Architecture is the study of buildings in regard to a specific period, place, or culture; mapping is the spatial interpretation of the world around us. Fuse the two arts, and you get Studio KMO, located in Charlotte, NC. Owned and operated by licensed architect/artist Karen M. OLeary, OLeary shares her love of city, traveling, and beauty out of the ordinary with others through her work.
Born in Seoul, Korea, OLeary traveled to the United States as a child and grew up in Pennsylvania. After finishing high school, she pursued Architecture at Virginia Tech. Graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture with a Minor in Public and Urban Affairs, OLearys love of place coalesced into map making.
As an expert paper cutting artist, OLeary specializes in modern maps, modern versions of the typical street maps. Navigational maps are so hard to read because they are full of too much information, explains OLeary. My maps remove all of the unnecessary and leave only the valuable information of a citys urban plan.
Inspired by urban environments, OLeary understands that every city has a story to tell. By replacing the common with something more beautiful, OLeary enables others to appreciate what comes naturally to her. The process is simple in style but tedious in execution, says OLeary. I use x-acto blades for the hand cut maps and ink pens for the ink drawings. Then there are erasers, and time, lots of time.
Even though the work is intricate and time consuming–larger map cuts taking anywhere from 60-80 hours to complete–OLeary loves her work. I am fortunate to spend my days (and most nights) at the drafting table. As Im working on a piece, I get to study the streets and learn all of the features of each city. I love being able to compare the different cities on paper and then, when Im traveling, I have a better grasp for how the cities were planned.
Its important for OLearys work to be precise and to scale. Using published maps as a reference, OLeary painstakingly draws, cuts, and creates maps that capture the beauty found in everyday objects. As of right now, OLeary has over forty cities in the hand-cut mapcut collection and over seventy cities in the city print collection. Her first ink drawing was of Paris and remains her favorite. Its visually the most graphic, and the streets are iconic, explains OLeary. The most tedious piece she has done is the London mapcut measuring 30 x 22. Due to Londons age and its growth over the centuries, streets are irregular and dense. London is truly unlike any other city I’ve ever seen, says OLeary.
Of the many city maps she has not yet attempted, OLeary is excited to one day create maps of Brooklyn, Seoul, and Sienna, Italy. Besides maps already in her collection, OLeary also takes custom commissions for original ink drawings and for hand-cut maps.
Customers can view her current collection at www.studiokmo.etsy.com or contact OLeary direct at email@example.com. Originals range from $175-$1400. More affordable postcards and prints are available from $3-$35. OLearys work can be seen across the world: The Cosmopolitan Hotel, Las Vegas, Nike Retail Store, Scottsdale, AZ, Hyatt Hotel guestrooms, New Orleans, LA, Four Seasons Hotel Restaurant, Washington, DC, Geo Graphic Book (released 2013), MORE Magazine (Dec 2012), major motion picture Premium Rush (2012), Shelbourne Museum Exhibit (May 2012), Papercraft 2 Book (April 2011), AIA SF Architecture + The City Festival Artwork (2011), Nisha Design Magazine (Jan 2010), plus thousands of private residences.