How to do Map Stuff: A Workshop Proposal

(UPDATE: Here’s a look at the presentations that have been submitted so far; keep checking back to that page for the final schedule and links to presentations as the date approaches)

Friends, many of us are stuck at home during this pandemic, and will be for a while (and we’re the fortunate ones, vs. those whose jobs force them to regularly risk infection). It’s a stressful, anxious, and isolating time.

So here’s the idea I had at 1 am the other night:

“How to do Map Stuff”: A series of live online mapping workshops — Wednesday April 29th, 2020

Many of you know that I do occasional map livestream events (I have one coming up later this month), in which I casually take people through some project of mine, or show off some technique. So, my thought is: let’s just have a bunch of people all do those on the same day. I imagine a daylong event consisting of 30–60 minute live tutorials. Each person hosts their own stream on YouTube, with links offered to the rest of the day’s presenters. And then, once we’re done, those videos reside on YouTube for future folks to find and learn from.

What I ask from you

Consider volunteering to present something. Everyone reading this has something to share. If you’re just starting out, maybe you can take your fellow beginners through some of the basics. For those farther along, think about all the stuff you wish someone had taught you, that you had to figure out the hard way. Walk through your favorite time-saving tricks. Show off a project you’re working on and explain how and why you made the choices you did. Share your favorite data sources. Draw something by hand, label something, color something, process something, code something. People want to see how you work and think, and they’ll learn from it.

These presentations can be fairly casual. You don’t need to obsessively prepare. Imagine a colleague walks up to you and says, “Hey, can you show me how to do (this thing)?” — that’s who you’re talking to, your colleagues in the community who are curious and are prepared to hear an impromptu demo. Obviously, you can prepare more if you feel comfortable doing so, but this shouldn’t be a big burden.

You’ll be in charge of running your own livestream. It’s not too hard to do, but I can offer my small experience as needed, and the Internet is full of advice. Basically, you need software that captures your desktop (like OBS), and then streams it to a YouTube account you’ve set up. It’s all free.

If you’ll be an audience member, consider participating in the chat window that will accompany each video. You can ask questions, say hello to colleagues, and offer your thoughts. You can also share your thoughts on social media or your Slack group. The reason this is live, instead of just a bunch of pre-recorded videos, is because there’s value and comfort in knowing other people are there with you.

I’m thinking that the bulk of the presentations will be slotted from about 10am and 6pm Eastern Time on Apr 29, 2020 — this is early enough that people in Europe/Africa will still be able to watch much of it, and late enough that people in the Pacific will also be able to catch most of it, too. I am operating under the assumption that most of the submissions I get, and the audience, will be in those parts of the world. But, if you want to present at a time better for folks in other parts of the world, feel free! I’m also operating under the assumption that most of the presenters and the audience will speak English, but if you want to conduct your part of the event in another language, go for it!

Why

We could use some community right now. Seeing and chatting with our colleagues, and knowing that many of us will be watching the same presentations, is comforting in anxious times.

It’s also a way to share knowledge as other avenues are starting to close off. Our conferences, Maptime events, and other gatherings have largely been cancelled. The impromptu “hey let me show you this cool trick I figured out in Photoshop” conversations between colleagues at work and at school are missing. But we all still want to learn and to share, so this is a way to do so.

How it Works

If you’re interested in presenting, here’s a form to sign up: https://forms.gle/nJm3z3oMcHxGEDxv6.

Once I have some folks signed up over the next week or so, I’ll work out a schedule, so that we can try and have a continuous string of presentations and the audience can move from one to the next (this helps with the community feeling). And if this gets really crazy and we have more than one person presenting at once, then I can schedule it so that we don’t have too many tracks going at the same time.

At least one of you is also probably wondering “What about Twitch?” and the answer is mostly that I’m more familiar with YouTube, and it seems like a better final place for the videos to live, where they’ll be more easily found by people who want cartography tutorials. But if you want to use Twitch, or another streaming platform, I don’t see a reason not to. As long as it’s easy for the audience to move from one person’s stream to the next across platforms, I think we’re good.

Anyway, that’s my late-night idea. I always feel a bit vulnerable putting these community-participation ideas out there, since I keep wondering, “Will anyone attend? Will anyone besides me want to present? Will we be doomed by technical problems?” But, the cartographic community is a good group to be vulnerable with, so we’ll see how it goes.

