“Little Boats” of Artist Jake Lever and the Dymaxion Map
Adapted from the original blog posted on leverarts.org.
During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, from November 2020 to the end of 2021, I made tiny boats from wire, tissue paper and gold leaf. I sent them to family and friends as tokens of love and affection when face to face meetings were difficult, or impossible. Inspired by St David who, in 589 AD, urged his followers to “be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things”, they formed a kind of silent, wordless communication, from heart to heart.
Many others participated in the project, ordering boats from me and sending them by post to their families and friends. In all, 350 boats were sent around the UK and to destinations across the world, from San Francisco to Santiago, Manhattan to Myanmar.
For many these boats signified safe passage in times of transition, both traumatic (deaths, relationship breakups and losses of different kinds) and joyful (births, setting up new homes and new relationships). They were sent as golden parcels of love and solidarity when people were unable to physically connect, console or celebrate with each other. An installation of boats was created for the Chapel of Gethsemane at Coventry Cathedral in May 2021, from which one was acquired for the permanent collection of the British Museum.
As these tiny handmade golden vessels made their fragile journeys around the
globe, I was touched that so many wanted to keep faith in the beautiful, delicate, hidden spiritual connections that they treasured with people who felt so very far out of reach. Miraculously, all of the boats reached their destinations and a number of people wrote to me with explanations for their voyages, others sending through photos of the boats in their new homes and details of their destinations.
As a second phase of the project, I decided to hand-print and gild with gold leaf a large (3 metre wide) map to show where participants sent their little boats. Following research into a number of map projections, the Buckminster Fuller Institute have granted me permission to use the copyrighted Dymaxion Projection, a map developed by Fuller in 1946 and then hand drawn in 1954 by Japanese architect, Shoji Sadao.
The Dymaxion Projection is the only flat map of the entire surface of the Earth which reveals our planet as one island in one ocean, without any visually obvious distortion of the relative shapes and sizes of the land areas, and without splitting any continents. Fuller believed that finding a way to visualise the whole planet with greater accuracy, humans will be better equipped to address challenges as we face our common future on this fragile planet.
My hope is that the mapping of the ‘Do the Little Things’ voyages on to this elegant, thought provoking map projection will illuminate a positive story of human connection during the pandemic and promote reflection on the precariousness of all the other unseen, undervalued threads that exist between us and other living beings.