An interview with Liam Roberts
Meet Liam, the man behind the Brixton Tree, a self confessed map geek and a whole lot more besides. When Liam isn't creating imaginative maps, he travels the world and is now a published author. Check out his new travelogue, A Eurasian Diary.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Can you recall how and why you became a maker?
I’m a British-Canadian guy who’s been in London for ten years now, and have come to consider it home (or, at least one of many homes!).
I think I’ve always tried to make things of one type or another, but it’s almost always in two dimensions – I’m a big lover of photography, mapmaking and the written word too. Creating anything in three dimensions is obviously too much for me.
What are your inspirations and what influences your work?
When I first moved here, one of the things I was actually most excited about was the chance to hang out in Stanfords Map Shop in Covent Garden. I’d go there a couple of times a month, just to glory in three floors of maps illustrating every corner of the world. Three floors! So I’m probably a map geek first and foremost.
But, in time, I became much more interested in the maps that hadn’t been drawn yet. I started making my own, playing with different projections and colours and materials, to try and get at how far you can push a map before it starts being sort of, well, not a map.
These days, I’ve been enjoying making maps that are very illustrative, and more experiential or fantastical in what they’re covering. Always purely subjective – not recommended for navigation!
What is the process?
It often starts from various imaginings about the community – what it looks like to me now, or what it might look like in some alternative universe. “London culture” has all sorts of particular icons – its pubs, the Tube and the Thames, to start with. Those were all starting points for me on various illustrations – to explore ways you might render and navigate different things that are iconic, but in forms we’re not used to.
I’m interested in fantasy urban planning too (oh, the daydreams I dream!), so am starting to look at some new work along those lines. We've heard about the Brixton Masterplan to redevelop a whole swathe of the local area – when thinking about the impact of that, I wonder, what different kinds of masterplans might have been drawn up sixty or seventy years ago? What kind of Brixton would we have today? Would we recognise it?
What do you enjoy most about being a maker?
It’s hugely satisfying to take a completely imagined concept and make it real (at least on paper). One of the things I’ve found is that map-geekery is a pretty big religion, so I've felt supremely lucky to be able to share some of these ideas with mappy fellow travelers!
Check out Liam's creations here in our online shop, and follow the latest from Liam on Twitter @liamtyping