Financial Transparency: 2019 Edition

As is now my annual tradition, it’s time for me to tell everyone how much money I make.

As a freelancer, I often wonder how I am doing financially as compared to my colleagues. Not out of a sense of competition, but just to answer the persistent question: is this normal? Am I earning a “typical” living? Do I get an unusually small or large amount of money from selling prints? Things like that, born of curiosity. I can look at the great work of a colleague and think it’s valuable, but the big question is: does the rest of the world value their skills the way that I do?

I find the financial opacity of the freelance world a bit intimidating, and I suspect that some others do, too—particularly those who are interested in freelancing, but haven’t yet jumped in. So I’d like to do my part to lend transparency by laying out my financial picture for all of you.

Freelance Earnings

I have been freelancing since I took my Master’s degree from UW–Madison in May 2010, but things didn’t really take off until 2012, so let’s start there. My gross earnings from freelance cartography have been:

2012: $12,016.34
2013: $20,352.75
2014: $8,508.58
2015: $10,881.25
2016: $22,795.00
2017: $48,775.38 [$45,000 from one big contract, so it’s a bit atypical].
2018: $17,795.60
2019: $34,310.65

I have also earned money from some other non-mapping freelance work. I do editing and layout for Cartographic Perspectives, and I’ve done some bits of paid writing, other design work, etc. This income isn’t terribly relevant to those who are wondering about the mapmaking business, but I’ll include it here for the sake of completeness:

2012: $1,128.08
2013: $1,528.00
2014: $7,014.00
2015: $10,194.00
2016: $2,000.00
2017: $9,925.00
2018: $7,505.00
2019: $2,325.00

These bits of side work, as well as my teaching (below), have been very helpful in leaner years.

Teaching

I teach from time to time at UW–Madison, covering the Introductory Cartography course. Again, not too relevant to the subject of freelance earnings, but perhaps interesting if you’re curious about what adjunct teaching pays. My pre-tax pay for one semester of a 40% appointment is $7,182.18 (formerly $6,954.39 from 2010–2015).  This number seems to compare favorably with what I’ve seen posted at other institutions, or heard from colleagues elsewhere.

Donations

I do a fair amount of pro bono work, and I’ve been much more shameless about asking for support for my tutorials, Project Linework, and other resources that people seem to draw value from etc.

2012: $37.00
2013–14:
$0.00
2015:
 $5.00
2016–17:
$0.00
2018: $1,711.08
2019: $1,412.86

Speaking of donations, here are some handy buttons if you want to help empower me to keep sharing cartographic knowledge and resources.

Sales of Prints

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is sales of prints. Instead of making maps for clients, I sometimes (or often) spend time making maps for no one in particular. And then I’ll put them up on Zazzle in case anyone wants to buy them. I’ve also occasionally printed maps locally and sold them through an art store or by word of mouth. But Zazzle is where almost all of my sales happen.

My earnings from sales of prints:

2012: $772.39
2013: $678.68
2014: $270.19
2015: $116.52
2016: $797.54
2017: $342.78
2018: $354.10
2019: $821.63

And, if you’re curious as to what sells and what doesn’t, here’s a breakdown of Zazzle sales:

Fame and exposure are generally free, and often much more plentiful than actual payment. It takes a lot of clicks before someone actually buys—I have also seen this behind the scenes with the Atlas of Design. I often see colleagues whose work gets a lot of attention, and who are offering cool prints, and wonder if they are receiving lots of praise with little money behind it.

Concluding Thoughts

I never really intended to be a freelancer, because I dislike instability, and the numbers above fluctuate wildly. But I fell into it accidentally anyway, and it’s been great, though it’s definitely not a life I would have been able to choose if I had to worry, for example, about dependents.

I hope all this stuff above offers some useful insight as to one freelancer’s life. I’m sure some others earn more, and some others earn less. I’d encourage others who are comfortable doing so to share their own financial information, to make the picture a little broader.

Freelance Survey 2.0

You might recall that in 2018, Aly Ollivierre and I conducted a survey of freelance mapmakers. I’ve long tried to bring more transparency to carto-freelancing, and I think knowing more about what our colleagues are doing is empowering.

