Interview: Thomas Moore
by Angelique Jones
It’s been over 3 months since we were graced with the wonderful creations of lást Maps – an illustration-based startup company offering hand-drawn maps of world-renowned hikes, commissions and brand illustration – and the ball has been rolling ever since.
lást maps was founded and wholly created by artist and Environmental Scientist Thomas Moore, to whom the idea for the brand was conceived during a snowy hike up the Routeburn track in New Zealand’s South Island. On returning back to the UK after some serious adventures including the Canadian Rockies and Bali, Thomas has been keeping himself busy with exciting new projects and more maps to come.
Lást is a creation from the heart and you can really see it in the work, as each map dedicates itself not only to the natural landscape but to the natural wildlife connected to each place - one of my personal favourites is the Kea, New Zealand’s native bird, in the Milford map (I am also waiting for a Robin to appear on one of the upcoming UK maps).
As both an artistic designer and illustrator as well as scientist, Thomas brings something refreshing and very contemporary to the age-old tradition of map making: he brings a critical awareness to the state of our environment, the natural landscape and its interdependence with the creatures that inhabit it, and a sense of excitement and fun. His creations inspire engagement.
I thought it would be fun to sit down over a cold-brew coffee and ask the main man himself some juicy questions.
Angelique Jones: Tell me about Lást…
Thomas Moore: Lást is a blend between adventure and art. We take very famous hikes around the world, starting with New Zealand, and draw them in a fantasy style similar to Tolkien. It’s a way of people bringing home a souvenir from an adventure that’s more than just a photo.
AJ: And it’s all hand drawn the old-school way, with a pen and paper?
TM: Yes. All hand drawn. I’m really into birds and conservation as well, so I pick key birds that you’re likely to see on the hike or the walk and they feature on the map…It adds a new layer.
AJ: What was your last adventure?
TM: My last big adventure would be Canada, which was a two-month trip at the end of last year. I spent 3 weeks on the road in the Canadian Rockies doing lots of hikes and trying to survive increasingly cold temperatures in a tent. I then finished up with a few multi-day hikes. My favourite was Mount Robson which was beautiful, and there will be a map on that coming soon - I’ve got a few more of the UK to do first and then we’ll be starting on Canada.
AJ: What’s your next adventure?
TM: I’m just about to go camping in Cornwall, near Land’s End in Penzance. There won’t be anything extreme going on there but there’s some beautiful walks along the cliffs around the coast. You can walk the whole of Cornwall’s coast, I think it takes about 20 days which I’d like to do.
And then I will be going to Iceland, helping out a filmmaker friend of mine as he does some beautiful aerial footage with a drone over the rivers and mountains. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, it’s so different to any other landscape I’ve been to.
AJ: Do you think you will do some maps of Iceland?
TM: 100% yes. I will do a map of the whole of Iceland and then I’ll probably break down a few key places. Iceland is not a big place and apparently there is a road that goes around the edge and one through the middle, so it would be wonderful to do almost like a driving tour map of Iceland itself. Drawing the volcanos will be fun as well.
AJ: What was the last film you saw in the Cinema?
TM: I actually went to the UK premiere of a film called Blue. It’s an Australian made documentary covering the state of the oceans and how dire the impending crisis is right now – although I say it’s impending, it’s actually already hitting its peak. It is a beautiful piece of filmmaking, so for those of you who haven’t seen it you can arrange a showing near you with the distributors, Demand Film.
"I think people can underestimate the power of a drawn image, it can tell you so much more than a paragraph of text."
I loved it, it resonates with me because the story is not told through the director’s eyes or a general overview, instead it is subjective, and it’s based on 5 or 6 people. You’ve got locals in Indonesia, scientists in Indonesia, Aboriginal elders… each person is telling a different story, facing different pressures and problems, but all of them are connected by the ocean.
You know the ocean is, of course, everywhere around the world. The fact that there wasn’t a heavy amount of dialogue makes this film more powerful. It’s a brave choice from the director’s part - she just let the images do the talking. Seeing a shark float down with no fins is probably more powerful than any description that any language could portray. It’s also very positive. There are lots of good things happening with good people out there. It’s down to individual choice.
The Q & A at the end was really interesting, with Karina Holden, the director. She was making us aware of how it is very much an individual thing. You can really feel that there’s a collective power, to not rely on someone else to do it, but doing it yourself…you can say no to tuna. If you do want to eat fish, then source it sustainably. Or you can stop drinking takeaway coffees or just make sure you use a recyclable cup.
