Human interest

Aiming to encourage curiosity, a prolific pair of West Auckland neighbours have opened a new online store, The Library.

Writer Yasmine Ganley of and fashion designer Sherie Muijs met via email when Yasmine interviewed Sherie for a magazine. They later wound up working alongside each other and other female creatives in a shared studio in Auckland’s Grey Lynn — a set-up that saw them become firm friends. Now they’re also neighbours and co-founders of kids’ store The Library.

Where do you guys live and run The Library from? Yasmine: Sherie moved into the Titirangi street where my partner Matt Slight and I live a couple of years after we did, having fallen in love with the area on her visits here. We love having them so close by. Our kids are now at the age where they can play together — or fight over toys! — so we often end up at each other’s houses in the afternoon and having shared dinners.

How did The Library come about? Y: Sherie planted the seed when she joked about starting a Sherie Muijs kids’ line. I then obsessed over the idea until it was a happening thing. Before we knew it, we were buying a domain name and sewing buttons onto tiny shirts.
The Library is a gentle little online space devoted to children’s wares that encourage learning and creativity through dressing and other everyday acts. Sherie designs the tees and shirts, I look after the book curation and marketing, and together we discuss makers we’d like to collaborate with, whose products complement our offering in an interesting way.

TOP Sherie (far left) and Yasmine with their children Nischal and Emily. ABOVE Yasmine’s home is very consciously curated. “I’m a keen secondhand shopper and like to keep a list on the fridge that I take with me, so I only look for pieces we require,” she says. “When I do buy new things, they’re usually from someone I know or admire, who aligns with my ethical values.”

What do you stock? Y: Our library of garments and objects aims to inspire observation, creation and reflection on the making process. We like practical items that are made beautifully and with intention, and pieces that tell a story, whether imaginative or informative, or simply show another perspective in the way or where they were made.

How has Italian artist, designer and inventor Bruno Munari’s research into learning and creativity influenced this project? Y: Bruno championed playful ways of doing and experiencing rather than dictating how children should learn, which really resonates with us. For The Library, we focused on his book The Tactile Workshops and his principle ‘Non dire cosa fare ma come’, which means ‘Do not say what to do, but how’. This principle is a beacon for us, in terms of our own approach to parenting and in the curation of The Library’s wares. We’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘Are these pieces and makers setting a good example of how to create, collaborate and enjoy the process?’

Who inspires you as working mothers? Sherie: Being part of a close network of mothers, Yasmine being one of them, who do what they feel passionate about while having their kids be part of that journey inspires me to continue working this way. I’m also inspired by working mums who have the courage to put family first. They’ve taught me to slow down and really savour these precious years.

Do you have any tips for achieving work-life balance? S: I’ve found it best, where possible, to plan time for work and family life, and close the door on work when your family is around or when they need you.

ABOVE Scenes from Sherie’s home, where she and husband Jiwan Rai value quality over quantity, and hand-me-downs from friends and family. She’s designed some really neat childrenswear for The Library, including the Pre-School shirt, which has colour-coded buttons and buttonholes that help kids learn how to pair them up.

How do you find working from home? Y: I really love it — I always have. I don’t mind being on my own for hours on end; to write I need space and stillness, and Titirangi offers both in spades.
S: I love it too. Our neighbourhood is so peaceful, giving us the space to focus and be productive without distraction. Being able to water the garden or do dinner prep between writing emails or cutting samples helps to keep my days balanced.

Do you have any rituals that help you start each day thoughtfully? Y: I like a shower and a strong cup of Earl Grey to get me going, and before I start work, I need to tidy up a little. I find that if my workspace is clear and quiet, my thoughts are more focused.
S: Eating breakfast at the table with my boys is my best start to any day.

So what lies ahead for The Library? Y: We plan to slowly grow our offering, and hope to host a range of workshops, for which we’ll invite artists and makers to share their skills and passions with little ones using interesting materials.
As much as it’s for children and directed at their learning, I feel excited that The Library will also help guide me, Sherie and other new parents on our journey. I know the sorts of things I’d like Emily to experience, but I’m not always sure how to make them happen, so I’m hoping The Library will teach and encourage me too.

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Greta van der Star

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