Custom Map Art Paper Places

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One of the best things about working with paper and digital cutting machines, is that I can offer really affordable customization. In addition to over 100 already-designed Paper Places, I can create a custom Paper Place of just about any part of the world!

I’ve had the honor of creating some special custom pieces for folks this summer.

A one-of-a-kind map of a special island in South Korea

a framed map of the island of Jeju in South Korea, labeled "Jeju-do"

Islands are one of the most interesting types of geography to make a custom map for! Islands tend to be visually interesting because the boundaries of an island are determined by the environment and not politics. My maps of islands off the coast of Maine and New England have always been popular since they’re such common vacation destinations, and hold a lot of special memories for folks. This island off the coast of South Korea, Jeju, holds special meaning for a family I met at an event this spring. I was excited to make this map at a larger 11×14 frame size so that the details of the coastline really get to shine.

A custom format for South Portland, Maine

a piece of white paper with a map of south portland, Maine cut out to reveal a red background, with a ruler for scale along the left side

Sometimes customization is more about the format than the design. This map of South Portland is the same design as the smaller version I make, but it was commissioned at a larger size to match some other artwork the client already had. I typically work from digital artwork and use a computerized cutting machine to cut the final paper. This piece was too large for my machine, so I figured out how to cut it by hand! I know there’s a long and storied history of folks cutting paper by hand, but this was my first real adventure into that process, and I learned so much. I have so much respect for the artists who can create beautifully intricate paper art by hand.

Heading across the pond to Oxford, England

I met two geography professionals at an event a few weeks ago, and we spent some time nerding out about different map data formats and software. These are things I knew nothing about before I started making maps! My first few custom orders were for cities and towns near me in Boston, MA, and it was reasonably straightforward to find the data I needed. As I’ve fielded requests for more far-flung custom orders I’ve had to learn more about the geographic data world! This map of Oxford, England was a delight to make, and I enjoyed figuring out how to include the River Thames since it’s such an important part of the city.

a picture of a blue map of Oxford, England in a black frame

Commission your own custom map art

Curious about having your own map made? Whether you’re looking for a unique gift, or a way to display a place that is meaningful to you, I can make that happen! If you know exactly what you’re looking for, simply head on over to the Custom Paper Place listing in my shop, choose your options, and I’ll get started right away! I am also happy to answer any questions about the process or the possibilities–feel free to get in touch via the form on my contact page.

Realtors®: Three reasons map art is the best real estate closing gift

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a black frame with a blue map of boston

Every home buying journey is different, and you’ve seen it all. Some houses are easy to move, some clients are easy to please, and sometimes everything is challenging! One way to make sure that your clients feel cared for, and will call you again the next time they need to buy or sell a property, is to make sure you have a solid plan in place to keep them engaged. A core part of that strategy is giving a closing gift that is specific, unique, and that reminds them of you long after all the paperwork is signed and the moving boxes are unpacked. Here are three reasons map art is the best closing gift:

1. Pride of Place

Your client has selected their new home for all sorts of reasons. Of course things like the number of bathrooms and how updated the kitchen is are factors, but most people also really care about their neighborhood amenities and the character of their city or town. Some clients want two bathrooms AND a good school district. Or maybe they’re looking for a dining room AND a quiet back yard to look out on? Some want high ceilings AND access to all the best shops and restaurants right outside.

Gifting artwork that celebrates the location your client has chosen means that you know they’re a fan! You don’t have to guess if they’re into red wine or white wine. Imagine: no more wondering which sports team they’d appreciate tickets to see, which scents they might be allergic to, or whose name they might want engraved.

You already know how they feel about the place they’ve just moved to: they’re thrilled.

someone holding up a framed map of Camberville, MA (Cambridge and Somerville)

2. Top of Mind

Paper Places are framed, custom artwork designed to be displayed. You can be fairly confident that your gift will be hung on a wall or styled on a bookshelf, because that’s what it’s designed to do. It won’t be eaten, used up, or stashed in a cabinet somewhere for special occasions.

A gift that remains visible in the home is a gift that keeps you top of mind whenever the subject of real estate comes up. This is true whether it’s friends they might refer to you or their own future real estate needs. When they remember that your contact information is conveniently included on the back of the frame, the deal is sealed.