It’s also about voicing your opinion. People voice their opinion a lot about things they are unhappy about generally, you might order some food that’s not nice or your car might break down and you’re angry about the mechanic…. People need to start getting angry about the state of our oceans and our environment as well. It’s the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat.
AJ: Is this an issue that you are specifically aiming to bring awareness to with your maps and your brand?
TM: Yes. I’m an Environmental Scientist by qualification, I really care about the environment, I really care about fish. The maps are about bringing an awareness to the environment. All of these places that I’m drawing are beautiful, straight out of a film, and in the case of New Zealand, straight out of middle earth.
But there’s so much more going on there, you go to New Zealand and it’s this pristine wilderness, or so it’s betrayed. But actually, it’s not, it’s facing lot of pressures from tourism, it’s facing a lot of pressures from farming. You see some of these birds, such as the Kea, and they’re also now endangered.
It’s very easy to go to these places and think everything is hunky-dory but it’s not. I guess the message is to respect the environment you’re in and do every little bit that you can. You can check out the Blue website for ideas on how you can make those little changes.
In terms of the ocean, I’m going to be creating some diving maps of people’s favourite diving spots. We’ll start with the UK and then cover Malta and places like that. Hopefully we can bring some awareness to the ocean through that, maybe awareness of some rare coral you might see or fish in a bad way.
It’s awareness as much as anything. It’s awareness and action. You can’t solve a problem you don’t know about.
AJ: Your perfect morning is…
TM: Well I guess waking up somewhere with a mountain in view.
In my everyday life, there is a river that I wake up to with some trees that have a lot of bird wildlife. For me it’s having a nice bit of peace and quiet in the morning. I get up, I meditate for 10 minutes, I have a cold shower and then I’m dressed, and I sit down and set some intentions and personal goals for the day. And then I can enjoy my morning coffee.
AJ: Perfect evening…
TM: There’s nothing better than keeping a ball rolling if you’re drawing or writing, and sometimes the evenings are a really wonderful moment in your day to keep that going.
"It’s awareness as much as anything. It’s awareness and action. You can’t solve a problem you don’t know about."
If not, I like to do a nice walk somewhere. I live near a nature reserve that takes you through some beautiful chalk stream ecosystems, so a walk through there with my camera and a glass of wine afterwards is pretty perfect.
AJ: What projects are you working on at the moment?
TM: We have just finished our map of North Wales, so it’s not just Snowdonia but the entire section of North Wales. Snowdonia National Park is amazing but there is some wonderful coastline around the edges and places where you can go kayaking and sailing. It has some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK. I’m just doing the final touches to the main cartography section, with mountains etc.
I’m then moving on to the Lake District, covering the top 15 to 20 walks in that area. It won’t cover the whole National Park, it will be quite focussed in on people’s favourite spots. We’ve got a million things we want to revisit with New Zealand, and like I said, there’s still Canada. We’ve also got our first Ireland map on the way which will cover the Atlantic way.
Outside of maps, I am currently working on a whiteboard style animation for a company called The Baby Buyer. They are a really innovative company based in Sydney, started by a friend of mine. They specialise in getting all of the things you need for your new born baby delivered straight to your door. The bespoke packages are tailored directly to your needs and your style and your home and your baby. So many people are either really daunted by sourcing good quality products that are friendly on the environment, use organic materials, and they are working really hard and they just don’t have the time to do the research needed. So, Steph at The Baby Buyer has collated all this stuff and put it into these beautiful packages, which aims to take all the stress out of everything.
I am drawing an animation explaining all of that in about a 30 to 40 second video. It will be really fun. It’s something we’ve never done before and it’s very new to us but it’s very exciting; I’m really happy to be working on this project.
AJ: Are there any projects that you would like to do or be involved in?
TM: Of course. The dream is to keep drawing maps. There are so many places I want to draw maps of that it’s almost daunting, but we want to keep drawing and cover all over the world… there are so many places around the world and we want to hear more from people that are following us on our social media accounts, and people that have heard of us and would like a map.
Ideally, Lást maps as a brand will be moving – it will always stay true to its roots and draw maps – but it will also be moving more into illustration work, just generally speaking. This animation is the first big project we’ve taken on that’s not maps.
I would like to illustrate for websites, web design and illustrative projects in general. I guess the dream project would be drawing illustrations for conservation organisations.
Things like Blue the film, WWF. Or it could be for very small charities and small NGOs, anyone that wants drawings to boost their reach.
