Monday, May 3

the northwest corner

This weekend Luke and I went for a long bike ride through a few townships and boroughs directly south of our home. It was a glorious afternoon to pass though neighborhoods, farms and to take an hour rest at a nearby creek. Luke has an uncommon sense of direction and the connectedness of locale, which amazes me often. In fact after 4 hours out on a bike, I returned home with only a vague sense of the route we'd traversed. So I asked him to make me a map for me which was quite useful.

While living in South Korea a few years ago I had similar issues. At one point I had looked at a map of the city and visualized my apartment in the southwest corner of the city. For the rest of the year I managed to travel and get around the city without any issues. But after 9 months I looked at the map again and realized that I actually lived in the northeast corner. For months I visualized that I was walking north to get the subway, while in reality I was walking south. And I thought I had to walk east to get to work, but I was actually walking west. It was a bit strange and unsettling to realize my internal map was exactly the opposite of reality.

Perhaps my muddied and confusing history with cardinal directions is what makes me so interested in maps: their uses and their aesthetics. And so, due to an inordinate (and surprising) number of conversations revolving around maps over the weekend, I undertook to discover what exists in the realm of quilted maps.

In many ways the idea of quilted or embroidered maps is a very obvious one. Maps are 2-dimensional planes busied with lines and curves. So are quilts! Maps lend themselves to small pictures and drawings to express the character of a place. Quilts do too! Visually speaking maps can be big or small, broad or detailed specifically, colorful or muted. Do you see where this is going?

I came across these unbelievable quilts made by Leah Evans, an artist who uses topography and satellite images to create quilted maps. I love that the colors she uses mimic actual maps, but are also very visually appealing.

I'm also enthralled by Haptic Lab's quilted version of Brooklyn. The subtle embroidery on the stark white fabric is stunning (especially the street names embroidered in white on white).

Perhaps I might head in the same direction (ha!) of these artists. My beloved artist friend, Liz, is doing just that using an old table, some paint and a black permanent marker. I can't wait to see how our jewel of city looks in her kitchen, and I plan to eat on that table very very soon (as in tomorrow morning).

Lastly, I wanted to show some handiwork by my (previously mentioned) friend Becca, who finds distinct satisfaction in a quaint, hand drawn map. She included one in her wedding invitations a few years ago, and I asked her to make a similar drawing for my wedding guests last fall. Here is a black and white example of her map, which was both adorable and incredibly helpful.

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