THE SIMPLE LIFE
A TRANQUIL BUSH SETTING ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF SOUTH HOBART PROVED AN INSPIRING BACKDROP FOR ILLUSTRATOR BRIGITTE MAY.
Set in Tasmanian bushland, illustrator Brigitte May’s home is the perfect spot to nurture her creative pursuits.
FOR ILLUSTRATOR BRIGITTE MAY, whose watercolour and soft pastel works depict whimsical flora and fauna, nature is an ever-present muse at her off-the-grid cabin on the fringe of South Hobart. “I have my mob of wallabies that come by every day — I’ve named them all,” says Brigitte, 27, who lives with her marine biologist partner, Curtis Champion, and dogs Gypsy and Tommy. “We have eucalypts, wattles, wildflowers… And a little walking trail to explore up behind the house.” Just 15 minutes’ drive from Hobart’s CBD, the house is surrounded by bushland that’s rich in wildlife. But it wasn’t just the peaceful setting that attracted the couple to the cabin — its eco-credentials were another draw. “The owner renovated the building himself with solar panels, water tanks and a composting toilet,” says Brigitte. “There’s no phone line — I have a little portable wi-fi modem — so we’re pretty disconnected, which is ideal for work and study.” It was a study opportunity that brought the couple south from Forster on the NSW mid-north coast, where both Brigitte and Curtis grew up. “Curtis had to do his PHD and we could have relocated to just about any city in Australia,” says Brigitte. Having previously lived in Sydney for four years, where Brigitte studied fashion design, returning to the busyness of the city didn’t appeal to the couple. “Neither of us had been to Tasmania before so we thought, why not Hobart?” The two-storey cabin’s minimal distractions and abundance of natural light make it an ideal workspace for Brigitte, who is always moving between several projects. These include designing textile prints for fashion labels, illustrating children’s books and creating her own range of baby clothing. Her studio, which shares the upstairs space with the bedroom, is filled with greenery — she often brings foliage in from the garden. With a passion for slow living and the handmade, Brigitte added ceramics to her creative pursuits a year ago, after taking lessons in Hobart. “I just do it at home by the fire and then take it into a little ceramics studio to be fired,” she says. “It’s more of a hobby at the moment, I’m just selling a few pieces and really enjoying it.” Downstairs, the open-plan layout includes the kitchen and living area, where a freestanding wood heater is a much-loved feature of the home. “You always need a fire going here, especially in winter,” says Brigitte. “We also cook in it — spinach pie is a weekly favourite —and the top is great for frying. We never use the oven in the kitchen.” The home is furnished with handmade pieces and second-hand finds, with a few new purchases thrown in. “When we moved from Forster, we drove the van down with whatever would fit, and we’ve collected other bits and pieces along the way,” says Brigitte. At her desk, a wooden tree stump that Curtis found in the yard and chopped up has been painted by Brigitte to create a stool. “We try to make a lot of things for the house and always add a handcrafted touch to everything,” she says. Most of the couple’s things have a story attached, such as a woollen blanket in the bedroom that recalls a trip to Guatemala in 2015. “It was raining and we were running through a little marketplace where a man was trying to sell us this blanket,” says Brigitte. “We had no money on us so just handed over whatever we had — goggles, swimmers and things we didn’t need — and traded it all for the blanket!” Living simply and sustainably is a priority for the couple, who would one day like to build a similar cabin themselves. “We thought that living here for a few years was a good opportunity to see how it all works,” says Brigitte. The pair grow as much food as they can, although — with the exception of the eggs supplied by six resident ISA Brown chickens — everything edible must be closely guarded to protect it from their hungry neighbours. “I can’t grow food outside because the wallabies and possums eat everything,” says Brigitte, who has started growing vegetables on the balcony. Keen surfer Curtis notes another disadvantage to their location, for which there is no easy solution — the distance to the coast. “It’s about a 40-minute drive to the nearest surf break,” says Brigitte. “That’s probably the only drawback!” The couple intend on making the most of their Tasmanian home over the next few years, planning time to explore and embrace the region’s renowned produce. “There’s a great farmers’ market on Saturdays, so we love to go in and get the local cheeses,” says Brigitte. “Tasmania is much larger than you’d expect — there’s much more we want to see and do.” For information about Brigitte’s work, visit brigittemay.com