Imagine your client saying “Thanks! My Realtor® gave it to me!” every time they have guests over who compliment the Paper Place hanging in their beautiful new kitchen. Now that is the best closing gift!

A framed gray and white map of Florence, AL on a white mantle

3. The Feel-Good Factor

Each Paper Place is crafted, customized, and framed by hand in Arlington, MA. Your purchase directly supports a small, woman-owned business. As an independent artist, I am able to offer a range of customization and done-for-you gifting options so that you have less to worry about.

Your client will feel cared for and known because of the thoughtfulness of your gift, but they also know that you care about local economies and small businesses. Shopping small also means that you receive the kind of personalized, responsive service that you offer your clients every day. 

a shelf with some plants and paper places map art on it

Artist Abigail McMurray holding a coffee cup in front of a computer

Hi, I’m Abigail! I created Paper Places as a way to celebrate the shapes of the places we live and the places we love. Sometimes those are the same, and sometimes they’re different! Every place is special to someone and I try to honor that. 

You can customize Paper Places in various ways: add a place marker (or markers) to highlight specific locations, or request a custom Paper Place of a town, city, lake, river, or other area. Anything is possible: I can also combine multiple locations, or show how different places are connected.

Get a coupon for free shipping on your first Paper Places order, and receive a quarterly email with gifting tips and inspiration. Unsubscribe at any time.

Get in touch with Abigail for more details on done-for-you gifting, bulk discounts, customization options, etc.

2022 in Review: House Portraits, Vermont, and Camberville, MA

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house portrait components on a blue watercolor background

Happy New Year! 2022 was a banner year for this paper-centric corner of the Internet, though I might be biased as I consider making it through the year sufficient cause for banners! In no particular order, here are some things I’m marveling at and/or celebrating as I reflect on the year past:

Paper Places

I added over 30 new places to my collection of Paper Places this year! Some nearby (I see you, Quincy, MA!), some bodies of water (a whole new sort of place!), a whole bunch of new places in and around Burlington, VT, and I finally added a few state maps as well! There are now right around 100 Paper Places for you to choose from, and they are even mostly actually available on my website (no small feat if you’ve been around for a while)!

That said, there was a very strong, very clear favorite Paper Place across all of my sales, in person and online:

A black frame with a green map of Camberville, MA (Cambridge and Somerville, MA)

Do you have a Camberville? Are you feeling left out now? Even I am wondering why I don’t have one hanging up in my house somewhere! Camberville, of course, also isn’t really even a place – it’s a mashup of Cambridge, MA (on the bottom) and Somerville, MA (on the top). So many people bounce between the two during their time in the Boston area that sometimes it’s easier to shorten/combine, but there’s also a really unique neighborhood that sort of runs along the line between the two cities – this neighborhood is scrappy, full of special small, local businesses, and also really confusing to park in without getting a ticket from one city or the other! It’s basically the best.

Custom Paper Places

I created 15 custom paper places this year for all sorts of folks, including Realtors who needed unique client gifts, gifts for people who “have everything”, and folks whose favorite places I hadn’t made quite yet. While there weren’t any international commissions in 2022, I did make custom maps for places in 5 different states. There was one cemetery, one island, one tiny neighborhood, one special section of the South Carolina coastline, and even one company logo! I didn’t manage to photograph everything, but here are some images from this year’s custom orders:

Custom House Portraits

This was a slower year for house portraits than I’ve had in the past, for various reasons. If you take a look through the photos below, you’ll see one of the obvious reasons… My obsession with tiny details has carried me to a pretty ridiculous/gorgeous place!

a paper model of a white house with windows

I partnered with Boston Frame Works starting in March of this year. Now, each finished portrait is professionally framed in a custom, solid-wood frame with museum-quality glass. The frames are gorgeous, and I love that the “packaging” is now handmade, just like the artwork.

a close up of a wooden frame with a paper house portrait in it

I finished two older commissions in the first part of the year with my old framing process. With a clean slate in March, I finished another 5 before the end of the year. I have one more portrait nearly finished as of this writing – this last one is special as it’s a house I consider a friend (along with the folks who live in it). I’m finding that it’s taking even longer than my normally long time to finish. Oops! Grateful for patient friends!

