The Beginning

Just over a year ago I wanted to make a map. I didn't want to draw it or make it in a paint program. I wanted to cut it out of paper. I had one month to make it because I intended to give it as a gift. Christmas was coming and I wanted to make an impression. I chose Shanghai, a city that meant a great deal to the recipient, but a place I had never been.

I'd gotten the idea from Apartment Therapy. The map in the post was in white on an orange background and it looked stunning. I reversed these colors for Shanghai since the orange network of roads would look amazing. I followed the instructions to the letter right up until I was meant to cut it out. I decided that the map was going to be difficult, but I wanted to do a larger version. So I did. It took many hours of cutting with an exacto knife on a self healing cutting mat, but I completed what I'd set out to do.

I deliberately left large sections of the city blank because I was focusing in on a particular address I'd obtained by innocuous subterfuge. It turned out to be perspicacious. As I've produced more and more maps I've found that without street names and identifiable markers beyond the landscape, these maps are a curiously tantalizing object. We think, or at least we're almost sure, that we recognize parts of the map, but maybe, not always. 

In any event I completed it. I added the name in traditional Chinese (thank you wikipedia) and some particularly relevant words. It went over fantastically. I recall that there were tears, though maybe that's just my ego talking. 

After I was done I couldn't stop. I started to try out new techniques, new ways of drawing and cutting maps that allowed me new scope for the ideas I had in my head. For this most recent Christmas I started on a larger scale for many of my family and friends. I did not just stick to road maps. Bathymetric maps, or maps of ocean depth, became something I thought I would try. Layering paper is a great deal less time consuming than cutting. There was still cutting involved, but more arrangement. 

In the end I sold a number of maps to colleagues and friends allowing me to fund a whole new range of working. I sent off the ones I'd made, and proceeded to open a shop. I began to cut maps of places I had been in the past year (AntwerpNew York City Père Lachaise) places I'd lived (OxfordAotearoa New ZealandChicago) and places I would like to visit (MilanMontereyHarvard). 

I've got a lot of ideas and projects floating around and I'm working on bringing them all to life. I'll be showing some of the techniques I used, some of the history of papercutting, and some of the traditions I'm finding as I go along. Join me!