Off the Map

Slow Mapping Workshop

September 21st 2015

Last Friday morning September 18th, eight women (just happened to be one gender this time!) arrived for three days of intense manuscript map painting.  They came from California, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Virginia, New York, and Connecticut–all advanced students, with cartography experience gained at previous workshops here or in other contexts. Hazel Jarvis–talented painter, mapmaker, and art instructor–taught with me on Saturday and Sunday. As a bonus, Elizabeth Porcher Jones, a workshop attendee and phenomenal calligrapher, demonstrated her art for us yesterday. Watching her form letters in her exquisite hand, all of us were transfixed. She often combines cartography with calligraphy:

Hazel and I did a little formal teaching, but mostly we acted as map-making midwives as attendees composed and then began to execute their projects– All hands were busy:

Workshop maps varied from student to student: an environmental anthropologist mapped her family’s Irish heritage; the calligrapher mapped a camp her son had attended; an eclipse-chaser mapped a lunar eclipse she witnessed in Niger; a graphic artist mapped her family’s migration from China to Cuba, Guatamala, and the United States; a linguist mapped two childhood years her family lived in Penang; a neuroscientist mapped a recent hiking trip in the Dolomites; the Californian mapped her very favorite and her least favorite restaurants in LA in saturated 1950’s design style; and a master gardener (also the only townie in the group–she lives down the street from me) commemorated her brother’s beautifully restored Victorian house in the context of its neighborhood.

Mapmakers need sustenance, of course, and breaks from the studio. We ate and drank and enjoyed sunny September warmth:

Nobody finished her map in three days: these are complex and ambitious projects, and I don’t expect to see final results for some time. Hand-painted maps take hours: maybe that bucks current trends, but there’s great value in endeavors that blossom over time, and great pleasure in performing each step with care. Hazel and I hope we gave them enough guidance to continue on their own–with recourse, if they need it, to the Redstone Studios 24-hour Cartographic Hotline. I usually correspond with my students long after our weekend together. For us and for them, there’s value in the journey. Part of the mapmaking journey is our shared interest in maps and, invariably, in each other’s lives and interests. We make maps here, but we also form friendships and support each other’s creativity and visions. It’s just three days, but it’s three days carved out of busy lives for a rarefied purpose.

I’ll be teaching a 3-day intro workshop at the Osher Map Library in Portland ME from June 24-26 2015. Contact me if you’re interested:; 860 575 4640.