Maps and Mappers of the 2022 calendar: Jessica Baker, July

Q: Tell us about yourself:

A: I work at Ordnance Survey which is Great Britain’s national mapping agency, as a Technical Relationship Consultant specialising in GeoDataViz. My 9-5 essentially involves using geospatial data to make maps and visuals for all sorts of things, from national park anniversaries, to big sporting events, and supporting the public sector with responses to national events such as covid.

Outside of work I am also an artist, which is pretty relevant to this map! I make art using all sorts of mediums but especially love printmaking. I picked it up about 2 years ago as a way to get creative outside work and have since launched an online art business which I absolutely love.

I find mapmaking combines two of my favourite things – the outdoors and art – into a lovely geography sandwich. Tasty…

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: My main inspiration for mapping Antarctica in lino was my passion for protecting the polar regions from the climate crisis. They’re warming at drastically faster rates than anywhere else on earth, and as a result are passing environmental tipping points we didn’t even know existed. It’s pretty scary to be honest.

But on a lighter note! I wanted to make this map to show the beauty of Antarctica – which one of my university lecturers described as ‘Earth’s last true wilderness’ owing to its extreme remoteness and lack of human influence. There’s some incredible plants, animals, and geographical processes occurring there and I wanted to highlight them all together and emphasise how much of a unique place it is.

There were two things which tipped me from having the idea to make a map of Antarctica, into actually doing it. The first was a book given to me by my mum, of paintings of Antarctica done by an artist called Edward Seago. The paintings are all quite monochrome, with lots of blue and grey shades. I’m very partial to a monochrome map too, hence why I just used blue ink for this one.

The second and probably most influential factor in this map was a handmade scrapbook I found in the back of a 2nd hand bookshop a few years ago. It was made by the mother of an explorer who went on an expedition to Antarctica, and it’s full of pictures, drawings, letters and scientific reports from the expedition. It’s a very cool book and includes a lot of anecdotal stories which spurred me on to create this map.

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: As I’m sure you can see, this isn’t your typical GIS export map – but the geographer in me wanted to make sure it was still as accurate as it could be. I used data from the website Quantarctica, as well as historic maps of the continent to trace the central map which sits in the middle of the design. As a result it shows real data, and even geographically accurate contours.

In terms of tools used – I used a relief printmaking method which involves carving away from a piece of rubber-y lino using a sharp gouge tool. Because of the level of detail I wanted to include, I knew it would have to be fairly big, and so the design is carved as A3 size and then printed onto A2 paper. The carving was really fiddly at times, but I find the process quite meditative – you can see it being done in action here.

Once the design had been fully carved out of the lino block, I ink it up with a hard roller. It is then hand-printed onto the paper by applying pressure onto the back of the block. It’s quite a manual process, but I haven’t shelled out to buy my own printmakers press just yet!