This year we’re doing it again, with some revised questions (thanks to feedback from a number of members of the mapping community). I hope you’ll take the time to answer by clicking here.

And please help spread the word! We’d like to reach as many people as possible, so that the results can better reflect what’s really going on in the field.

Maps in the Kitchen

I teach introductory cartography from time to time, and over the years I have developed an analogy that I share with students on the first day of class.

The Analogy: Cartography is like Cooking

In cooking, you use various tools (knives, pans, etc.) to transform ingredients into a finished dish. In mapping, you use various tools (usually software) to transform data into a finished representation.

You may well think “that’s cute and clever, but what’s the point?”

Why Use This?

In my pedagogical practice, I often worry about students feeling intimidated. I want to show them inspiring examples of beautiful maps made by my colleagues, because I think there’s value in seeing what cartography can achieve. But, I know from experience that it’s easy to look at something like Tom Patterson’s map of Kenai Fjords and think, “I have no idea how to do that and probably will never be able to.” Especially if you’re still only barely able to open a GIS program.

kenai-fjords-map

Scary.

So, I want to inspire students while still making them feel like they can eventually get there. And I think this kitchen analogy goes a long way toward breaking down the mystery of cartography. Students who are new to the field likely haven’t thought much about what goes into mapping, and my hope is to put the cartographic process into familiar terms so that it seems more achievable.

To do well in the kitchen, you need to have technical skills (knife skills, knowing how to sauté something, etc.), and you need some ideas for recipes. You start out simple, just copying other people’s recipe ideas. As you go on, though, you start to feel more comfortable and creative, and can experiment more and more with greater success, developing your own recipes. And along the way you’ll develop the technical skills and knowledge of ingredients that will let you execute those recipes you have in mind.

It’s the same sort of process for cartography. As I tell the students, the only thing that separates them from someone like Tom Patterson, or any one of the other accomplished cartographers whose work I show them, is technical skills and recipe ideas. With enough step-by-step breakdown of what buttons to click in the software, anyone can learn the technical skills to imitate the Kenai Fjords map.

Then there’s the recipe: knowing when and why to click those buttons without someone telling you to do so. Just as you go to a restaurant and find foods you like and want to work with at home, you can look over other people’s maps and get ideas for things you want to create (and the internet is full of people sharing both map and food recipes to get you started). Experience and experimentation lead to eventually breaking away from formulaic, cookie-cutter work and developing your own ideas.

All of this takes time, of course; years. But, I use this analogy to emphasize to my students that it’s not magic. It’s not that some people are capable of mapping and some aren’t. It’s like learning anything else: someone tells you what to do, and eventually you get enough experience to iterate on what you learned and develop your own way. Cooking is something that at least some of my students are familiar with (and, if they haven’t cooked much, they hopefully still understand a little of what goes into it). Explaining cartography with this analogy, I hope, makes them feel more confident in their ability to eventually figure it out, if they are willing to invest the time.

Annual Report: 2019

Friends, I was very fortunate to receive support from a number of you in 2019. And, continuing what is becoming an annual tradition, I want to be transparent in reporting back on what your support has enabled me to do.

In no particular order, in 2019, I was able to:

