wool. I am also creating some other pieces made from natural materials. I have always had an interest in clothes and ever since I came back to Auckland six years ago I have been getting pieces knitted and garments made for me. My friend who lives with us introduced me to a great dressmaker back then and when I am living in Auckland I visit her weekly. I once had a leather bag made for me and their company sold it and named it after me too! I am working on getting some shoes made for me at the moment, so that’s exciting.
As well as getting clothes made I take photos. I’ve just started taking portraits for Lonely Lingerie, a project called ‘Lonely Girls’. Aside from that; working on campaigns, editorials, photo series for friends magazines, photographing interiors for Everyday Needs, and some just for myself. I am lucky enough to work part time at Scotties too – a local clothing store which is home to some of my favorite international designers. When I am not looking at blind hems, shapes or fabrics I plan and dream up shoots with the beautiful clothes and archival pieces. My real interest is in creating a holistic approach to image making – casting, creative direction, styling and shooting.
You both strike me as quite ‘functional’ dressers, but with an admiration for good quality. What are some of your favorite pieces in your wardrobes and where do you like to wear these?
Carter: I just like to wear Harry’s nice pieces, knits and jeans. Harry has the nice clothes, I just like to wear jeans, boots, and tees.
Harriet: I love clothes, I really like when they are well made. I think my favorites are the ones I have made or have had knitted for me. When they’re made by hand I’ll love them forever. I have a few older Comme des Garcons pieces too, that I really like – that kind of stuff never dates. I would wear everything I have anywhere. I don’t get dressed up that much and I can’t walk in heels. I have a tiny collection of old Ann Demeulemeester shoes. I’ve won them all from eBay auctions, at some good prices too. There’s something about that toe shape and leather soles that I like so much, and the fact that they always last for so long.
What are your plans for the future?
Harriet: I hope to be back in Europe next summer, visiting good friends and a little travel. Get my eyes sparkling. That would make me happy. Apart from that I don’t like to think into the future too much – that makes me sort of anxious. I do like to dream though, and India, Japan and Africa are in these dreams. So are textiles.
Carter: Our grandfather’s kiwi fruit farm in Hikuai has this wee little hut on it where the kiwi fruit workers used to sleep. I want to fix it up so it’s liveable for the weekends, and I want to grow vegetables, plant fruit trees, farm animals that I’d eat, make cheese and have people there who are keen to help out.
Thank you so much Harriet and Carter for letting us into your beautiful down-to-earth home, it was an inspiring experience. Look for Harriet’s photography work here and find about Carter’s Organic Sprouted Loaves here.
Interested in inspiring interviews from Auckland? Explore more FvF stories here.