Caroline Sherman is unstoppable – she has a knack for taking on projects with more life force than ought to be possible. Case in point: her new endeavour, the launch of social enterprise brand Among Equals. Giving back is her focus, as is raising three boys with the same passion and awareness. I adore her energy. This month, Sherman will also attend the Academy Awards accompanying her nominee husband Emile Sherman, producer of Lion and The King’s Speech. It makes for a hectic family schedule but it's one she wouldn't change for the world. Here, a glimpse into the Sherman's seaside home in Sydney
Photographs PRUE RUSCOE Interview NATASHA INCHLEY
Makeup FILOMENA NATOLI
Light Fantastic: main picture top, Caroline Sherman at home, wearing Emilio Pucci and Être Cécile; Family Ties: above, Sherman with her sons Milo, 10, Zach, 8, and Cy, 6. Sherman wears Isabel Marant and Christopher Kane. On the shelf behind them, a series of 24 embroideries, "La Rue Parle", by Eko Nugroho; Good Will Hunting: below, Sherman with a selection of hand-woven Bilum bags for Among Equals.
mong Equals, your new social enterprise, is a wonderful initiative – the Bilum bag collection is just beautiful and the story behind it is so inspiring, but meanwhile the journey certainly hasn't been without its hurdles. What motivated you to start the project and what is your ultimate mission? Among Equals is a brand built to empower women in Papua New Guinea. My focus now is to work with a few communities of incredible Bilum weavers, [pictured below] to grow the industry so that it will become a much more stable and viable form of income for the women and their families. There is something so amazing and unique about each bag – each one has its own meaning, its own story and women tell those stories as they weave. For instance, when you get married your mother weaves you a diamond-design Bilum, then when you own a piece of land you receive a mountain design. There are fertility symbols, animals, guns, poker machines, computers and even 2 Minute Noodles! Every bag has its own narrative.
And what about the project's challenges? Travelling to the highland of PNG was an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. It’s not an easy place to visit and it can be quite dangerous. It is stunningly beautiful but also home to some horrific violence, particularly violence against women. There are so many tribal groups and languages, and the main form of income for these women is sales from Bilum. It was my hope that, instead of these women having to search for buyers, often travelling long distances and standing outside for days waiting for customers, we could engage directly with the women and pay them a premium for their bags. Any profits then go back into further orders, creating sustainable incomes, or to projects in PNG that I am currently working on such as building a community hall where the women can come together to weave and receive education for their children and healthcare.
"First and foremost, I want to support the retention of traditional designs, stories and knowledge."
What has been the biggest surprise with the project? My relationship with the weavers is the most important part of this project and I regularly catch up with Florence Jaukae, who is a wonderful liason weaver in Goroka. The biggest surprise has been the impact on these women's lives. There is one weaver, Ruth, who recently bought walls to her house, she supports her six children with money from Among Equals and is now able to contribute to the church and local community as she feels other people may not be as fortunate as her.
You've Got Game: above, Caroline and Emile Sherman with their sons. "Motherhood has transformed my world in every way," says Caroline. "To love and nurture a child and be present with my boys is the most important thing."
hat else motivates you? What are your passions? I love connecting with people, that’s what drives my business, learning about other cultures is so enriching. Also, my love for textiles and design, traveling, museums and architecture, and of course, most importantly, Emile and my boys.
How are you encouraging your sons to start thinking about philanthropy? We’re encouraging our boys to be caring and philanthropic by setting good examples – one day I hope to take the boys with me to PNG to really connect with the women and their children. Their grandfather [Brian Sherman] is a director of Voiceless [the animal protection institute], so the boys are already really connected to animal welfare. Emile and I are also focused on encouraging them to give back – they have three little glass jars for their pocket money: one is for gifting, one for saving, one for spending. They have to divvy their coins up between the jars and they have each chosen their own charity.
Hazy Shade Of Pale: above, in the light-filled living space, an artwork by Yang Fudong titled "Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, Part 4".
Your family is renowned for its art contribution by way of the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation. Can you describe why art is so important to you, and how does it influence your daily life? I studied art in England from a young age and always had a sketch pad in my hands. I'm very interested in the historical context of art and as a family we often take the boys to galleries. Gene [Sherman], my mother in law, takes each child weekly to an opening or exhibition. She is so enthusiastic and inspiring and such a wonderful teacher, the boys adore spending one-on-one time with their grandparents. I am fortunate, too, in that our home is filled with contemporary treasures, but more recently we've had to scale it back since our renovation as we were left with no wall space! We have two outdoor courtyards that we imagined would be like art boxes. For one, we have commissioned the wonderful artist Jamie North and the other is a going to be a very serene Japanese-influenced layered space.
Conversation Piece: above, Sherman's Among Equals pompom bag; the elegant dining room features a light pendant Sherman brought back from Paris; Good Vibrations: below, the music room with an artwork by Peter Atkins, Naga or Skull Rack, 1993".
How do you aim to strike a work-life balance? Do you have a strategy? I don't have any secrets but I am blessed to have family support, two sets of grandparents that are amazingly present. I have always been a very hands-on mum, but now that all three boys are at school I am allowing myself a little time for exercise in between working on the business. I realised early on that I have to work otherwise I'd go a bit crazy.
Can you describe your interior style and why your home is so special to you? The architect Madeleine Blanchfield transformed our house into a bright, airy jewel box. It really is so beautifully detailed and feels so calm, like being on holiday. My favourite space is the kitchen because it is the heart of the home where the boys can sit at the bench and we can all be together. We wanted our home to feel serene so for inspiration we gave Madeleine an Indian lithograph of little fish swimming with men's faces, [pictured left, "Marvels Of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects Of Things Existing", 17th century]. It's quite whimsical and a bit quirky, which was our starting point for how we communicated what we wanted for the house. The end result is bright and airy, beachy and cosy.
Lastly, you have been traveling so much of late due to the success of Emile's film Lion – from award ceremonies in Los Angeles, to his latest movie set in Calcutta, and you have the Academy Awards in a minute. What makes your partnership so successful, how do you inspire each other? We have a very special relationship. Emile is an incredible person, he is an amazing support – you know when somebody just brings out the best in you. We don't take each other for granted and he is also the most wonderful father to our boys. We share similar ideas on parenting which in itself is a great gift.
Nature Studies: above, Sherman's powder room is a gorgeous space decorated with custom wallpaper; Clean Lines: below, the heavenly bathroom is more like a retreat; The Kids Are All Right: Milo, Zach and Cy hang out; and the main bedroom bathed in evening light.
Current obsession: my native Bilum bag and pompoms.
Signature fragrance: Frederic Malle's Cologne Indélébile.
Home away from home: London, but I love to visit India.
Daily uniform: I am always in Isabel Marant sneakers, vintage 501 jeans and Bassike t-shirts.
In your refrigerator right now: Almond milk, seeds and berries and snacks for the kids.
Currently reading: Elizabeth Strauss's My Name Is Lucy Barton
Your motto: Be more efficient, that’s the main goal.