  • Conduct a series of livestream events on YouTube (videos here). I wasn’t sure how this would go, but I was pleased to see a couple dozen people (in one case, over 50!) show up to talk about maps with me. I have hopes of doing more of these in 2020, though I need to work through some health issues first.
  • Give a free webinar to the Alaska Arc Users Group in January 2019
  • Oversee the reprints of the first three volumes of the Atlas of Design. This includes creating an all-new version of the first volume. I continue to manage reprint orders for NACIS, making sure they get passed to the distributor and that books get into the hands of people who have been waiting for them.
  • Serve on a few groups with my fellow cartographers, including
    • NACIS Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee
    • An advisory group for the CaGIS Map Competition
    • A working group that is proposing standard elevation models, to help research and development of new relief techniques.
  • Answer a lot of questions via email. People write to me a number of times each year asking for software help (especially Blender), career advice, interviews for high/middle school projects, or map critiques. I try to take the time to write back to everyone.
  • Do a lot of cyanotyping. I had a lot of fun exploring this printing technique, and some potential cartographic uses. The support of my patrons helped buy some of my supplies, and also enabled me to cover the expense of sending free prints to a number of people.
  • Organize MonoCarto 2019, a monochrome mapping competition. I wanted to honor the less-flashy work that gets done without color, and it accidentally turned into one of the larger mapping competitions in existence. It was a lot of fun, but also a fair bit of work. And, of course, a lot of people besides me volunteered their time to make it possible.
  • Attend NACIS2019 and talk about the lessons learned from the mapping competition, and organize a special gallery showing off the Final Selection (the winners).
  • Rebuild my popular Blender tutorial to reflect a new version of the software, with a new user interface and some updated procedures. This was done hurriedly, because it turns out that a few people were just about to present it to classes and conferences! But fortunately I got it done in time.
  • Continue helping NACIS with a few things. I served for several years as the Director of Operations; while that role has ended, I’ve been answering questions and aiding in the transition. I also continue to provide AV support at the Annual Meeting (I am the keeper of the projectors).
  • In the spirit of the old FixWikiMaps project, make a couple maps for Wikipedia of old radio broadcast networks in the United States:WEAF and WJZ Chains-01.jpg
    NBC Networks.jpg
  • Serve as a judge for the GeoHipster 2020 Calendar.
  • Make one-off mappy things that get shared on my Twitter account, such as this animation about map layers (which I might use sometime in teaching):

  • Keep a few ongoing efforts up-to-date, including some edits to the 1981 linework set for Project Linework, and upgrading my ongoing collection of hypsometric tinting schemes for Mars (which I hope will eventually be valuable to someone :) ).

In the end, all of the above efforts are owed to the support of many of you out there. Your patronage helps me buy materials, afford conferences, pay for websites, and most importantly, justify taking the time away from paid work in order to write, design, and help others. As we move into 2020, I hope to continue to merit the support you have shown me. I never know exactly how much I’ll be able to do so in a given year, but I do know that I fully intend to keep up my efforts to contribute to the cartographic community. You have all taught me so much, and I will continue repay the favor as best I may.

If you’d like to support my efforts, please click one of these handy buttons.

 

Something of Myself

When I started out my mapping career, I had a dream of eventually making my own atlas. And, in the following years, I was fortunate enough to get to work on a few, including the Atlas of Design, and the Ecological Atlas of the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. Of these various atlases, my latest one is certainly the most “my own” of any of them. I’m pleased to share with you An Atlas of Great Lakes Islands.

While my earlier projects involved me producing some digital files, then handing them off to be printed, bound, and shipped, this one was a little different. Though I did design the maps digitally, I printed each one by hand using using the cyanotype process. I also manually trimmed each one down to size, and sewed my own binding. It may not be the most visually impressive, but it has much more of me in it than probably any other book I have worked on.



There’s a lot to talk about here, so let’s go through the process in rough chronological order.

A Starting Point

Some months ago, I decided one evening to see how much information I could cram into a black and white map, with no shades of grey in between.

It was just a fun challenge, but I really liked the look that came out of it, and I ended up doing a couple more of Great Lakes islands. If you browse through my portfolio, you’ll already know that I make a lot of my maps about my Great Lakes homeland. I feel like it’s part of my cartographic mission to articulate, in my own way, the beauty of this part of the world. I’d already made one poster of Great Lakes islands before (in a black-and-white style, no less), so this was a sort of unintended continuation of my previous work. I think of them partly as an exploration of geographic forms: the interesting aesthetics of the shapes nature has laid down.


I also was definitely inspired by the work of Heather Smith, including her map of Iturup, though it took a little while before I realized it. I often absorb ideas from others and then, months later, they pop up again without me realizing that I’m drawing upon them.

Cyanotyping

Around this same time, I was getting into cyanotype printing, a nineteenth-century alternative photography technique. You can follow that link if you want to dive a bit into the chemistry, by the idea is straightforward: (1) coat some paper with chemicals; (2) put a photo negative or some other light-blocking stuff on the paper, and then expose the paper to sunlight or another UV source; (3) dip the paper in water; and (4) watch the paper turn blue in areas that were hit with sunlight, and stay white in the areas that were shaded.

Cyanotyping is cheap and easy to get into, so I started printing up some maps to try it out. I made negatives on transparency film, and copied a few maps I’d already made.

The strange admixture of cyanotype and typewriter cartography.

