Destinations: Mapping the possibilities

[Laura Tarrish] The love of maps is a trait that seems to bind many artists and graphic designers. Traditionally, maps have been a way to describe our physical world, create order where there is chaos, chart development, and help us find our way. But for some, they are also a jumping-off point in the process of creating new visual realities and exploring relationships both physical and emotional.

To continue with my December 10 Felt & Wire article, I will start with a few favorite U.K. artists:

England & Company, a London gallery whose stable of artists makes me swoon, is the place I fell in love with the work of Chris Kenny. Kenny deconstructs maps and recreates places of his own design, combining sites from different maps, different countries … often organizing them by color, shape or theme. Carefully and elegantly mounted, the framed pieces evoke natural history displays where specimens are mounted on pins and isolated for further scrutiny.

Black Map Circle 2007

Yellow Map Circle 2008

Nonsuch (White Map Circle) 2007

Mercato 2007

Map Drawing 2004

Forest & Twig Drawing 2003

Imperial Palace (Map Drawing) 2004

It is obvious that even though Peter Clark “paints” with paper, he is a skilled draftsman. His paper creations, made from a rich variety of ephemera, are exquisitely rendered and cleverly nuanced. With torn and crinkled paper, often applied without flattening, he is able to capture the gleam of an eye, the curve of a cheek, a signature stance. Clark is clearly an animal lover with a collection of dogs that has enchanted even this no-pets-allowed writer. (No e-mails, please. I know it is a crime against nature not to want a dog.) Densely layered, his pieces require repeated viewing, and delightful details emerge with each gaze.


Charlie Boy

Young Seadog

Born in the UK

Left: Headspan; Right: Big Ed


Dizzy Heights of the Red Carpet

Left: East-West Home Is the Best; Right: Daddy’s Girl


Wet Fish

Other examples of John Dilnot’s boxes can be found in my December piece, but I saved these captivating specimens for today’s post. Flocks of birds float above his maps, suggesting our natural desire to fly, travel, or perhaps gain perspective.

Pocket Atlas, Heading South

Over Dover

Over Trafalgar Square

The Weather

In the Middle of Nowhere

Duck Island

Elisabeth Lecourt is someone whose work I have actually never had an opportunity to see in person … but I have followed her work online (and sent friends to see her shows after I left London). Precise and neat, Elisabeth takes large regional maps and folds them into the kind of straightlaced dresses that might be worn by an English schoolgirl from another time.

Left: Un Petit Tour; Right: Dans MaCabanne Bambou Order Of Malta

Left: La Fanfare; Right: Il Etait Un Petit Naviere II

As an exuberant counterpoint to the previous work, American Tamar Cohen’s road maps are layered with bold dot patterns. Tamar’s youth was filled with extensive travel and early exposure to graphic design — she is the daughter of Elaine Lustig Cohen — so it not surprising that in her work you find a graphic confluence of vintage maps and Ben-Day dots, the color structure of traditionally printed materials. Although her pieces recall a simpler time, whether it is the title Happy Motoring! or the decidedly low-tech use of silkscreen, her work has a high-spirited contemporary feel.

Happy Motoring!

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Left: This Map is Presented With Compliments of Nancy F. Reynolds; Right: The Customs and Pleasures of the Whole World

Left: Let Your Trip Start here; Right: Sinclair, Illinois

Tempo Says

As just a small part of their prodigious careers, Anne and Juliette, two of my good friends — and two of my favorite illustrators — have created delightful and idiosyncratic maps for editorial publications.

Anne Smith


Left: Veneto; Right: Phuket

Left: Hanoi; Right: Gardens

Hong Kong

Juliette Borda

Left: West Sunset; Right: Oxford


My own extensive ephemera collection contains many vintage maps and guidebooks. More of my map mania can also be found in various items around my home and studio. Below you will see the headboard fabric I created in 2003 when we returned from London…

… a discontinued line of map teapots and mugs scavenged from U.K. collectors …

…cut-paper maps I commissioned from Karen O’Leary of four neighborhoods where my husband and I have lived together (in Cambridge, San Francisco, Portland and London)…

… and, of course, some of my Bridgetown Papers products!

Laura Tarrish, who has also written for Felt & Wire about her “own little bubble,” is an ephemera collector and collage artist with a passion for miniature chairs. Laura’s limited edition cards and wraps, including a London Tour collection and glassine cards, are available for sale at Bridgetown Papers in the Felt & Wire Shop.

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Comments (4)

  1. Posted by joe corn on 01.28.11 at 1:20 pm

    Eye-opening, incredible variety starting and ending with maps! Can’t wait to see some of your own collection.

  2. Posted by Paperlover on 01.28.11 at 5:12 pm

    These are so beautiful. I so enjoyed your last post. Now I can’t wait for the next one!

  3. Posted by Nina on 01.31.11 at 9:05 pm

    I’ve been following your posts, always so well written and interesting, thank you! This piece on mapping was wonderful! Great artists, especially loved the dog artwork! I look forward to your next blog!
    Nina B.

  4. Posted by Stephanie on 06.28.13 at 11:53 am

    I was surprised to not see Megan Chapman’s work highlighted in this piece.
    In particular her latest series, Ghosts.!work

    She has a number of map-loving small works too.

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