An accidental map-making journey

March 3, 2023 BY

Melinda and Deborah's next project is The Portarlington Map, which is now on the drawing board with an anticipated finish date in the second half of 2023.

Melinda Clarke’s “accidental” map-making journey began around the mid-1980s after returning from backpacking through Europe and the USA.

Having collected some beautifully illustrated maps as souvenirs, she looked for one of her home town, only to discover that none existed, and so began the long journey of creating one.

A chance meeting with Deborah Young set the two on a fabulous adventure, mainly working nights and weekends for four years in a garage.

The pair took over 7,000 reference photos on a 35mm camera – many of them from a hot air balloon.

Their first map of Melbourne was published in 1990.

It was both a work of art and a technical representation that went on to adorn the walls of offices and loungerooms across Melbourne, Australia and to map collectors around the globe.

Life and family and a move to the Bellarine filled 25-odd years in between until Melinda decided to revive the project and create an up-to-date version incorporating the considerable changes to Melbourne’s skyline during that period.

Now armed with digital technology, Melinda engaged Geelong artist Lewis Brownlie, who spent two and half years at the easel to complete the line drawing of this mammoth Melbourne art piece.

Deborah remained an active contributor to the project, and her character illustrations were incorporated in the final artwork, which Portarlington local Sean Rodwell later coloured.

Melinda Clarke and Deborah Young


A business decision in 2019 to invest in a container of Melbourne Map jigsaws (produced in New Zealand) was serendipitous as the country went into lockdown in 2020, and jigsaws returned to the family table.

A whole new generation discovered the joys of puzzles, and aided by some great TV, print and online media exposure, The Melbourne Map jigsaw became “the” puzzle to conquer.

Lockdowns over the next two years also enabled Melinda and Deborah to finish a passion project they had already started – The Bellarine Map.

There are now jigsaw manufacturers in Australia, which allows the full suite of map products to be Australian made, and Melinda runs the business from a small studio in Drysdale.

Melinda and Deborah’s next project is The Portarlington Map, which is presently on the drawing board with an anticipated finish date in the second half of 2023.

The maps spark joy in the viewer and send them on a journey of discovery and familiarity.

They serve as a historical keepsake or reminder of a visit, and each map comes with a grid reference and a list of things to try to find.

“All our maps are held in major library collections here and abroad; they’ve won international awards and been published in collectable map books,” Melinda said.

Melinda’s main aim now is to share the map-making and publishing process to ensure that more of these beautiful works are created in the future.

She’s often asked to present talks to libraries, schools, and interest groups.

The range of map products available can be viewed on sign up for the newsletter to keep informed of new projects.

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