But I was looking for an original idea, and that’s when I thought to wind together two threads: black-and-white maps, and cyanotyping. I decided that I would produce a series of cyanotype maps of Great Lakes islands.

Map Design

First off, I needed to digitally design the maps that I would eventually be printing. The process here is pretty much my standard GIS-to-Adobe Illustrator workflow. A few highlights:

  • Gathering data was a challenge. I needed equivalent information for places in the US and Canada, and oftentimes had to mash stuff together from a lot of different sources. Here’s an example of one map’s sources:
  • My data sources were often in conflict, too. Streams would be shown running in different areas, for example. Given the size of these islands, that’s not surprising: many of these streams are probably small trickles that aren’t well-documented. Sometimes roads or trails would have spotty data, and I’d have to correct or supplement things by looking at satellite imagery.
  • There was also some disagreement over coastlines due to things like tides and whether wetlands counted as water or land. There’s definitely room to quibble with some of my choices.

    According to NOAA (left), Sand Island is surrounded by marshes (in green). According to the USGS (right), it’s surrounded by open water.

  • I tried to fit as many different data layers as I could, given the limitation of using only black and white (which would eventually print up as blue and white in the final book). To keep everything looking clean, there are a lot of knockouts. Roads knock out streams, streams knock out land cover, text knocks out everything, etc.
    This helps a great deal with legibility, I think. Without those buffers around every feature type, the map would be a mess:
  • To keep those buffers from hiding critical data, I often rerouted streams and roads to make sure that a coastal road didn’t hide the outlet of a stream.
  • I’m quite pleased with the forest texture. Instead of a repeating dot pattern, I gave it a little bit of randomness. The dots vary slightly in size and position. They’re almost regular, but not quite, which I think adds some organic-ness to the whole thing that ties the symbology into the idea of vegetation.
  • Because I pay way too much attention to tiny projection details: each island is on its own Lambert Azimuthal Equal Area projection, with a center point at the centroid of the island.
  • I set all the type in Mostra Nuova, which is a typeface that will perhaps be familiar to longtime readers. It’s a favorite of mine, and based on Italian Art Deco posters. It is, admittedly, not really connected very well to the atlas subject matter. But I still liked how it looked with the stark monochrome cartographic design. Mostra Nuova is a geometric sans, and the cartography is all about highlighting interesting geometries, so they sort of work, I think. One limitation: it doesn’t come in italics, and most its various weights would be hard to tell apart in cyanotype. So, I didn’t develop different label styles for different feature types, for the most part (except settlements and airports, which are given in heavy type).

Add up everything above and these maps took a lot longer than you might expect just by looking at them. In a process that took dozens of hours, I made maps for the largest thirty islands in the Great Lakes system (including some of the rivers connecting the Great Lakes). I had planned to stop a little sooner, at maybe twenty maps. However, I wanted to include at least one island from every Great Lake, and Pelee Island, the largest in Lake Erie, was the thirtieth-largest in the system.

Printing

Once I had my maps designed, I printed off negatives on transparency film and set about cyanotyping.


First off, the paper is coated with sensitizer (ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide). When I started learning this process, I used watercolor paper. Later on, I switched to kōzo, a Japanese mulberry paper. It’s handmade, thin yet strong, has no particular grain, and has a really nice natural, organic feeling to it. I got mine from the Awagami Factory.


Then the paper is dried in the dark for a while. When it’s ready (about a day, for the kōzo), I can put a negative on it, sandwich it between some glass, and put it out into the sun. In Wisconsin, sunny days are rare in the winter, and so I usually had to drop everything when one came around so I could get some prints done. While later on I got good enough that I could do exposures on cloudy and overcast days, it was nice to have an excuse to go out into the sun and get some Vitamin D.

Each print is made using only the purest rays of the Wisconsin sun.

Once the print is exposed (anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours, depending on conditions), a little water will cause the image to develop.

The prints vary quite a lot, as there are a myriad of tiny things that affect the outcome: the angle of the sun, how tightly the negative sits on the paper, the pH of the paper and the water used to wash it, how evenly and thickly I coated the paper, how long it was washed, how long and under what conditions the sensitizer dried before exposing to the sun, and more. Below you can see two very different-looking outcomes from the same negative. One is very dark and overexposed, and the other very light and underexposed (the more exposure to the sun, the more blue pigment develops).

