Book Review: Personal Geographies by Jill K. Berry

Jill Berry's new book, Personal Geographies

If you love maps, reading about maps, looking at maps and want to make maps, Jill K. Berry has a book for you. Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed Media Mapmaking shipped early, so it’s already available through amazon.

The book includes 21 projects about maps, and some interesting facts about maps along the way. Jill starts by discussing the parts of a map, including fascinating map trivia like neatlines (map borders)  and trap streets (fake streets that served as proof of copyright violations before copyright was invented).

Jill's head map, a template of a head is included in the book

There are also templates in the book–including one of a compass rose, a head, and a body outline (front and back and healthy, not the crime scene victim) to map and create your own mind map, experience map or stories about your scars and how you got them. Because, Jill reminds us, maps are also stories about what we know and what we’ve experienced.

Hand Map by Heidi LaMoreaux

As a fan of hands and images in hands, I appreciated the Carved Copper Hand Map on p. 34 and guest map-maker Heidi LaMoreaux’s “Map of My Hands.” Heidi made her hands topographical–showing metaphorical as well as experiential highs and lows in her life.

There are folded maps, pop-up maps, 3-D maps, and narrative maps. Check out Gil Avineri‘s map about his adventures as a New York cabbie. Hillary Barnes lives in the shadow of a volcano (non-erupting, so far) in Auckland, New Zealand. Hillary plots escape routes, just in case. [Totally geeky fact: Auckland, incidentally, is pronounced ‘Oakland,’ like the city in California, not Awk-lund, like I’ve been pronouncing it most of my life.]

There are other good design and content details–you see books open and closed, to understand the structure fully. You see how to apply layers of color to create the effect of farmer’s fields seen from a plane. And you can read Jill’s thoughts and experiences in “My Map Story” that appears with each project.

The how-to sections are easy to follow.

The design of the book is clever–it was done with experimentation and use in mind. The “how-to” steps (of which there are many) keep the photos on the outside and the steps, numbered sequentially, on the inside part of the page, close to the gutter (where the pages meet the spine.) You can follow along and know what to do. The photos don’t disappear into the gutter, and you can see how to interpret the writing so you don’t have to guess.

There is an A-list of contributors, commenting on their maps. Orly Avineri’s statements about her maps, “I am the sum of all the places I’ve been, roads I’ve taken an sights I’ve seen,” is a larger truth than even the maps show. Kim Rae Nugent explores the Day in the Life of a Crow, a naturalist’s dream. Gwen Diehn‘s Parallax–a folded map that shows the same location from two perspectives–gives map making an amazing new slant.

With 17 contributors, the book comprises a huge selection of maps and a vibrant portrait of the human experience.

*   *  *
-Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art.