Salt Wood Studios crafts one-of-a-kind mixed-media maps

Richmond-based artist Chris Lombard was painting a seascape in 2020 when he thought, “What if instead of looking out on the ocean from the beach, I tried a birds-eye view?” he says. “Then I thought, ‘But that’s 2D, how would you make it artistically interesting?’”

The question led Lombard down a career-altering, creative rabbit hole. He’d earned a BFA in painting and printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2000 and spent more than a decade working as a decorative artist before pivoting to custom landscapes and portraits. But for whatever reason, “I started imagining these ornately detailed, mixed-media aerial maps of shorelines,” says Lombard, now 45. “And I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.”

Photo courtesy of Chris Lombard

Research inspired him to buy a computerized precision laser-cutter and engraver. He used design software to draw the Chesapeake Bay peninsula of his home county of Gloucester and programmed the laser to cut it from an eighth-inch sheet of birchwood, which he then glued to a plyboard base. Next came crafting the Bay and York River from thin layers of tinted blue resin. Lombard then added realistic whorls of currents, sandbars, and topographical detail using acrylic paint. He finished it with a custom, salvaged lumber frame.  

When Lombard posted photos on social media, requests for commissions started pouring in. He soon found himself crafting custom maps of neighborhoods, wedding locations, national parks, and more. In fact, demand has been so great, he bought a bigger laser-cutter and transformed his two-story garage into a purpose-built art and woodworking studio. Saltwood.studio


This article originally appeared in the Best of Virginia 2024 issue.

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