Eileen Mayo’s stamp designs will be familiar to those of us who remember the 1960s, 70s and 80s. She was an artist of great skill, producing book illustrations, posters, wood engravings, linocuts, lithographs, screenprints, tapestries and paintings.
The common thread through all her work is her love of nature, nurtured as a child on country rambles with her father; animals, birds, plants, insects and sea life all feature, and her love of domestic cats is apparent too.
Mayo was born in England in 1906 and grew up through a period of great social change, particularly for women. She studied at the Slade School of Art and at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London in the 1920s, pursuing her own private study of art and design in London’s museums. By the end of the decade she was developing a reputation as an illustrator, and a career as a professional artist.
After a successful career in London she moved to Australia in 1953 where she trained as a teacher and continued to produce her own work. In 1962 she moved to New Zealand where her mother and sister were living in Canterbury. She established herself as a printmaker in Christchurch, taught at Ilam School of Fine Arts, and exhibited widely nationally and internationally. She was a member of the Print Council of New Zealand and between 1969 and 1985 she produced thirteen sets of stamps.
This print is from the later part of her career, when arthritis in her hands made other printing methods difficult, and she turned to screen printing. Her screen prints are as immaculately designed and harmonious as all the work she created in her long and productive life. Mayo died three days after being made a Dame Companion of the British Empire in the New Year’s Honours in 1994.
Adapted from text by Bronwyn Reid, In: 50/fifty – Fifty years of Aratoi (2019)
152 pages, stitched, Full-colour illustrations, Foiled cover