Home & Garden

Southern-Made Maps Blend Old-World and New

Modern digital technology meets hand-drawn art

photo: Margaret Houston

For many people today, maps are purely utilitarian: plug points into your mobile phone or car info-screen, and receive automated instructions for traveling from point A to point B. But maps mean much more to Travis Folk, the founder of New World Cartography in Green Pond, South Carolina. “Southerners know and appreciate history,” he says, “and many maps of today lack the hand-colored allure of those created in the nineteenth century.”

Folk comes by his appreciation naturally. His father worked in forestry and wildlife management, so hand-drawn topographical maps were always around the house. By the time Folk joined the family business, cartography had morphed into an entirely digital affair—and lost a little of its magic.

In 2014, he dreamed up the idea to launch a map-making company that specializes in blending modern digital technology with hand-drawn art. “Our works draw on that historic allure to create originally designed maps for the twenty-first century,” he says. First, Folk studies existing maps and visits the chosen site, then uses computer-aided design to produce a printed map of the given location and subject—Revolutionary and Civil War fortifications of Charleston Harbor, for example. Then Johns Island, South Carolina, artist Tony Waters adds hue with watercolor or colored pencil, and intricate legends. Finally, Mark Seigler, a third-generation woodworker in Walterboro, South Carolina, crafts custom frames from salvaged Southern woods, from cypress to maple.

Folk and his team produce several standard maps, from a wonderfully rendered map of the boroughs of Charleston, South Carolina, to the 1861 cotton plantations of Hilton Head Island. Next up, Folk will release a map of the Caribbean he has been working on for months. “I love appreciating the nuances of a landscape,” he says. “That education is what I thrive on.”

Prints start at $316 unframed; custom cartography is also available for any tract of land to which a client feels a strong connection. To peruse the standard maps in the New World Cartography collection or commission a custom work, click here.