What neighborhood do you live in?
Tell us about your brand and why it's the best.
A Pittsburgh native, I make handcrafted, highly detailed, wood maps -- bridging data and art through cartography. I try to work with environmentally friendly and natural materials as much as possible - including maple and cherry wood, 100% wool felt, mdf, and cork. Through years of practice, I strive for sophistication - respecting the material and allowing the landscape to speak for itself.
In addition to the maps, I make landmark accessories - stickers, magnets, pins, and keychains. They feature Pittsburgh deep cuts like the Phantom Menace Vending Machine as well as real and novelty signs for things like parking chair etiquette. The collection combines humor with local knowledge - focusing on what’s a little different and unique.
I hope my work can help to deepen connections to a location, encourage new perspectives, instill a sense of place, and celebrate one’s neck of the woods.
What is your background and the story behind why you started?
I moved to Washington state to study sustainable design in 2014 at The Evergreen State college and serendipitously landed in a program centered on fine craft and woodworking. My final project, the first of what would become many wood topographic maps, focused on my interest in cartography, landscape, craft, and a person’s terroir or somewhereness. After graduating, I got a job in Rochester, NY working with aerial imagery and elevation models.
I began my own business - Squirrel Hill Design and Craft - in 2017 and quickly transitioned to working as a full time artistic cartographer / entrepreneur. At the time, I didn’t think I’d get the chance to move back to Pittsburgh, so I named the business after one of my favorite pieces of topography - Squirrel Hill. Everything from the studio is designed and handcrafted in house, thus the “Design and Craft” element of the name. I did craft fairs nearly every weekend until COVID shut them down in 2020. It was then that I had the unexpected opportunity to move back home and started with a new studio space in East Liberty. I have worked to really dig in roots to my favorite city ever since. I started an entirely new collection of Pittsburgh centric work and continue expanding on it today between commissions for maps of anywhere.
In the 50s, my grandma made paper maps by hand for Bell Telephone on a wooden drafting table. My dad has a collection of USGS 7.5″ topographic maps that were treated as precious objects growing up. He has instilled in me a reverence and fascination with the natural world. Turns out, our ancestors were scouts with Daniel Boone. My dad leads hikes and makes exploratory maps, typically more detailed than anything off the rack.
Now, a third generation cartographer growing up in an age of Google Maps and GPS, I have found myself fighting a poor sense of direction. I’m drawn to creating tactile maps, combining GIS data and laser cutting technology with fine craft to cut pieces of wood that I assemble and finish by hand on my grandma’s drafting table. In my spare time I go for walks and drives, noting unique landmarks and waypoints that I look for from different locations to orient myself.
What one product do we need to know about and why?
The Pittsburgh Neighborhoods & Boroughs map is one of my newest pieces - a 151 piece wood puzzle that comes with a clear cover and stand so it can be displayed proudly upon completion. Even though I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, there are many neighborhoods and boroughs that I had not heard of until I began this project. As a kid I was in the eastern suburbs of the city before getting my first apartment in Regent Square. The majority of my friends and family are also in the east end so most of the areas outside there I’m less familiar with.
This puzzle is an excellent remedy to improving on that spatial awareness and familiarity. I can now confidently say that Fairywood is a city neighborhood west of downtown, and Blawnox is a borough on the north shore of the Allegheny River. The combination of a more solid knowledge of this, combined with the belt system, and being able to generally go downhill to a river makes navigating Pittsburgh without a GPS a fun activity instead of a nerve wracking experience. The puzzle has a great replay value as each time the pieces come together more quickly as your knowledge improves.
In three words, why do you love Pittsburgh?
Hometown, roots, geography
How can people find out more about you?