"...with her fingertip went on expeditions in the capital"
Swirls of Earth started as a passion project during the 2020 pandemic.
I'd spent a decade working around the world as a geographer, from East Africa to Southeast Asia, and I suddenly found myself in my hometown back in the United States. A life of travel and exploration was temporarily muted, and I imagined how I might carry on my passions when the world slowed down.
The maps people were making these days were fabulous. Advances in computing and 3D modeling were enabling mapmakers to create like never before, and I knew I wanted to involve myself in the more artistic side of maps.
Maps are amazing. Their creation represents a beautiful balance of the human mind. They are two perfectly equal parts of science and art, exercising both the analyst and artist inside.
And is there anything more enlivening to the human spirit than a map in our hands? Here is the world around us, in miniature form, for once something we can nearly comprehend.
I sometimes think of my favorite passage from the 19th century novel, Madame Bovary:
She bought herself a street-map of Paris, and with her fingertip went on expeditions in the capital. She walked along the boulevards, stopping at every corner, between the lines representing the streets, in front of the white squares that marked the houses. At length, her eyes growing tired, she would close them and see, in the darkness, the gas-lamps flickering in the wind as the folding steps of carriages were let down with a great clatter at the theatre entrances.
Making Maps Together
Maps can feel pretty easy to us. They are everywhere today, including right inside our pockets on our mobile phones. When I used to tell people that I made maps, I got a lot of quizzical looks followed by, "umm, hasn't the world already been mapped?"
Because of their proclivity, we tend to take maps for granted. But making a good one is like writing a good book. Once that book is written, a reader might think, "ah, it's all so simple!" But in fact, it only seems simple because the author knows what she is doing.
My dream for Swirls of Earth was to create a platform where people could have a hand in creating their own maps.
It has taken a lot of time, but I grow prouder of it by the day. The maps are rendered in 3D with considerable precision, and the web interface allows you to customize it with hypsometric splashes of color and create something that suits you.
Each map is modeled in three dimensions, which are made into prints where the landscape appears to extrude out of the page.
After you have customized your map, it is prepared to order. Maps are printed on a Giclée printer with water-based inks on fine art paper.
- Premium quality heavyweight paper, 200 gsm
- Contains no plastic
- Sourced from sustainable forests
- Smooth matte finish
- Printed and shipped from the facility closest to you
"every map is a treasure map"
I have always been fascinated by the possibilities that live within a map. Along every ridge and valley lies a possible adventure to come. A map is a trusted guide and later, a friendly remembrance of where we've been.
Most of us take maps for granted, but they have a storied tradition that is still evolving today. The great cartographers of the past combined intimate technical know-how with artistic precision to create works that were pleasing to the eye, immediately informative, and told readers the story of the landscape.
Advances in computing have sparked a new age in mapmaking. There is an abundance of geographic data, and computing power now allows us to model the Earth with ever-increasing detail and accuracy.
My hope for Swirls of Earth is that it helps you make maps that you take pride in, tell your stories, awaken new adventures, and evoke sensations of our most intimate connection — the bond between us and the Earth.
— Jeff Haack, Swirls of Earth