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Woodcut Maps Blends Technology & Craft to Make Personalized Maps
Remember the exact spot where you fell in love? How about your favorite neighborhood during your last vacation? Thanks to Woodcut Maps, you can commemorate a special place by designing your own wood inlay map and carrying it with you on your iphone (they also have wall designs and are soon to launch coasters). Customers can choose a place on the Woodcut Maps website, select the type of wood for roads, water and parks, and they’ll do the rest.

Catherine Herdlick, owner of Woodcut Maps, unwraps three maps- each in a different stage of production- in her small Northeast Mission studio. Coming from the game design world meant Catherine knew about design (she had experience with place-based design) and knew about monetizing products, but she didn’t know how to use a laser cutter, inlay complex designs, or veneer and sand. So, she asked a local laser cutter, the hardware shop, and read up on the subject.

At first, everything was done by hand. “We’re getting industrial now,” she said while taking out a new vacuum machine and demonstrating one of the last steps of production. “The first few months we had nothing that made sounds.” Catherine and her staff download the CAD file from a customer’s design, select from a number of hardwood veneers, cut out the designs with a laser printer, and then inlay and seal the products together to make a map. They still use local laser cutter, Pagoda Arts for the bigger pieces.
They started with wall art, and soon added iphone cases. In November, Catherine’s staff (one other full-timer and two part time employees doing production) will come up with product pitches and use a guest designer to help brainstorm which new products to take to market.

Part of what draws customers from around the world is the ability to customize each product: markers like houses and storks can be used to indicate special events or places. “One of the benefits of making the product here is that customers can choose to pick up their product at the studio if they’re local,” said Catherine, “and because we spend a lot of time speculating what two hearts mean, or why a place is special to someone, it’s really nice to then be able to ask the customer about their map, and tell them that their map was born here!”

Learn more about Woodcut Maps here: http://woodcutmaps.com/