For the last few months, I've been dreaming...
(By the way, isn't dreaming wonderful? So many ideas and inspirations happen when I daydream. L.M. Montgomery writes of Anne: "Nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams." Amen, Lucy, Amen.)
Well, one dream I've been pondering and mulling over was of creating a detailed map of all of the magical places I want to explore with Alice and Milo through the books we'll read. Hogwarts. Narnia. The Shire. Wonderland. Neverland. Atlantis. Avalon. Camelot. The Highlands. The Black Forest. Oz. So many incredible stories and worlds to unfold! That might be one of the most intoxicating things of being a parent - walking my children through all of the enchanted lands I've discovered.
After receiving an old frame from my grandma, I decided to commit my dreams to reality. (Isn't that funny? Turning dreams to reality, only to become dreams again?)
I went on the hunt for an old atlas to use, but couldn't find a thing. I was getting really discouraged at not being able to find a proper book to rip up, but then, one morning at the thrift shop, the clouds parted and there before me was the holy grail of what I needed. In fact, I knew it was set apart for me, because it was an old framed map resting in the back of a wardrobe. A wardrobe. I kid you not. Chance? It was destiny.
For $3.99, I had the foundation for my creation and eagerly brought it home to begin more dreaming and making and transforming.
The map in question is a lithograph of The Oldest Map of the New World. Was I wrong in tampering with it? Maybe, but it was just a print and about to become way more wonderful and dear to my littles than if I had left it alone. (Similar one on ebay here.)
Stamps I had accumulated myself and acquired from our senior pastor who is an avid collector.
When I had worked on a painting a few years ago, he let me sift through a couple of bags and let me keep some that had duplicates. Thank you, Pastor Chuck!
The purple border is the cover of a sheet music booklet that I carefully tore apart. I love the extra color, pattern, lines, and framing it lends.
One of the things I absolutely adore about this map is that it came pre-drawn with cartographer lines, sailor emblems and insignia, ships, and castles. The colors are primarily green and orange, which, when added to the purple make it a secondary triadic color scheme - booyeah! There are also lots of golden flecks and writings here and there that pick up the gold of the frame. The writing is what I can only assume is Old English so while the letters are recognizable, the words are not, making it more magical and mysterious.
(The glimpse of golden frame above is the frame my grandparents gave me. So lovely.)
Moving groups of stamps around to find just the right placement was crucial. Mixed media is all about composition and layers for me. Since my stamps were limited and irreplaceable I had to make sure they were just right before committing them with glue. Most of my creative energies were prolonged, sometimes waiting days while allowing my brain to come up with better solutions and ideas. Isn't it wonderful how the mind works on creative problems, even when you think you are resting? Oftentimes, my best realizations came during dreams or just when going to bed or waking. After meditating for a time and determining the best options, I resolved their positions. Every land's placement required great thought in relation to where it laid to another land and what lines they intersected, as well as their histories. (E.g. The above Wonderland collection of stamps moved to the west to make way for actual English stories. Camelot lay in the south of the right country - England - and Avalon on its shore, Atlantis not far off. Hogwarts lays just to the north of Camelot, the Highlands above that, in actual Scotland, and the Eire stamp, aka Ireland, is in the upper right circle representative of the island itself.)
Practicing fonts and styles before drawing them on the map
"Narnia" and "Lands of Enchantment" are borrowed from my interpretation of the Wisteria font from Iskra Design at Alphabet Roadtrip Blog. I had to imagine what the other letters were based on the letters given, but it was a fun puzzle to solve. I dearly love calligraphy and fonts. Some days I wish I could devote serious time to practicing.
(For the "M," I simply flipped my paper, drew the "W" they had already given, flipped it back over, and then modified it to fit in with the middle of my word and subsequently felt awfully sneaky when I figured that out.)
After laying down the stamps, I could not for the life of me figure out what to do with that circle in the center. I put it off for a while to see if an idea would come to me. And waited. And waited some more. Finally I decided to pull some old keys out of a jar I had to hang with the frame, when suddenly I discovered at the bottom of the jar were two perfectly round little golden plates with key holes cut into them. When I got them with the sideboard my Gramma Alice gave me, I had no idea what they were for, but certainly wasn't going to get rid of them. I put them at the bottom of the jar, forgetting entirely they were there - until the moment I dumped the keys out. Then they fell out and stared me in the face, practically screaming "God put me in that jar until this very moment when you needed me!" The light bulb went on and everything clicked. That keyhole plate belonged in the center, keys hanging next to the frame as if these enchanted lands needed those very keys in order to open it's magic and secrets.
I borrowed the font from Tim Burton's recent movie and chose my stamps that fit Wonderland best. A white castle with a white queen. A heart with a crown that was once a Vera Wang perfume sample (I am not kidding, I save every pretty piece of paper I get - I knew this one would serve me well in the future, I just didn't know when!) with a red fortress over the top. There is a white female figure on a white horse to the right of it as Alice the Champion. The lines of her spear line up with the cartography lines and aim her at the Red Queen. Below her is a stamp of bright flowers indicative of some of her Wonderland adventures, that also border Oz and are reminiscent of the poppy fields Dorothy would traverse on her way to the Emerald City.
Christopher Columbus holding baby Jesus
Was it sacrilegious to cover and alter? No idea. What I do know is that it makes a way cooler map of magic lands!
The center is now a key hole and proper doorway to adventure.
I chose the northern border because of how cold Narnia was when Lucy entered it, my reasoning being the farther north, the colder. The lamp post image I ripped out of the book itself (a little painful), but I have two copies so it wasn't quite so terrible. The stamp to the right is a castle on the sea - Cair Paravel - the castle where Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy reigned. The castle and queen to the left of the lamp post signify the White Witch and her icy lair. The stamp to the left of that are animals, which reminded me of Narnia's inhabitants and their amazing ability to speak.
The Black Forest
To the left/west of Narnia is the Black Forest - German home of some of the greatest tales, most notably recorded by the Brothers Grimm. Stamps shown are Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood. Their colors fit perfectly with the colors of the map.
Camelot & Avalon
The southeast corner is where Camelot resides, along with a stamp of a king and queen - Arthur and Guinevere, of course. The text of "Avalon" I fit within the intersecting lines of the map.
In high school I was obsessed with this story. I read everything I could get my hands on that had anything to do with Arthur and his knights, Camelot, druids, bards, Avalon - you name it, I read it. I was so bound up with that story and every time I had to put it out of my mind and come back to reality, I had a sinking feeling that I was missing out on something far better. Why was I born in hum-drum Nebraska, living my sheltered life without an ounce of romance and purpose? Chivalry and culture and drama and something to live for, something thrilling, was always so depressingly absent. As always, Lucy says it best in Anne of Green Gables: "...Anne was devoured by secret regret that she had not been born in Camelot. Those days, she said, were so much more romantic than the present." Sigh. Yes they were. It's a darn good thing God gave me an imagination and the ability to dream.
Across the sea to the west is the Shire. I was glad there was no room for Mordor - only peace and quiet here. The three stamps I chose were fun to place. The green one with the hobbit-like creatures, the purple one on top are reminiscent of the insides of Bilbo's house, and the grassy plain full of strollers reminded me of that lovely home Frodo and Sam come back to. And again, I've tried to write all fonts based on their actual fonts from movies or books.
Next to the Shire is Oz, the Emerald City hinted at with the green turrets and structures along with the gems to the left. I am not overly familiar with the tales of L. Frank Baum, but I hope to read them someday and share them with Alice and Milo.
"for my little wanderers
May you find adventure wherever you go and behind every door.
Let the adventures begin!