DAME Judi Dench is just one of the famous people around the world who have commissioned South Freo’s Sara Drake to create a unique and stunning 3D map.
Super bright and colourful, her creations are like some technicolour universe halfway between a 1960s kids TV show and a Wes Anderson film, with sculpting, painting, cartography, model making and a dash of storytelling.
Drake says there’s a whole bunch of odds and sods that go into her beautiful and slightly haphazard creations.
“I use a huge range of materials – both new and recycled and, a bit like a womble, I can frequently be found head-first in a skip, digging for special treasure on the beach or repurposing other people’s rubbish into miniature people and buildings,” she says.
“I’m always looking for new and interesting materials and techniques to experiment with.
“Most of the map details are carved from balsa wood or recycled insulation foam and people, birds and animals are made from beads and wire. Kangaroos bounce around on old telephone wires and penguins swim in a sea full of broken windscreen glass…”
Born in the UK, Drake’s love of maps can be traced back to a nomadic youth where she grew up in Hong Kong and travelled extensively in Asia, Australia and Europe as a teenager.
Her first map was created as part of her degree show at Art College in London, and when she was studying furniture design at Central St Martins she discovered that Victorians made all sorts of things from papier-mâché, including chairs and carriages.
So for her final show at college she combined her two passions and created a rudimentary globe, depicting all the places she had travelled, which was “way more popular than any of my conventional pieces of furniture.”
Soon she was receiving commissions for maps and globes, and her career began to literally take off with trips all over the world for clients.
“I once drove halfway across Europe with all my materials in a clapped-out van, to make a giant world map for an International School in Milan,” Drake says.
“The kids were obsessed with the Soccer World Cup, which was being hosted by Italy at the time, so it was a great way of hooking them in and teaching them about all the places around the world, where the teams came from.”
Now heavily in demand from worldwide clients, including everyone from dame Judi Dench to Melville Council, there can be a waiting list of up to a year for her work.
“Biggest local map so far was for the City of Melville – a huge map of the Swan River
and Canning River and all the activities that take place in and on the water – music festival at Point Walter, rowing on the Canning River etc all with a panoramic view of the City in the background,” she says. “It involved about five months of work and hundreds of hours of making miniature people, boats and houses (it’s now part of their permanent art collection and frequently moves between local libraries).
“I’ve also made some pretty big world maps – most of which (ironically) get sent overseas, to clients in Europe and North America. Most of my work is made to commission for private individuals and the maps are specifically designed to reflect their own travels, interests and favourite places.”
But despite her global appeal, Drake is a South Freo girl at heart and loves documenting the beauty on her doorstep.
“I especially love making maps of Freo and will even have a map of South Beach Freo on display at the show,” she says.
Sara Drake’s solo exhibition A world of your own, featuring her hand-crafted maps, is at the new Doghouse gallery in South Fremantle from November 26 – December 5. Exhibition open daily 10am-4pm.
By STEPHEN POLLOCK