Controlling all these variables is almost impossible, and each image is a little different. I picked up a lot of small tricks along the way to try and solve imperfections, but many remain: spots on the print, odd wrinkles or smudges, blurring, etc. I’m an extremely detail-oriented perfectionist who zooms into 64,000% in Illustrator, so this project has been good for me to practice letting go. This whole process is very, very analog, and only some of it can be rigorously controlled. The imperfections also add to the charm, and express how the print was handmade.

Imperfections: blue splotches, text fading in and out, some minor blurring, and some places where the paper is a bit damaged, showing white fibers.

The first draft of the atlas was printed on heavy watercolor paper. To get 34 decent prints (thirty maps plus a few additional pieces of front & back matter), I had to go through over 100 sheets of paper, as I still had a lot to learn about how to get good prints out of the cyanotype process (and how to accept imperfections on the non-ideal prints that came out of the process). You can see in the image here how many different shades of blue there are; just another reflection of the variability of the process.

After I finished up the first draft (and bound it up into a book), I made a second draft of the maps, printed on kōzo. This time I was much more efficient, both at making good prints and at letting go of my perfectionism. I got 99 good prints out of 110 attempts, enough for three atlases of 33 pages (one less than the first draft; I dropped a filler page).

Binding

These books would have just been a bunch of loose pages without the guidance of my colleague Caroline Rose. She has experience in book repair and bookbinding, and was kind enough to teach me some basics and loan me a bunch of supplies. With her pointing me in the right direction, I bound up my maps into actual atlases.

The first draft of the atlas, printed on watercolor paper, was given a simple accordion binding. I simply attached the pages end-to-end with strips of kōzo glued on the back, acting as hinges. I dyed the kōzo blue first, using the cyanotype process, just to make it look a little nicer.

The first atlas was the culmination of dozens of hours of work (and dozens of dollars of supplies, mostly watercolor paper), but I found it only mildly satisfactory. Among other issues, the book had some warping problems. Despite trying many, many things, I could never get the pages to dry flat once they’d been soaked in water. But this was all fine, because I had planned it, from the beginning, as a first draft, with the understanding that I’d do better the second time around.

So wavy.

The book’s kōzo hinges were my first time working with (or hearing of) the material, which Caroline introduced me to, and I knew I wanted to work with it more. So, I decided that my second draft would be printed on kōzo, rather than just using it as a supporting material. After wrapping up the first book, I printed up the 99 maps on kōzo that I showed above, and then prepared them for binding. First, I hand-wrinkled each one. You see, during my test prints on kōzo, I accidentally made a print that was somewhat wrinkled (due to not handling it super-carefully: I wanted to try to see how strong it was). But I found that I liked the wrinkled look, so I decided to make sure that every print was sufficiently wrinkled. It’s sort of wavy, and organic, and aged. It gives the prints some suppleness.

After I spent a while wrinkling each print, I tore them all down to size. I thought about cutting them to give them a clean edge, but I liked the softness of the torn edge.

The whole stack of pages reminds me a bit of worn blue jeans, which makes sense. Blue jeans are often dyed with Prussian blue, which is the same pigment that the cyanotype process produces. And blue jeans are made from cotton, which is mostly just cellulose. Kōzo, like other paper fibers, is also mostly cellulose.


Once I had my soft, wrinkly organic sheets, I wanted to give them a better binding than I had the first atlas. Something more book-like, instead of a giant accordion fold. Caroline pointed me in the direction of Japanese stab bindings, which are simple to execute and designed for single sheets. So, I poked around some tutorials, bought some supplies, and got to work. I used an awl to poke holes in the pages, then sewed them up.

The thread is marbled: I used the cyanotype process to dye parts of it, but not others.

Unlike the first draft, I also gave the book a cover material. I used grey and black Japanese linen cardstock. I also gave it a string and button closure, using paper buttons I cut from the cover stock and leftover binding thread.


Kōzo is handmade and doesn’t have much of a grain, so there’s no particular warp direction this time around. It’s also much thinner than watercolor paper (while still having a lot of wet strength). These are two reasons I had wanted to switch to using it instead of watercolor paper. However, the book is very puffy, probably due at least in part to all those wrinkles I added.

