A map mashup is basically a collage where I combine various maps, and sometimes other materials, to tell a story about people and the special places in their lives. The maps are all original, mostly from mid-century atlases published in Britain.
Here’s what a couple of the finished products look like.
Sicily and other parts of Italy
London as Cape Town
These mashups all begin by understanding the people and places that are part of the story. They are often commissioned to mark special occasions such as weddings and birthdays.
For one commission, I had various places in east and southern Africa to bring together and, as is the case with all mashups, had to explore various different ways of combining them.
Combining places into concept ideas
One of the trickiest bits of the process is dealing with all the different scales of the different maps which are being mashed together. Fiddling around with tracing paper is my response to this challenge. It can be frustrating but there comes a point where everything seems to just fall into place and that’s an incredible moment.
Once the layout is determined it’s time to start cutting. There’s no going back from here!
Assembling the separate maps
The next stage involves recombining all the separate parts of the maps that I have cut into one contiguous and convincing looking map.
The final structure of the map with the major parts glued together
The final stage of the process before mounting and framing is to take care of the small details. This can mean looking out for for any weird junctions between maps, or partly-obscured names which have become rude words, which has happened.
This African map was particularly interesting because some of the place names had changed since the 1960s when the map was published. To overcome this problem I had to update the names manually, by searching for and using the required letters elsewhere on other bits of map.
For example Harar in Ethiopia came in very handy for turning Salisbury, in what was Southern Rhodesia, into Harare.
Hunting for letters…
… and finding them a new home
Once all the details are taken care of, including joining up severed roads and railways by hand, the final map is ready to go.
The idea is for the finished piece is for it to look initially like a normal map. Only on closer inspection do anomalies and oddities become apparent. There are sometimes details that I add into the mashups that aren’t even discovered until the fifth or tenth time you look.
An map less ordinary
ln the age of the internet I love spending some of my time with physical objects like this. The craftsmanship that goes into these old maps is incredible and it’s a privilege to be able to breathe new life into them in this way.
Before I started turning maps into art I thought I was alone in my map geekery, but it’s turned out to be quite the opposite. Everyone, it seems, loves maps. It’s hard not to have an instant connection to a map of somewhere you know. So what I’m trying to do here is take familiar places and bring them all together in one surreal geography.
See my website to find out more about what I do, and of course if you want to commission a map mashup for you or someone you know then please do get in touch!