ARTIST INSPIRATION: MAY GIBBS
May Gibbs was an Australian author and illustrator, best known for her iconic children's books featuring the beloved characters Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. But May was more than just a children's book author; she was also a trailblazer, a feminist and a conservationist who used her art to raise awareness about important social and environmental issues.
Born Cecilia May Gibbs in 1877 in Kent, United Kingdom, May arrived in Australia when she was just four years old. She spent much of her childhood exploring the Australian bush and developing a love for its unique flora and fauna. This love would later become the inspiration for her famous children's books.
With artistic talent evident from a very early age, May drew and painted as a child then went on to study art in Western Australia, winning her the first of many art prizes at just 15 years of age. From her early twenties, she studied in the UK a number of times, working hard to develop skills in life drawing, character sketching and single-line drawing—accomplishments that would all prove pivotal in her later career.
May began her career as an artist at a time when women were not taken seriously in the art world. But she refused to let this discourage her and she soon gained a reputation as a talented illustrator. In 1916, she published her first book, Gumnut Babies, followed by Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in 1918. Her books were beloved for their charming illustrations and whimsical stories, but they also had a deeper message. May was deeply concerned about the destruction of Australia's natural environment and she used her books to raise awareness about the importance of conservation.
In addition to her work as an author and illustrator, May was also a feminist. She was a member of the Women's Service Guilds and the Australian Women's National League and she fought for women's rights throughout her life. She also used her art to challenge traditional gender roles, often depicting female characters as strong and independent.
May Gibbs passed away in 1969, but her legacy lives on. She left the copyright of all her works jointly to The Northcott Society and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. The generosity of May Gibbs will continue to assist the works of these charitable organisations through the royalties on sales of May Gibbs books and associated products.
BONDI WASH has collaborated with May Gibbs to release a range of specially designed products that feature the artworks of this celebrated illustrator, each product in gorgeous new packaging and tailored to honour her lasting legacy. With the BONDI WASH commitment to the virtues and beauty of native botanicals and May Gibbs’ captivating fantasy world based on the unique Australian bush, this new partnership sees the merging of kindred spirits in benefit of two very worthy causes.
© The Northcott Society and Cerebral Palsy Alliance 2023