Erstwhile, an artful restorer of vintage maps, knows that design nous goes best with a pioneering spirit.
For Dirk Baetzold, maps spark the power of imperfect beauty as much as our desire to explore. Late last year, the designer and founder of Erstwhile started scouring antique stores, libraries and historical archives for 1930s Australian topography, botanical illustrations from Germany and weathered charts that conceal jewelled riffs on the British Isles, before restoring them in his Rushcutter’s Bay apartment.
“It’s hard not to be fascinated with old maps and charts,” says Baetzold. “Those artworks come out of a time when every mountain range, flower bloom or descriptive text was drawn by hand. There’s a real beauty to the manual creation of those artworks complete with all their quirks.”
There’s something of the 18th century pioneer to Baetzold’s own process. Sourcing maps everywhere from the British Library to the University of Miami, he then sets about tracking down the copyright owner and securing the rights to republish the artworks. He also donates five per cent of all proceeds to the Vera Historical Fund, a Newcastle-based organisation dedicated to preserving regional heritage.
“It was quite a pragmatic decision for us as they provided us with our very first artworks,” he says. “Erstwhile started with their help. I think it’s important to preserve history, both regional and general. If you know where you’re coming from, you understand where you’re about to go.”