THE SIM­PLE LIFE

A TRAN­QUIL BUSH SET­TING ON THE OUT­SKIRTS OF SOUTH HO­BART PROVED AN IN­SPIR­ING BACK­DROP FOR IL­LUS­TRA­TOR BRIGITTE MAY.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - WORDS SA­MAN­THA VAN EG­MOND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MARNIE HAWSON

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

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