I have always had maps around. I grew up in a military family and my father, among other things, made maps. Even after I left home I traveled, and maps offer both plans and dreams. The concept of the map is one of humanity’s earliest and greatest inventions - and one of our densest ways of storing and managing information.
I began dissecting maps in 1998. Tracing routes with a knife is similar to driving down a highway - most of what you’re left with is the road itself and a narrow band of land on either side. By cutting away everything but the roads, a map ceases to be a 2-dimensional representation of reality and becomes an actual 3-dimensional thing…
Maps are generally cheap, and their value is predicated on their usefulness. When they become outdated we throw them away. By dissecting them, their use-value is destroyed by the loss of their function. But the use-value is replaced with aesthetic value, and with it a commensurate extension of the object’s lifespan.
Katrina Newman makes beautifully modern jewelry pieces using an ancient technique.
Newman on her process:
The process of Cuttlefish casting involves taking a cuttlefish bone found on the beach; I cut it in two and carve out a basic design, and sprue, I then rejoin the two halves. I melt sterling silver granules until they are molten and pour them quickly (hopefully without spilling any of the molten metal liquid) into the mould. The mould crackles and cooks. After cooling I open the mould to see if I have made a successful cast, many don’t work. I then spend many hours filing and emerying the piece at my desk, before polishing and finally presenting it for sale.
To make the work, I borrowed a human skeleton from the university and collected anatomical textbooks. I also managed to track down a mortuary gurney for displaying the work–a mortuary gave me a gurney after a renovation…they were looking to get rid of it since “people are were getting too fat for the gurney.” I also worked in an old hospital turned history museum. I also went to open house day at a local funeral…they gave me a decorative pen. During my graduate studies, I was granted open access to the gross anatomy lab, though I was long finished making LAB/skeleton at this point. I was given access to draw, look around…. It is always funny how specimens are collected and cared for.
Below the Boat is a project by husband and wife team Robbie and Kara Johnson
About the project:
It’s a door into another world (one which, quite literally, lies below the boat).
Starting with a bathymetric chart (the underwater equivalent of a topographic map), the contours are laser-cut into sheets of Baltic birch and glued together to create a powerful visual depth. Select layers are hand-colored blue so it’s easy to discern land from water, major byways are etched into the land, the whole thing’s framed in a custom, solid-wood frame and protected seamlessly with a sheet of durable, ultra-transparent Plexiglas.
The result is stunning. It lifts the surface of the water back like a veil, exposing the often-overlooked, under-explored, awe-inspiring world that lies below. To those familiar with the floor of the ocean or the bed of a lake, it’s a beautiful reminder of the deep channels, sharp drop-offs, and mountainous landscapes that are hidden from normal view. To the uninitiated, it’s wonderfully eye-opening; as though the world suddenly took on a fourth dimension.