When Beck Wheeler set out to find an interesting and educational world map for her 3 year old nephew, she quickly realised that there was nothing suitable to buy off the shelf.
“A lot of the illustrated maps I saw had characters standing in the ocean or illustrated elements floating in the middle of the sea,” says Beck, an illustrator, children’s book author and designer of children’s toys. “It was important to me to have the illustrative elements confined to land masses as it helps to communicate to kids the difference between land and water.”
Beck decided to create her own map, which has been specifically designed with preschoolers in mind. It took many hours of research and was no easy feat.
Beck started by creating a long list of national dress, animals and flowers for each country. She then decided which items to draw depending on how much space she had in each land mass. Each item was sketched first, then rendered in vector so it was scalable and could be printed at any size.
We asked Beck which country has most captured her imagination throughout many years of international travel.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, she lists Japan. Partly due to the Japanese peoples’ love of character design and how it’s woven into everyday life, but also because of the great food, plum wine and onsen baths.
“My favourite memory of my travels there is when I hiked on Yakashima Island after doing an artist residency in Itoshima,” recalls Beck. “Yakashima is a subtropical island off the southern coast of Kyushu and is covered by a massive cedar forest which contains some of Japan’s oldest living trees.
“The scenery of Yakashima was the inspiration of one of Studio Ghiblis’ animated movies Princess Mononoke. My favourite memory from that trip was doing the 13 hour hike to Jōmon Sugi, a tree that is said to be 7,000 years old. The scenery was amazing. It’s a very magical place.”