bathymetric /ba-thi-ˈme-trik/ of or relating to measurements of the depths of oceans or lakes
What's this all about? ...Here's an introduction to this blog and here's a 30-second overview of the book itself

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thesis in progress...

The book is on hold, but I'm coming back to it!

I realize it has been far too long since I last updated...

I'm currently pushing to finish my master's thesis. I conducted an interview study addressing the use of mapping technology in Wilderness/Wildland Search and Rescue... (in places like Crater Lake National Park!)

If you're intrigued by that topic, you can check out

I'l probably be back to sculptural mapping in a month or so.

Edit: my thesis is available online at

Monday, May 26, 2014

Another Sculptural Lake Map (or: the Reason I Haven't Been Working on This Book)

I recently finished a unique and challenging map design project for the Wisconsin Hoofers, the outdoor clubs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It's another sculptural map of lake depth- this time featuring Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. 

The result is this three-dimensional installation with a magnetic surface, allowing anyone to change the features on the map. Labels can be added to show important features or completely stripped off for a more minimalist presentation. 

Unlike my Bathymetric Book of Crater Lake, this piece greatly exaggerates Lake Mendota's depth relative to its surface area.  Lake Mendota is over 200 square miles in surface area but reaches only about 83 feet at its deepest. 

Just after the map was installed on the wall: 

Here's an example of the map with labels added: 

Further reading about this project: 

 Make Magazine
WOW! I was surprised and excited to be featured on Make magazine's website in this post 

posted June 16, 2014

This wonderful blog post about the finished product from the Wisconsin Union newsletter, Terrace Views

posted June 16, 2014

 Geography Department News
This blog post from UW Communications and the UW-Madison Geography Department news 

posted June 24, 2014

My blog post about the completed project and the design choices that shaped it, posted to the University of Wisconsin Cartography Lab blog.

posted May 27, 2014

My blog post about the process of building the map, also posted to the UW Cartography Lab blog 

posted May 19, 2014

This blog post from the Wisconsin Union, which describes the project at an early stage in the building process. It includes several photos of our initial work with the CNC router, cutting the map pieces out of stock material. 

posted Dec 2, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I'm now in a lull in the development of my Bathymetric Book. This project is embedded in the rest of my life, and most of my other projects have strict and swiftly-approaching deadlines. Although I don't have much time to devote to it at the moment, I am gradually developing the content, collecting options for the final structure and materials, and envisioning my production process. 

In the meantime, here's a look at my current prototype, in which I'm scribbling my thoughts on how it's shaping up: 

This version is laser-cut and bound in folios with a Coptic binding; it has a hard cover and a magnet closure. It lies flat when opened to any page, which is an improvement over my previous binding. I especially like the way the hard cover encases and protects the delicate pages and exposed binding inside. I also like the laser-singed edges.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A New Version

I'm now developing what I call the 'production prototype' of the book-- that is, a version that I can produce repeatedly, consistently and efficiently. I'm re-working aspects of the book's structure and design, always with the heart and soul of the piece in mind: the 3D relief model. 

Looking at the original (handmade) version, here's what I'm modifying:  

1) Cutting method

I need the production version to be machine - cut, rather than cut by hand. There are probably dozens of ways to put holes in paper, including CNC routers, die cutting, digitally-controlled blade cutters, and so on. At this point, I feel that the laser cutter is a great option for me. Thanks to Sector67, I have access to the machine without having to buy it or maintain it myself, and I have great support for learning to use it and troubleshooting.

My laser cutter tests turned out great, and this method should allow me to cut several copies at once.

2) Binding

The hand-made version of the book was bound with a Japanese stab binding, in which holes are punched through the entire stack of pages and a cord is stitched through the holes and around the edges to secure the stack.

The problem with the stab binding is that it restricts my thick, stiff pages and prevents them from flipping open nicely like a book.

I used the stab binding with the original because it was built as a stack of single sheets. I now have the option to re-structure the piece as a stack of folded sheets (folios) and change the binding to allow the book to easily open flat.

I tried out a Coptic Stitch binding today, which allows the book to open completely flat, and it seems to do a good job of keeping each page tightly aligned in the stack. That's essential because keeping the relief model properly aligned is the binding's most important job! 

3) Cover 

I would like to incorporate a hard cover to protect the delicate pages.

4) Content? 

