Hi! My name is Jo, I’m an artist and illustrator based in Woollahra. I live near Cooper Park with my husband Chris and our girls Emily and Annabelle. My background is in Architecture, but I’ve recently made the decision to focus full-time on my lifelong passions, fine art and botanical illustration. I’m really interested in the native flora of Sydney – through my drawings, I hope to raise awareness of our amazingly diverse local species, and ultimately, help conserve our precious bushland. I volunteer with the Bushcare group in Cooper Park, and was recently commissioned by Woollahra Council to illustrate a locally endangered wattle for signage in Gap Park, Cooper Park and Parsley Bay. If you’re interested in seeing my work, my Instagram pages are @josephine_bridge, @josephine_bridge_art, and ‘@hawkesbury_sandstone_flora’‘
Where and how long have you lived in Sydney’s east?
I’ve lived here my whole life – except for a year spent in Oxford in the UK. I grew up in Paddington, lived in Centennial Park for a few years (the suburb, not the park itself), and then we bought our terrace in Woollahra nearly ten years ago (before prices went bonkers).
Three words that describe what it’s like to live in the eastern suburbs?
Nurturing (to me, it feels like home, I feel really safe and comfortable here)
Beautiful (both the built and natural environment)
Threshold (that edge where the land meets the sea is such a defining aspect of life here)
How many children?
Two girls – Emily who’s 4, and Annabelle who’s 18 months – and I think that’s it, for us! To be honest I’ve never been the most practical or organised person, and I struggle some mornings to get them both dressed and out the door to daycare on time… I don’t know how I would manage with any more!
I just love Cooper Park, it’s an absolute hidden gem. I never even realised it was there until we moved into our home in one of the nearby streets. It’s basically a long, narrow gully, with a lush rainforest running through the middle, creeks, waterfalls, steep sandstone cliffs, bushland tracks, and a great playground down near the tennis courts.
I can’t narrow it down, so I’ll say – my favourite harbour beach is Nielsen Park, and my favourite ocean beach is Bronte. Emmy spent hours at Nielsen before she was even born, me swimming laps (ok, ‘lap’ singular) in the evenings when I was too spherical to move very fast on land. And Bronte is so good for the kids, with its sheltered natural rock pool, great playground, grassy areas and gully.
Favourite kid friendly cafe:
The Homestead at Centennial Park. It’s a lovely spot, the staff are super friendly and accommodating, there are plenty of highchairs and room to manoeuvre and a pram without banging everyone’s knees. It has a big covered verandah, outdoor lounges, lawns (for little ones to run off their milkshake sugar-high), and is right next to a playground.
Favourite Coffee Spot:
The cafe at Cooper Park Tennis. It’s one of those places where you feel instantly at home; where they ask how your day is going (and genuinely care about the answer) and remember your coffee order. Not to mention the setting – a cute little timber cottage perched over a creek, the sound of the water rushing below, a backdrop of bushland. It’s pretty idyllic, and you feel very secluded, (but there’s a carpark close by which makes it really easy to get to.)
Favourite date night place:
Date what?! We don’t get out all that often (Annabelle still needs quite a bit of attention at night) so when we do, we like to treat ourselves. Lucios in Paddington was always our date-night go-to, and we were so sad when they decided to close down in 2021. We also like Fratelli Paradiso in Potts Point, Catalina in Rose Bay, and Mimi’s in Coogee.
Where in the east have you yet to explore and would like to?
I can’t wait to visit IndiGrow Nursery in La Perouse, and explore the Kamay Botany Bay National Park nearby. It has one of the largest surviving stands of Eastern Suburbs Banksia scrub (ESBS), a Critically Endangered ecological community which once covered so much of the eastern suburbs. IndigiGrow is doing such important work propagating ESBS species, bush foods, and working closely with the local community to nurture traditional knowledge about these plants and the land on which they thrive.
What would you like to see improve in the eastern suburbs?
We’re lucky to have access to so many precious pockets of native bushland. My dream is that these sanctuaries could extend into the heart of eastern suburbs. I’d love to see more planting of indigenous species – which truly belong to this place, having evolved here over millennia – on kerbsides and in gardens, creating little stepping stones for native insects and birds. I wrote a bit more about this in a recent article for Woollahra Council if you’re interested: https://www.woollahra.nsw.gov.au/news/articles/q-a-with-local-bushcare-volunteer,-artist-jo-bridge
It’s been a really fun project for our girls, planting local species, learning when they flower, how they can be used, and when we can eat their yummy berries!
Favourite Local Shop:
I’m not sure if this is a ‘shop,’ but hey… the Yummy Mummy Day Spa in Clovelly. Nothing like an indulgent full body massage (and a well earned break from the littles), gently coming back to reality in a calm private lounge sipping artisan tea, surrounded by a beautiful range of local, organic products for mamas. And they do gift cards. Mothers Day is coming up… did I mention they do gift cards? Hint hint nudge nudge.
Favourite wet weather location:
Somewhere outside, in the rain! The girls and I love getting bundled up in our raincoats and heading out hunting for waterfalls, either on the cliffs near Dover Heights or in the gully at Cooper Park. The cafe at Cooper Park Tennis is actually a perfect spot on a wet day… it’s got a deep verandah so the kids can stretch their legs and keep dry.
Favourite Local family Weekend Activity?
Heading out for a family picnic. One of our favourite spots is Strickland House in Vaucluse, sitting in the gardens looking back over the harbour towards the city. Last time we were there we saw a pod of dolphins! We usually end up kicking round a soccer ball, or wandering down to Milk Beach.
Work or SAHM?
I don’t think it’s that black-and-white, is it? I’m a workaholic by nature; I love what I do and could spend endless hours drawing given the chance. But these days it feels like it’s all about finding a balance – one which allows me to lead a fulfilling professional career, and also spend plenty of quality time with the girls.
My best piece of motherly advice would be… take motherly advice with a grain of salt. It comes from all directions, usually from a place of deep love and care, but sometimes can be conflicting or overwhelming. The best lesson I ever learnt was to trust my own instincts. Deep down, you know what is best for you and your children.
That said – I do have one very specific piece of advice. If you (or someone you know) have a new baby and are having trouble with breastfeeding, I would highly recommend Cathy Shortt from Milk and Mums Co. I will always be grateful for the compassion and expertise with which she guided our family through a really difficult time.