Whenever I travel to somewhere new I always reach for a map - sometimes several. I love maps – I love the way they impose order on a chaotic world. I love the stories that maps tell of the places and people they describe. And most of all, I love their intrinsic beauty. Colour harmonies, line, tone, texture and pattern are balanced against graphics, letters and symbolic meaning.
For all my love of maps, they have never featured in my work. My drawings and stitched pieces often reflect the places I’ve visited; occasional landscapes but mostly architecture. That was until my most recent trip with Martyn and Drawing Escapes. Eight days, travelling through Estonia and Latvia seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine cartography with stitched textiles.
I started my first piece weeks before we left for the Baltic. I’d visited Riga on a previous trip and so armed with a tatty tourist map, my sketchbook and photos from the 2017 trip, I set to work.
I said at the beginning that, for me, maps bring order to a chaotic world; they tell a story and are beautiful. If you doubt this check out Piet Mondrian’s ‘New York Boogie Woogie’. Using nothing more than rectangles and four colours, Mondrian not only manages to show the basic layout of some small part of Manhattan but also expresses the excitement and vibrancy of New York City. My first Riga map, however, lacked order, and if it told a story, it was one of the tourist traps and stag weekends. This wasn’t my Riga – it was someone else’s.