I feel that the book has untapped potential for communicating concept, and what it's lacking is something to keep the reader turning the pages. I think it could tell a story... A story about looking deeper, seeing below the surface, and being captivated by nature's infinite intricacy; about seeing what was unseen, whether through the multibeam scanner that my bathymetric data came from, or through a microscope or a telescope; and about cultivating the sense of wonder that Rachel Carson wrote about, which can foster environmental stewardship.

My next steps include:
  • explore printing methods
  • select a source for buying paper
  • decide on structure and materials for the cover
  • design content

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

After the Conference

On Thursday Oct 10th, I gave a presentation about the Bathymetric Book project at a cartography conference: the NACIS Annual Meeting. Thanks to my pre-presentation jitters, I completely forgot to ask someone to take photos during the talk!  

Despite my nerves, the presentation went very well. I want to extend a huge THANK YOU to everybody who spoke with me about my talk and my project. I feel buoyed by your compliments and excited to share my finished piece with you someday! 

The book was on display in the Map Gallery for the duration of the conference, and I was happy to see many people paging through it. 

This great photo by Dylan Moriarty

For those who are now tuning in thanks to the NACIS conference, this blog is your resource for tracking my project's progress. From these posts, I also hope that you can learn from my process, see my challenges and insights as broadly applicable, and perhaps even be inspired to implement your own creative and novel ideas.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Imminent Inspiration!

Maya Lin's book Boundaries arrived in the mail the day before yesterday...  

As I mentioned in my post on the inspiration behind my original book, the little I've seen of Maya Lin's work really resonates with me. 

Bathymetric Book Meets Laser Cutter

I am now exploring options for creating my "production prototype," or an easily reproduced version of the book. I'm figuring out the tools, the materials, and the process that will ultimately create my edition. This summer, I expanded both my toolbox and my support network by joining a local makerspace/hackerspace called Sector67My monthly membership dues give me access to a wide variety of tools, including a laser cutter, along with the guidance of experienced users. 

Because the hand-cutting was the most time and labor-intensive aspect of the original, I worked to replace that step first... by creating a a laser-cut draft of the book. This draft makes two important modifications from the original version: 
  • It is machine-cut, instead of hand-cut, which dramatically reduces the time and effort required to cut the contours. 
  • It is laid out in folios, or folded sheets, instead of flat single sheets, which allows me to change the binding, letting the book's pages open more easily.  
To implement these changes, my proficiency in software came into play again. 

I took my original bathymetric contours and laid them out in a double-wide sheet with the normal contour shapes on the right side and their mirror image on the left. This allowed for the change in the binding structure. 
I exported consecutive pairs of contours to 
the file format that the laser cutter accepts, enabling the machine to do the cutting for me. I even included the edges of each sheet to be laser-cut, eliminating any precise alignment of the paper on my part.
Although it may seem very streamlined when I present my step-by-step procedure, real life wasn't quite so smooth. Even with excellent guidance from the Sector 67 staff, I was completely new at this, so mistakes were made. I exported these files many, many times (manually selecting the correct lines for each file again and again) before getting every setting right. 

Finally, my files were uploaded to the cutter. I hit 'Start' and watched the laser work. 

Each large sheet of drawing paper accommodated four double-wide pages for the book, each of which would be folded in half to form a folio. This time, I cut each large sheet separately and only created one copy, but the laser is capable of cutting multiple stacks of paper. I'm confident that I could lay out and cut 5 or more copies of the book in one laser pass. 

Before the sheets were folded, half of the contours 
appeared on the left and half on the right.  

After folding, the folios stack up:

I'm really happy with the results of the laser cutting test. It does char the edges of the paper, but I think my design could accommodate this effect.  The cutter executes the detail more precisely than I could ever do with my Exacto knife, and the intricacy is fascinating. 
After the files were ready, the cutting took minimal effort, AND most impressively, the cutting took only four minutes of laser-firing time! 

It's very exciting, as well as reassuring, to have this test run go so smoothly. 

Making it all possible, Sector 67 has been an invaluable resource for me. Chris, the founder of the organization, has been generous with his time and spot-on with his advice as I learn to use the laser cutter.  At the monthly meetings, I have found a welcoming audience; attendees have offered great questions, solutions, and publicity opportunities. 
I have certainly felt a boost being surrounded by the 'maker's attitude' within the group, helping me believe from the moment I walked in with my project that it can be done, and that the entire place exists for people like me with projects like mine.