I think people can underestimate the power of a drawn image, it can tell you so much more than a paragraph of text. The way the world works these days, people are very visual, and they have such a short attention span. A drawing impacts you immediately, you see so much in a second.
AJ: So you want to use your art as activism?
TM: Yes, I want to use art as activism. Exactly. Use our skills to keep producing maps and take on projects that will help bring awareness about environmental conservation, pollution, things you can change in your personal life. Whatever that is.
AJ: Where do you see yourself and the brand in 5 years?
TM: I see the Lást brad offering maps on every continent in at least 20 countries. At the moment we cover 2 countries right now. I’d like to be working full-time with leaders in environmentalism, 100%.
I’m also really interested in films for activism, whether its storyboarding, conceptual art, book illustration too.
We’re definitely growing right now, and it’s hard to tell in which direction and where this direction will take us but it will definitely be somewhere very exciting, it already is so exciting.
"This is a way to re-engage and to re-connect."
AJ: Do you feel like with Lást that there is a gap in the market?
TM: Very much so. There are some people offering Tolkien style maps, but Lást maps are more than just a map of a geographical area…they are covering key sites and adventures…hikes and trails and maps of places that people are exploring and making all these memories. As well as the environment you’re in, paying attention to these key birds and key rivers and little ecosystems, all of the things you’ll see on your hike.
In New Zealand it’s completely new. The entire idea behind Lást maps was formed during a hike on the Routeburn Track in the South Island, because I thought ‘wow it would be really cool to have something personal to bring home.’ You take photos and you don’t do it justice, and of course you really enjoy yourself and you make the most wonderful memories, but there wasn’t something you could just bring home and put on your wall, lean up against your fireplace or wherever it is and just be reminded of that wonderful moment or a future moment… or you can just enjoy it as a piece of art.
It’s a very new product for sure. You can buy extremely detailed GPS styled maps but you can’t buy anything that’s more, there’s nothing else like Lást maps.
AJ: What do you hope for people’s reactions to the maps to be? And how can they get involved with protecting the natural environment ?
TM: The biggest thing is that I want people’s reactions to be, either ‘wow I really want one of those maps of that adventure I’ve just done’…I want that to resonate in the maps, I want people to see it and think yes I really want one of these.
If they haven’t done the adventure, I want them to see it and I want them to want to go there, to explore. I want them to see it and be inspired to go and explore and engage with the environment.
A hand drawn map encompasses an element of magic, of something old and magical. I think that resonates with us as human beings. I think that excites us more than a photo. It’s mysterious and it’s intriguing. I think it makes you want to get out there. The whole purpose of this really is to get out and do a walk, whether it’s an hour or a week.
There’s increasing and continuing pressures to stay in the city, it’s where you work, maybe where you live, and green spaces are getting smaller, people are getting more afraid of them. This is a way to re-engage and to re-connect. That’s the biggest thing we want for people - it’s either, I’ve done one adventure, I want to do another one. Or, I’ve never done one, or I’ve done thousands. It’s all the same, you are all part of the same tribe.
AJ: And these adventures don’t mean you have to go to the other side of the world – it’s also about you can do on your own doorstep?
TM: Absolutely. I mean, do go to the other side of the world if it calls you and I think travel is very important, experiencing other cultures and walking in other people’s shoes is one of the most important things you can do as a human really.
The same applies to your own backyard. Everyone is fully aware that you explore less of your own backyard than you do of someone else’s but there is so much beauty in every single country no matter where you are. This is all about getting out and seeing it. Explore something new, do something different. If you’ve never been on a hike go on your first hike. If you’ve never camped overnight, camp overnight.
Maybe you want to get into photography and you want to photograph some of the animals or the wonderful plants you see. Maybe you want to hit the rivers in a kayak – whatever it is, there is so much fun in nature to be had.
Instagram is actually a great place to explore that and be inspired. If you do go on an adventure and you want to share it with us just tag Last Maps and hashtag us.
AJ: Can people ask you to create a map of anything?
TM: Of course. All commissions are welcome. You might want a commission of the whole of your country, or you may want a commission of your two mile walk to work. Whatever it is, we are happy to take your experience and make it special – let us know you saw a Robin on the way, or a fallen tree here that looks like something wonderful, it can be anything you want – even that fat pigeon always sitting on your back-garden fence. We want to know everything that makes it special for you.
For more wonderful creations and insightful blog posts, check out last's website.
Words by Angelique Jones.
Photography by Lara Cornell.