I also had the opportunity to create two House Portrait Silhouette commissions this year, and I’ve been delighted to continue exploring this new style of portrait. I hope to make more of these this year!


Of course none of this would be possible without you, yes you. You and all the folks like you who do things like read long blog posts, open the monthly email newsletter I send, follow along with my whims and silliness on Instagram, show up to local art markets, support local businesses wherever you are, and care about things made of paper. Thank you! Thank you so much. It’s been almost 9 years since I started making things out of paper and hoping folks would like them enough to want to take them home with them, and I still can’t quite believe that this is my job!

I’m already up to my elbows in new plans and ideas for 2023, along with lots of tiny bits of paper, but only time will tell what will be on next year’s year in review! I hope you’ve found something to be excited for in the year to come. If it involves paper, and there’s a way I can help, let me know!

A hand holding a framed map of Walden Pond up to a blue sky with a big leafy tree in the background

Custom Places in Paper

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a white wall with a black frame hanging on it

From the beginning, my favorite part of crafting Paper Places is the potential for customization. I started by finding map data for the towns around where I live and creating Paper Places for those areas. It is delightful to share my work at a local art market event and have conversations with folks about which towns look interesting, which ones have boring shapes, and what color would look best for a map of Boston in a living room/bathroom/kitchen/bedroom/office.

The other most common conversation I had in that situation was “Do you have [insert random place here]?” So I decided to create custom maps of any place you can dream up. That decision has led me (via map data) around the country to California, Virginia, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, Alaska, and more. I’ve even created a few Paper Places of spots around Europe!

I’ve learned so much about different areas of the U.S.:

Tucson and LA

I discovered that Tucson, Arizona has a really wild municipal boundary, but I can’t really tell why. I learned that Los Angeles bears a striking resemblance to Pikachu (the tail is an interstate corridor that connects the city to the harbor).

Framed rectangular map of Los Angeles, CA with a gray background and Tucson, AZ with a green background. Black frames hang on a dark gray wall with dramatic lighting from the side.

The Commonwealth of Virginia

To create the custom order below, I became well-acquainted with the coastal islands and rivers of Virginia. I can design Paper Places for states, countries, parks, lakes, etc. – anything with a discrete boundary! I also had fun adding a custom Place Marker to this map of Cape Cod for the same client:

Gray ladder shelf with plants and two framed Paper Places: Virginia with a gray background, and Cape Cod with a yellow background

Heading West and South

The more Paper Places I’ve created further away from New England, the more I realized that I’m lucky I started with little towns like Arlington, MA and Somerville, MA. As you head west and south of New England everything get bigger! The municipal boundaries get pretty intimidating to represent at the scale of an 8×8 or 8×10 piece of paper! I created these gorgeous gray and white custom Paper Places for a client who lives in Fort Worth, TX and grew up in Florence, AL. I carefully simplified the map data for each one to make something that could actually be cut out of paper.

Custom framed paper art map of Florence, AL with a light gray background on a white mantle near a small potted plant
Custom Paper Place showing the city of Fort Worth, TX with a light gray background hanging on a white wall with distressed wood surface below and to the left

As I design and cut out each map I find myself wondering who was responsible for all of the little zigs and zags in the boundaries. I wonder when those decisions were made, by who, and what their reasoning was! Sometimes I find myself getting lost clicking around Google Maps. I want to try to understand why that particular park or neighborhood was excluded, even though I’ll likely never visit that spot.

Maybe I missed my calling as a city planner? I don’t actually think so, but I do wonder what they were thinking sometimes!

How to order a custom Paper Place

Once you have a place in mind, all you need to do is fill out this easy customization form and place your order! You’ll hear from me in 1-2 business days to finalize any details and review the custom mockup illustration with you. Here are some examples of different mockups:

A collection of digital mockups of custom paper places, including Madison, NJ, Provincetown, MA, Seattle, WA, Isle of Palms, NC, Menlo Park, CA and Paris, France

This is a digital illustration that shows roughly what the finished product will look like. The colors and shadows aren’t true to life. They’re meant to give a general impression so you can decide if you like the design.

