Every Map Tells A Story

London is lucky to be in the middle of several great lakes and have a river running through it. Cameron Seabourne, the modern map maker behind Cardtography, appreciates it more than most. 

A man in a jacket stands with his hands in his pockets next to a sign that says "Modern Maple Artisan Boutique." these is a small house behind him.
Cameron Seabourne, the maker behind Cardtography, poses in front of Modern Maple Artisan Boutique in Port Stanley, one of the many shops in Ontario you can find his work. Image via Instagram @cardtographydesign.

With a last name born to the sea (get it? Seabourne?), Cameron’s Cardtography lives at the intersection of education and art. He uses data from survey maps to outline the depth of bodies of water, creating layers of intricately cut card stock, and combining them for a stunning effect. 

A framed image of the five great lakes in teal and dark blue. the background is white. the frame is gold. Cardtography.
The Great Lakes are one of Cameron’s favourite pieces to work on. Image via Instagram @CardtographyDesign.

With Cardtography, the lakes, rivers, and coastlines of the world are beautifully transformed into hand-assembled works of art right here in his studio in the Forest City. Since starting working on these intricate maps five years ago, Cameron has created over 250 unique papercut maps of lakes, islands, and countries.

A framed image of Newfoundland where the island is white and the water is blue. The frame hangs on a white brick wall. Cardtography designs.
Not only does Cartography tackle bodies of water, but also islands, including Newfoundland, pictured here. Image via Instagram @CardtographyDesign.

Cameron recently launched a rebrand of Cardtography in March 2021, reminding everyone that “home is where the lake is.” His work is available online and at over ten small businesses across Ontario. And when he’s not making maps, Cameron’s hanging out with his daughter or adding to his sleeve tattoo, adventures you can follow along with on his Instagram. 

So let’s discover new depths with this local creator!

What do you make?

I make handmade bathymetric (depth) maps of local Ontario lakes, islands, and rivers! They’re made up of five layers of coloured cardstock, typically in a blue or teal palette, with each darker layer of cardstock representing a deeper section of water. I work off of actual data from survey maps and translate the intricate contours into proprietary software. Each layer gets cut out separately, and then I hand-assemble each piece back into one beautiful, textured, coloured map.

How and when did you start creating?

I started in March of 2016. A late-night journey through Google Images led me to stumble onto some wonderful paper crafting makers. I’ve always been a bit of a traveller, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this would be a really fun way to combine that passion for travel and geography with my desire to create and make stuff! It took about three months of nightly R&D until I worked out my process enough to say, “yep, I’m feeling good about these finished products.”

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Do you remember your first piece? What was it?

The Great Lakes! I spent nearly three full nights hand-cutting and eyeballing each section, and the result was… not exactly what I had envisioned! 

But, in the true spirit of entrepreneurship, I kept that first map, and it still hangs framed above my desk in the workspace, warts and all. It’s a perfect memento of those early times, working late into the night on this crazy idea, not knowing if it would ever go anywhere! 

What do you wish you had known when you first started making?

How addictive it is! I didn’t really recognize the potential to grow and establish Cardtography as a business until a chance networking encounter led me to work with Heist, a small local business. The owner, Paul, pushed me to expand my (very) limited early portfolio. And from there, I was hooked. As of today, I’m up to 254 individual designs, and I’ve already got a good order file booked for new custom pieces!

How did you come up with your name for your business?

I’m a sucker for wordplay, and Cardtography just came to me one day while I was working at my day job. It’s a perfect portmanteau of ‘cartography’, or the art of map-making, and ‘cardstock’, which is the medium that I work in. Frankenstein those two together, and voila, you’ve got Cardtography!

What or who inspires you?

Without question, my daughter Carys. She’s seven years old, and is firmly in the grip of the crafting bug! She creates for the pure joy of creating. More often than not, all she wants to do is give you whatever she’s been working on because she just thinks you’re going to love it! It’s so pure and generous and really helps to keep me grounded in what I do. 

When I have the opportunity to watch people pick up my maps in person, and find their favourite lake, I always, ALWAYS get to hear their wonderful stories and memories. It’s something that really motivates me to keep going and keep finding new ways to improve my technique.

What’s your favourite item or piece to work on?

I would say my classic Great Lakes papercut piece is my favourite. It’s by far my most popular piece. I’ve probably produced close to 500 of them over the last four years. When you become that familiar with a piece, you get to know the production and assembly process almost like second nature. There’s a rhythm to the work. I know each curve and bend of the shoreline and where to hit the glue, where to lift my hand, how to line each layer up just right, etc. It’s very relaxing, and a great way to escape from a busy day, especially with a good record on!

What’s the most challenging aspect of being a maker?

I would say not becoming complacent. Always challenging yourself to keep moving that bar a little higher. When commissions get busy and stores need restocking, it can be very tempting to just phone it in and go through the motions on a tricky piece. But when I look at the pieces that I’ve completed in the past, I know that anything less than my full attention is not going to live up to my standards. And so I have to push through. But the end result is always worth it!

What’s your favourite London neighbourhood and why?

The Coves. We’ve been fortunate to be living here for the last two years, and it’s this little oasis of nature in the middle of the city. A close second would probably be Pond Mills. I grew up down in Millbank and spent a lot of time as a kid exploring the Ponds. So there’s a lot of great memories down there!

What’s your favourite “hidden gem” in London you think more people should know about?

These might all be food-based! We do our best to #supportlocal, so Pizzeria Madre on Wellington or Vietnam Restaurant on Dundas are regulars in our rotation. And there’s no better way to cap off a great dinner than a Boxcar Donut!

Where can people find your work?

Here in London, I’m proudly on display at the Duck&Dodo Antique and Artisan Market, on Hamilton Road! Tiffany, my beautiful and amazingly supportive girlfriend, is the owner, and she’s crafted a great space here in London for businesses such as mine. 

We also have retail partners in Sarnia, Waterloo, Wiarton, Tobermory, Alliston, Peterborough, Thornbury, Manitoulin Island, Stratford, and Port Stanley! And of course, what maker wouldn’t be complete without an Etsy store

What other London Makers should Londoners check out?

Prickled Pink is a new fellow maker at The Duck, and I’m absolutely blown away by her work. She works in several mediums, but it’s her amazing linocut prints that I just love! Outpost Paddle Co. refinishes paddles into statement pieces for your home. 

Can I do one more? How about an honorary Londoner? A great childhood friend of mine is now living in Dundas, but he’s the genius artist and creator behind Peanut Butter & Friends. After working as an animator for many years, he makes some amazingly awesome greeting cards based on his unique and quirky art style. 

Connect with Cardtography

Feature photo courtesy of Cardtography.

London Makers and Creators is a series from LondonFuse, focusing on the talented artisans who make and sell their work throughout London and area.

Are you or do you know a London maker we should be highlighting? If so, let us know in the comments below or email info@londonfuse.ca to be featured.

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