Mark Armstrong Peddigrew’s connection to maps began the day he was born – his initials are M.A.P. Wanderlust took hold shortly after and to date he’s visited over one hundred fifty cities in thirty plus countries, collecting items along the way. Eventually, many of those items became part of his successful jewelry line, cartography40n74w.
I spoke with Mark about his current and upcoming collections, and his inspiration in the form of everything from music and travel to E.E. Cummings and ex-lovers.
Tell me a little bit about your jewelry and the transition from simply collecting items to starting a successful business.
I must give credit to my friend Kevin Beisler for insisting that I make a business out of my hobby. I had collected these charms for quite a while, amassing a healthy stock from weekly visits to the garage antique market in Chelsea (since closed). Occasionally, I’d put a few of them on a chain for a night out. Kevin saw one of my makeshift creations at a party and asked me to make one for him. Being the ever-savvy businessman, he said there was something there, something waiting to happen, and four years later here I am – and there he is, receiving a 10% fee.
Shortly after that conversation, I went on the road for my first major tour with musician Rufus Wainwright and used the opportunity to seek out flea markets, meet vendors, and build a collection of the coolest and most handsome bits I could find, always with the intention of coming home and starting a side project.
Touring is a great way to travel the world, but the predetermined and often hectic schedule don’t always allow for freedom to go off the beaten path.
Rufus doesn’t leave much ground uncovered. I traveled with him on and off for three years and in that time I went to 30+ countries and over 150 cities. Lots I would return to, and a few I wouldn’t. He loves antiquing as much as I do, so it was regularly on his list of things to do on a day off. One place we didn’t get to visit was Argentina, so that will probably be my next big trip.
Outside of touring, how do you decide where to explore and what to seek out?
I’m inspired by movies, books, music, other people – dead and living, those I’m intimate with, and even those I’ve never met. Once in my chosen destination, I just go – go walk, go bike, go drive. I keep going until I can’t go anymore, but then, somehow, I do. Each destination and all the places in between bring their own inspirations: cultures and people, urban sprawls and country fields; they all have their own beauty and their own ugly. And sometimes that’s where the most beautiful things are hidden, in the not-so-pretty.
Inspiration is in the journey, too. I hate airports, but love train stations. There’s something romantic about them. The ones in Europe are amazing, some built with the same reverence as a cathedral, others with the stoicism of bloc nations. I imagine all the roaming writers and musical troubadours who passed through those corridors, rugged and weary, in constant search of something different, something more, even when the “more” is unknown, intangible, and always in the distance. I’ve always been inspired by these storytellers and their earnings. I hope my work conveys something similar. No one knows where these charms have been, who they belonged to, or what they’ve seen.
It’s the intersection of the personal and historical, of history in the self and the self in history. Your jewelry approaches that intersection in a unique and exciting way.
Past lives are a huge force in cartography and I always wonder whose hands held the knives I collect. Was it a little boy carving a tree, a fob at the end of a grandfather’s watch chain, a soldier in the bunker at war? One thing I always collect when I find it is a dance card pen, usually gold, monogrammed, and chained. Women used them at dances in the early 20th century to fill out their dance cards and they are a beautiful nod to the past and the way things were.
Are there any places you haven’t been that you think would offer up some unique items or new inspirations?
I would love to explore Northern Canada – like way up there. I think the art of First Nations people (Canada’s name for Native Americans) is striking, bare, complex, and beautiful – much like the landscape and people from which it comes. So much of their art is wrapped in story and, esthetically speaking, the patterns, sculptures, and jewelry are often quite sexy and masculine.
How do you go about preparing the items you find to become a piece of jewelry?
Even though every necklace in my travelogue series is unique, I wanted an overlying theme to create cohesion and recognition so that someone will know a cartography piece from another chain with random charms. To that end, every necklace is composed of a knife, an animal, a religious medal, a stone, and a token related to travel. This makes finding the exact pieces more difficult, but all the more thrilling when the hunt is successful.
Given that travel is such a unique and personal journey, it’s not surprising that your collection ‘in all the wrong places’ more directly explores your intimate experiences, this time through representations of anatomical hearts. How did you arrive at the starting place for that collection?
That project was inspired by the old flames, flings, and friendships in my life and fittingly, every piece is named after one of these men. The collection is a modern twist on the traditional locket and the first piece I made is called ‘Chad’, which is a heart inside a heart locket. It is a token of appreciation for him and some of the best, most magical times I’ve ever had with somebody, even though it didn’t work out. It grew from the E. E. Cummings poem “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in].” This piece eventually gave way to a flood and all the other pieces in the collection came together instantly. Some were good and some were bad, but they all deal with my attraction to the dichotomies of this romanticized organ and its lethal beauty.
Do you have any collections in the works you can tell us about? Or ideas you’d like to explore?
Next up is a collection called ‘talk to me like the sea’ – inspired by my favorite beaches and port towns. It will feature lots of black diamonds, which I’m pretty stoked about. It’s shiny, which isn’t very much a reflection of me, but also badass, which I like to think is me.
If you could only wear one piece of jewelry for the rest of your life, what would it be?
My great-grandfather’s school ring from 1918. After a family dinner, my grandmother handed me a small box containing the ring and told me its story. My poppy was an amazing man, the quintessential gentleman. He ran the family business until he was ninety-two and spent his free time golfing and curling until about the same age. He even managed to live in his own home until the very end, too, which has a certain dignity about it that I respect. Everything he did was done quietly and understated, with no bravado for his accomplishments. He and my mom had a special bond so he’d join us for dinner every Saturday. He had an awareness about me, knew me better than I knew myself, and when my grandma passed the ring down to me it immediately became my most treasured possession.