If you've got avid travelers on your gift list this year, or just armchair ones, consider getting them a custom map. Maps of favorite places might commemorate special trips or experiences, and can appeal to any age or gender.
Map Your Travels, in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, has some options. One of its maps shows all the national parks, with pins to chart your visits.
"We had one family who had kept track of all the parks they'd visited together over the years, and then gave a map to each of their five kids, so the next generation could map their national park visits," said Nancy Spangrud of Map Your Travels.
For the sports-loving family, the studio has a map of the country's ballparks, past and present. Use the colored pins to mark parks, stadiums and favorite places. Local artist Julie May does the artwork, and a Wisconsin cartographer designs the world maps. Each map is printed on archival paper and mounted on foam core; a wood frame completes each one. (www.mapyourtravels.com )
Australian industrial designer Tom Percy crafts 3-D maps out of plywood layers, using modern cartography and surveying techniques, and computer-assisted design technology.
His studio, Pangea Maps, makes topographic maps of coastlines and lakes throughout North America and Australia, as well as custom maps of any seascape or lakeside locale. (www.pangeamaps.com )
Pangea's maps have a monochromatic look, as much artwork as topography.
Percy decided to start the mapmaking business after he gave his first one to his dad on Father's Day.
"He began tracing the coastline with his finger to find our home, and then the beaches and waterways we frequented as I was growing up. He was so intrigued by the process, and loved seeing the intricacies of the ocean floor and river system," Percy says. "My dad's normally pretty quiet, so to see him light up with memories and hear stories of the places he loves was the best reaction I could have asked for."
He says one client had recently moved her mother into a residential care home, and had Percy create a Pangea map of the family's lakeside cabin. The family wrote him to say the map created a calm and peaceful setting for their mom to look at, and was a creative way to help her and visitors recall happy memories of their time at the lake.
If you'd like your 3-D lake map to provide additional geographic information, consider the detailed, colored, birch-wood maps from www.lakehouselifestyle.com .
The Lake Michigan model, for example, situates the waterway on a state map, providing a sense of its enormous size. Points of interest include deepest point and shoreline length.
Maps also may be ordered as printed throw pillows, trays and clocks.
At www.Minted.com , you provide an address and they'll create a custom pigment-print map on acid-free paper. Choose from an array of colors or metallic foils. Pick a city, or zero in on a favorite neighborhood.
New York's Art Prints Vintage studio will create a heart-shaped montage of up to three locations, using scans of vintage maps. The artwork could make a thoughtful shower, wedding, anniversary or long-distance-relationship gift. (www.etsy.com/shop/ArtPrintsVintage )
For adventuresome friends or loved ones, consider one of Amelia Gier's collages of maps assembled to look like mountain peaks. Choose any four places. The Duvall, Washington, artist also offers maps cut into maple leaf (fun for Canadians), diamond or bird shapes.
"We have a vast resource of maps," she says, "so even small towns are no problem most of the time." (www.etsy.com/shop/AGierDesign )
Craft beer aficionados might like a Baltic birch map of the U.S. with cut-out holes to display memorable brews from one's travels. (www.uncommongoods.com )
And Portland, Maine, artisans John and Charlotte Guptill will craft a key ring for you that immortalizes a favorite location in resin and brass, tethered to a bungee cord. They also make cufflinks, pendants, wine stoppers and paperweights. (www.chartmetalworks.com )