ON THE MAP
Small talk nothing. When Connie Brown and Julie Ruff met at a PTA function in 1989, their chat led to a new - and lucrative - business for the two stay-at-home moms: creating custom maps. "We were pleased to discover that we shared an interest in scientific art, especially from centuries past," says Brown. Though neither one had any formal art or cartographic training, they started dabbling in mapmaking. "We essentially apprenticed ourselves to old maps," says Brown. Adds Ruff, "We would go to exhibits and pore over books."
Then, as Brown likes to tell the story, they "hit upon this damned good idea along the way."
Working together as Redstone Studios (www.redstonestudios.com) - run from their homes in Durham, Connecticut, and New York City - the duo draw and paint maps that detail the important places and moments of their clients' lives. "Almost everything can be celebrated geographically," explains Brown, such as the route adoptive parents took from the U.S. to pick up their new daughter in China or the area surrounding a family's much-loved summer cottage. Though many of the themes are modern, the look of the maps is straight out of a history book - they'd probably fool Blackbeard himself.
Ruff, 55, and Brown, 53, have created hundreds of maps since they started. Some of their most memorable commissions include a map a breast-cancer patient commissioned for her doctor of his favorite summer getaway, another detailing the training schedule - and final result - of a runner's first New York City Marathon, and another, "How the Cross Family First Came to America," that, quite literally, put an entire family on the map. Both artists love the challenge of telling a story graphically. Ruff once drew a map of a Navy officer's 26-year career - but had to come up with a creative solution for hinting at all the secret submarine missions he couldn't mention. "I drew three dashed lines that started to fade, and he really liked that," she said.
Now, for clients who aren't quite ready to commission one-of-a-kind pieces, Redstone is producing limited edition maps of "beloved places." Printed with archival pigment on 100 percent rag paper, the launch collection includes Martha's Vineyard, Costa Rica, and Tuscany.
But no matter the map, neither artist makes a single pencil mark until she has enough background information to do the job justice. For commissions, that includes many discussions with the client to find out as much as possible about the characters, the place, or the events they want to detail. The work is "enriched by all the interaction with people," says Brown. "Some maps end up being so much more profound than you thought they'd be."
© 2006 Lexus Magazine