I created this map of Hamburg, Germany with specific attention to the rivers across the city, and the lake in the middle of the city. We finalized the design via the mockup on the left, and this is how the finished product turned out!

Make a Mark (on a map) – New Custom Map Markers on Paper Places

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Hand holding a place marker in front of a custom Paper Place framed map art

A friend commissioned some custom maps for family members around the holidays last year. He also asked if I could add some sort of indicator of where the family members homes were in each town. This was something I had thought of a few times over the years, but never actually sat down to figure out. This time, I figured it out!

A few months ago, I added the option to include a place marker when you order any Paper Place, or custom Paper Place, from my website. Etsy doesn’t make it easy to add this sort of customization, so this feature is only available here at right now.

Add a Map Marker

Screenshot of website interface to choose Place Marker Style and address.

In order to add a marker to your map, first choose the map you’d like to customize! Once you’re on the product page, scroll down to the “Place Marker Style” option and choose the design you’d like for your marker. Indicate the address of the location you’d like to mark, add the map to your cart, and you’re good to go!

Framed map of Medford, MA with a heart-shaped place marker indicating the location of the customer's home.
Framed map of Medford, MA

This map of Medford, MA was the first map ordered with the new options, and such a great color choice!

Make your own Paper Place

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Packaged Make Your Own Paper Place kit on a desk

Have you ever noticed how places are always an important part of the story? Whether the story is a fairy tale, a fable, or what happened Tuesday afternoon, there’s always a setting. Over time, you collect places that are important to your story, whether that’s a home, a park, a school or campus, an office, a restaurant, a town, a state, a region, a country, or all of the above. My work is about celebrating places, and I love to do that by preserving memories of them with paper – something that is everywhere, and usually so ephemeral and fragile, but cut and sculpted and framed becomes an heirloom.

The video tutorial shows how to use my Make Your Own Map Shadowbox Kit (available for now exclusively through, which contains all of the supplies you need to, well, make your own map shadowbox! The kit includes:

  • Instruction booklet
  • Shadowbox Frame
  • Paper for the map cut-out as well as the background
  • Japanese Woodcarving Knife (for cutting the paper)

You will also need:

  • A prying tool or old credit card
  • A pencil or other drawing tool
  • Optional: collage materials like glue, additional paper colors or textures, photographs, memorabilia

The funny thing about remembering and celebrating places, is that they then become part of the story of the place you are now. If you’d like to share your paper places online, tag @yeioupaperobjects on Instagram, and use #yeioupaperplaces!

The story of yeiou paper places

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Three framed paper places on a wall near a potted plant

I started making Paper Places in the summer of 2019. I had already started making house portraits, and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to make enough of them to keep my business afloat. The idea came to me sort of abruptly and at the last minute. It was the night before a craft fair I was participating in nearby in Somerville, MA. I made a few maps of Somerville and some of the surrounding towns, working into the early morning hours the night before the event.

The next morning, I hung them up with my other work to see what would happen!

The yeiou paper objects booth popped up at Art Beat in Somerville, MA
My booth at Art Beat 2019, Davis Square, Somerville, MA.

Throughout the day I had a lot of fun conversations about how weirdly-shaped places are! I sold a few, swapped out some background colors, and generally felt encouraged.

When designing my Paper Places, I focused on making them in a way that felt clean and modern. I designed them to be easy to hang on a wall in a grouping without looking weird. Pulling from the bright color palette of my paper craft kits, I offered a bunch of different color options. Once I had all of that, I focused my efforts on adding new place designs. It turns out there are a LOT of places in the Boston area, let alone the world!

Nine maps of Boston neighborhoods: Back Bay, South End, Mattapan, Roxbury, Brighton, Roslindale, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, and Hyde Park
A few of the many neighborhoods of Boston, MA.

Custom Paper Places

I very quickly realized that I could never keep up with all of the requests for new places, nor could I reasonably predict which places people might want! In order to fill that gap, I added the option to order a custom-designed Paper Place! It’s been fun over the years to make gifts for parents, siblings, children, real estate clients, and friends, near and far.

Nov. 2019, one of my last in-person events before Covid lockdown – so many Paper Places!