Mapping Out an Art Project

I’ve been waiting for a chance to get this project done, and finally had time this weekend. When working on the plan for the Balcony Bedroom this summer, I started thinking about artwork for above the bed. Initially, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. It couldn’t cost much, so I started by looking at the things I have in storage in the rest of the house, and I wasn’t excited about anything.

But I had this GIANT WASTELAND of a wall to fill.

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I’m not necessarily a painting girl when it comes to decor. I like things that have meaning, dimension, and look great – sometimes that might be more sculptural, or a photograph, or maybe a painting. Doug loves maps – I do too – and so I had the thought of hanging an old school map, tying in his love of maps and the fact that I am a teacher. Not wanting to spend a lot, I asked the head of our maintenance department if we had any out-of-date maps lying around that I could have or buy. He said, “Funny, I just threw a couple out. Want me to dig them out?” YES. Yes, I do. He is amazing.

Then, I did what I do best. I started to overthink it, disregard it, doubt it, come back to it, and make the idea even bigger. I decided an abandoned school map didn’t have enough meaning, so I started searching for my new idea. I wanted to find a map from 1902 – the year the house was built. I couldn’t find anything large enough, but I found a shop on Etsy – The Old Design Shop – that sold high quality jpegs. She had a world map from 1902, but it wasn’t large enough for an art piece. I messaged her and asked if the image could be rescanned so I could make a print up to 40″ wide, and she made it work! I took the image, and found a place to make a canvas print. So excited.

 I wanted it to still have the feel of a classroom map, instead of a traditional frame, I decided to use two wooden boards at the top and the bottom of the map, and have the map pressed in-between each board. I used 1×2″ pine boards for the slats. And the horrible mural in the future master bedroom as the back drop.

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I started to refinish them. Hypothetically, this should have been easy.  But I wanted to start staining at about 10 o’clock at night (so the first coat could dry overnight) and I forgot that the light in the future dressing room (with the awful floor – the one I use for painting or staining anything) doesn’t work. And I forgot that all my sawhorses are at the cottage, and I had zero desire to head three blocks away to get them. So I stained with terrible lighting and used styrofoam bowls for my sawhorses. Nice.  This room looks even more like someone was slaughtered in it in the dark.

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I used a combination of stain, gel stain, and stain+poly combo to layer in some depth.

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While everything was drying, I started working on a label for the bottom of the frame. I wanted to put a label plate on indicating the year of the map as 1902, when the house was built. I took some regular white paper, and aged it using tea and coffee. I boiled 4 tea bags and a handful of coffee grounds, and put the paper in  a casserole dish.

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I poured the mixture over the paper, and let it sit for an hour or so, before removing it and letting it dry on a drying rack.

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After it was dry, I used scrapbook numbers to indicate the year, and put it all together.

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I gathered up my supplies – the boards, the map, brass screws and brass washer / grommets.

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I did a dry fit of the top of the map, and kept my fingers crossed that it would flatten out as I did the bottom portion.

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After snapping one screw and having Doug dig it out without damaging the wood (he’s the patient one, not I), I screwed the two boards together using one set of screws and grommets at each end.

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Here is a close-up of the detail! I initially was going to use regular screws in the back, so the front would be all wood, but I liked this idea much better.

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It looked FANTASTIC! And then I picked it up, and the whole map went crashing to the ground because there wasn’t enough tension with just two screws. After I had a mild heart attack, we put another screw in the center, and kept our fingers crossed.

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This worked MUCH better. Whew!

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I used tiny nails to attach the year plate. There is a hidden screw underneath to give more tension to the center of the bottom rails.

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And then, I used leftover chandelier chain to hang it in the balcony bedroom. The curves on the side of the map are still there (I even ironed them a bit, gently, which helped) but I am sure gravity will stretch them out. It’s been up less than 24 hours at this point!

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There still is a LOT of wall space to fill. I could have gotten a bigger map, but the quality may have suffered at that point. And, when I searched, I found some smaller maps that will really fill those spaces in nicely – over time. I found someone who has a map of Indiana form 1902 – in SPAIN, of all places – that I’m going to snag. It should be a fun collection to add to over time. And, think how important we’ll sound when I say that something is “In the Map Room.” I’m considering hanging the map from my school on the lefthand wall in the picture above – I think that would be a great place for it.

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“Hammond’s 8×11 Map of the World, Copyright, 1902, by CS Hammond.”

(The Copyright has since expired – no worries.) 

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It’s really fun to see what the world looked like when the house was built. This particular map has the countries color coded by who “owns” them. Also fascinating are the lines showing you where telegraph cables exist.

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North America, Africa/The Middle East/Europe, and Asia.

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Excited to add more! This was a fun project. And not too hard at all – I’m quite happy with it, and the room looks much more finished.

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  1. Very cool! I think it adds some interesting context to when the house was built.

    I really like the idea if flanking it with other more local maps from the same era (state, county, town, etc. Maybe even a map of your subdivision plat, if you can find it?

  2. Neat idea!! I was waiting to see you add a brass pull ring on a string at the bottom! 🙂
    I’m really enjoying your blog… found you from Ross M’s blog…
    Keep up the excellent work!

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