When I first met Harriet a few years ago, it was obvious that whatever it was that she would chose to commit her talents to, she would do so in her own way. That’s not to say that she comes off bossy or stubborn (actually the complete opposite of those traits), but more that she wouldn’t do it anyone else’s way because it wouldn’t feel right to her. Over time, Harriet has become most comfortable carving out her own direction to best suit her own lifestyle, she has enough confidence to trust in her decisions, and to just roll with it.
Harriet, I believe, has also played an integral part in the way in which young creatives are now taking images. There is a large dose of honesty prevalent in the way she captures and portrays her subjects. She is never adjusting or cropping anything out of frame - it is what it is, and there is beauty within that. That essence has become an aesthetic we are seeing more and more throughout the fashion industry – people being celebrated for what they do and how they do it, rather than how they look.
Her most recent venture, Harry Were Hand-knitted stems from a love of making anything handmade. Her wardrobe mostly consists of garments that she has dreamt up and had made especially for her. But Harry Were Hand-knitted is for everyone else to enjoy. Collaborating with friends, Harriet weaves their drawings and photographs into her hand-knitted collection of jumpers, vests and socks. The small and coveted range sells out in a matter of days.
Harriet is a prime example of what it means to really trust your instincts, to create something that is one hundred percent true to you.
Interview with Harriet Were
Photographer, Knitter and all-round creative
For a multi talented lady, such as yourself, how do you describe/explain to people what you do?
I do a lot of different little things. I take photos, get things made, and work at Scotties.
You have recently started your own business 'Harry Were Handknitted'. How have you found this experience?
It has been both hard and rewarding. I’m very lucky to of had people want to buy my hand knits. This allows me to keep it rolling.
Can you tell us about how you source your yarns for your knitwear?
I try to use New Zealand yarn where possible. So if the garment is made from wool, I will use New Zealand wool. But some yarns I can’t get from here, like linen and silk. I met a girl Callie who lives in the Marlborough Sounds, she had been overseas for a little bit but is now spinning wool for me for my next lot of hand knits.
Do you ever go through moments where you feel uninspired? What do you find helps you through these times?
I often do. I just try and relax, knit, go for a walk with my dog Mabel, have a beer, talk with my Ma. It comes back.
I feel like you always leave your heart in the south. What is it about this landscape that you love so much and feel connected with?
It is very different down there. Less people, more land. We moved there when I was 13-years-old from Auckland. Quite a strange time to move up a valley, early teens and stuff… But now it feels like home, I guess because my parents are there too. It’s beautiful, the sky is so big and the climate is great. Hot dry summer days, frosty winter nights, and so many stars.
Can you tell us about where you grew up. How do you think this place has shaped you as a person and artist?
I grew up on Auckland’s North Shore, in a big old house. That place made me appreciate architecture, I guess. Moving south made me appreciate friendships and our country. My parents never really put pressure on me to do anything. I guess that has helped to shape me – having the freedom to try things.
Your Dad gave you one of his cameras to use. Do you remember him taking photos when you were little? Do you think he has informed your photographic work in some way?
Dad used to take photos all the time. Just of us kids and things. I don’t think it has really informed me, but he has always supported me and gifted me cameras, which is very sweet.
You recently moved to Beach Haven. Can you tell us about why you decided to leave the inner-city. What do you like most about your new home?
It was cheaper for us to move, once my twin sister Carter had made the decision to move in with her boyfriend. Our rent increased in our Ponsonby flat twice while living there, and this spot in Beach Haven was too good to turn down. There are less of us in this house now, and we are on a quarter acre section with fruit trees and birds. Mabel is happier. And the sea is a five minute walk through the bush! It is a whole lot calmer. I don’t mind city living, but I’d prefer to do that overseas.
In your recent move, what were the first/most significant things you unpacked?
Mabel, my two-year-old anxious English Bull Terrier.
What is something you find yourself to be always craving?
Laughing until I cry.
You are always treating people to special gifts. What is something you recently received as a gift yourself?
Aw yea, that is my favourite thing. One of my best friends, Ophelia, she gave me a cute little red pair of second hand tog bottoms, made in New Zealand.
What is something you indulge in?
Getting lots of things handmade.
You're about to travel to Japan and India. What are you most looking forward to about this trip?
The colours, the warmth, and switching off. I can’t wait to meet local people that are doing traditional hand-crafts, and eating beautiful food.
Interview by Yasmine Ganley
Photography by Felix Henley-Tapley