I hadn’t planned on drawing so much from Japan when I started this project, but it just sort of happened that way. I just happened to learn about and come to enjoy working with kōzo; I found a good cover material that happened to have been made in Japan; and I needed to learn a simple style of binding that beginners like me could handle, which happens to have been Japanese. So, it’s a book about the Midwest, with an Italian typeface, made with Japanese materials and techniques.

Significance and Sharing

I produced one copy of the first draft (on watercolor paper), and three of the second draft (on kōzo), though I’ve still got to get around to binding the final copy of the secnod draft. It took a huge amount of time (and a fair bit of money), but I’m pretty satisfied with the results. As I said, there’s a lot of me in this work: it was hand-printed, hand-wrinkled, hand-town, and hand-bound (using hand-dyed thread). There’s not much more possible influence I could have on a single book. And it’s of a subject that has deep personal significance to me: my Great Lakes homeland (even if I’ve never been to these particular islands — yet).

Despite its unassuming appearance, I count this book as one of the more significant accomplishments of my career, because it sort of serves as a microcosm of so much of the rest of my practice: it’s in monochrome, it’s about the Great Lakes, it hinges on a lot of obsessive detail work, it’s something nobody asked for, it required learning a bunch of new skills, and it’s a little off the beaten path. It may be the most Daniel P. Huffman-like of all of my works.

As I said, there are only three copies. But, maybe you’d like to see one? It so happens that I’m sending one copy on a world tour, where it will be shipped to whoever wants to borrow it for a few days. If you’re interested, you can read more here. Note that the tour is pretty full, so you could be in for a long wait.


A lot of my purchase of cyanotype materials was made possible by the generous support I receive from the map-loving community. If you want to support my future work, you’re welcome to use the links below.


Cyanotype World Tour

EDIT: Signups have closed. Thanks to everyone (74 people!) who agreed to host the book!

Friends, if you’ve been following along at all on Twitter, you might have seen that I’ve been big into cyanotyping these last few months. I’ve been making prints of maps using water and sunlight (and some chemicals).

As part of my explorations of this technique, I’ve spend some months creating a couple of versions of a 33-page Atlas of Great Lakes Islands. Here you can see the loose sheets of three copies, printed on heavy kozo.

Here’s a complete copy of the atlas, carefully torn by hand down to the final dimensions and with a Japanese stab binding.

IMG_2530

And here’s the loose pages, pre-binding, so you can see them a little bit better.

I’d like to share this book with all of you, but due to the significant labor and expense, I’ve only printed three copies. So, here’s what I’d like to do: send the book on tour. I mail it to you, you look through it for a few days, then you mail it to the next person who wants to see it, and so on.

If you’re interested in helping this atlas travel, here are a few more details:

  • The book will go through a chain of people. Each person sends it to the next person on the list. I will keep the overall list private, but I will need to share your name and address with the person who will be sending the book to you.
  • A few weeks before it’s your turn to receive the book, I will contact you by email to confirm that your address hasn’t changed, and that you’re still available to participate. If you’re temporarily unavailable, we can shift your place in the queue. If you don’t answer in a timely fashion, you’ll be skipped.
  • There are a lot more people signed up than I expected; this means it may be that your turn on the tour does not come up for many months.
  • Once you receive the book, you can keep it for a week, and then you’ll need to send it to the next person. I will email you what address to ship it to.
  • You are responsible for the cost of shipping the book to the next person. This person may be in another country, but I will try to minimize the number of times this happens. I’ll collect names of potential hosts for a while, and then order them somewhat geographically, so that the book doesn’t spend a lot of time (and money) skipping back and forth around the world.
  • You’re welcome to show the atlas off to other people while you have it. Bring it to work, school, geo-events, etc.!
  • Signing up isn’t a guarantee. For various reasons, the tour may be cancelled before you get a chance to see the book.
  • Try not to spill anything on it.
  • In case you’re hesitant about the responsibility of hosting, don’t worry: it’s printed on durable paper, it’s pre-wrinkled, and it’s not something I absolutely must get back intact. I made an extra copy specifically to send around, and if misfortune befalls it, it’s not a huge problem.

If all of that sounds good to you, then sign up by clicking here! Note that sign-ups close on January 15th!