may gibbs’ sydney home

If you harbour fond childhood memories of Snugglepot, Cuddlepie and the gumnut babies, you’ll want to know about Nutcote, author May Gibbs’ home in Neutral Bay, Sydney. may gibbs paintbrushes

may gibbs viewIt’s well worth the visit to experience standing in her studio where her iconic Australian characters came to life, and wander through the rooms the artist lived in from 1877 to 1969.

inside may gibbs desk

may gibbs writing desk

May’s typewriter and art supplies in her studio overlooking Sydney harbour. 

may gibbs bedroom in nutcoteMay and her husband kept separate rooms in Nutcote, this sunny front room was May’s.
may gibbs typewriter

may gibbs kitchenThe artist’s kitchen was a tiny affair comprising a few shelves, a small bench space and a cooker installed in a narrow passageway leading to the home’s side door. 

May came to live in Nutcote via a childhood in Western Australia, after arriving in Australia by boat with her family when she was four years old. She developed her creative skills with the encouragement of her artist father, Herbert Gibbs. Explaining in later life, “I could draw almost as soon as I could walk… And I loved everything. I used to lie down in the grass so that my eyes were on the same level amongst the grass stalks as the ants… I loved drawing”.

may gibbs chair at nutcote

When she was just 12, her first illustration was published in the Christmas 1889 edition of the W.A Bulletin. She went on to attend art school in her home country of England. In 1916 the Gum-Nut Babies and Gum Blossom Babies were published by Angus & Roberston.may gibbs illustrations

It’s intriguing to know that before her delightfully illustrated tales of the bush babies and their friends were published, May did a few fashion pieces for the West Australian, and created feminist cartoons supporting the women’s suffrage movement.

may gibbs music

It is sobering to consider that around 1925, May was paid five guineas (the equivalent of about five pounds) for her popular newspaper comic strip, Bib and Bub, where Ginger Meggs artist Jimmy Bancks was paid 40 to 50 pounds for his strip. For her next comic strip, Tiggy Touchwood, May used the pseudonym ‘Stan Cottman’.

bib and bub in the garden

We’re excited that May’s gumnut babies are being brought to life again, this time on stage with Snugglepot & Cuddlepie the play, opening at the Sydney Opera House tomorrow night, Saturday 27 June 2015. You can book tickets on the Sydney Opera House website.

Words + Photographs: Bron Bates