Geography; what do you remember most about that course? I had quite some Geography classes while growing up. What I remember most are the giant maps on the walls in the classroom and there always was a globe somewhere in that room. At home we had an illuminated globe ball. Geography has never been my strong suit, but learning on a spinning globe was definitely easier and fun! The globe I had while growing up is actually nothing compared to the globes of Bellerby & Co. Globemakers; sorry mom and dad ;). Bellerby & Co. Globemakers all started when Peter Bellerby’s search for a globe for his father’s birthday ended up in the decision to make his own globe. How difficult can it be to make a ball and put a map on it? Since there are no ‘how to make your own globe’ books, it turned into a trial and error for about 2-4 years and 100 attempts. Licensing maps, morphing a rectangular maps into gores, make a ball, how to balance the ball,… Goring the globe itself took about 18 months to perfect. The idea that hatched in a pub in London, changed into a thriving business. Trained globemakers are creating these high quality hand made globes in a studio in North London. From the stand, to the artwork, the painting and map-making, each globe is expertly crafted using traditional and modern globemaking techniques. It truly is a world in motion.
I became very fascinated by the work of Bellerby & Co Globemakers, so I asked some questions to Peter Bellerby, the one who creates masterpieces with his team and who literally holds the world in his hands every single day.
- What makes Bellerby & Co. Globemakers unique?
We are handcrafting and hand painting terrestrial and celestial globes of our own design… all here in London. Everything we can do and can source locally we do and that is pretty much everything apart from some more exotic woods we work with time to time. Next to the usual factory made globes you get these days, we think ours are pretty unique.. and literally no two will ever be exactly the same. Our customers can also choose to have us add hand drawn illustrations, their favourite quotes in hand written calligraphy, trace travel routes and add bespoke cartography.
- What do you look for in people when you are hiring?
We look for talented artists and designers who want to make a living working with their hands rather than… say.. behind a computer. Everyone spends at least 6 months training. It requires a lot of patience and commitment to get to a place where you can actually make a high quality handmade globe, so really it is about finding someone really passionate and stubborn! It takes a huge amount of concentration and attention to detail, awareness of hands and body. No one can be experienced specifically before joining our team so it is all about finding people who are passionate about being given a chance and letting them go at it to see if they actually enjoy the work.
A Bellerby & Co. Globe is a handcrafted and hand painted modern world globe, made with love in London by a team of highly trained artisans in London.
- What is the most difficult / crucial step in the process of making a globe?
Laying the gores is the hardest part and what requires the most training. If you can imagine taking a piece of paper, wetting it and then stretching it within an inch of its life without tearing it or allowing the paper to turn to mush. We have to be aware of overlapping as you can lose cities or whole countries if one piece of the paper goes over another. Until you lay the last gore you don’t know if you have measured right and may have to start again.
- Most memorable globe you made? The most challenging one?
Every new size or style of globe we make comes with a new set of challenges. Every size requires a new set of skills as they are all made slightly different. Each of us for the most part specialises in one size.
The hardest.. when we made an Egg-Shaped globe for the Elephant Family to auction off. We had to design the cartography to suit the shape, re-do the mathematics involved with marking up the globe and hand cutting the gores, and create a hand case brass meridian to hold it and allow it to spin, also in that egg shape rather than a proper sphere.
We are now working on a globe for the Louvre Museum in Paris which is posing a lot of challenges as we are using Coronellis original etched copper plates. They are housed in Paris behind lock and key so they will be hand printing the gores there and we will be making here. We have to work out a few crucial details from a man who has long passed away and left no hints to get it just right. The globe will hang above the main staircase so we want it to be perfect.
- Have you noticed a shift in people buying globes? Is there a high demand?
I have noticed a shift luckily. We are booked solidly with orders until Summer 2017 and our team has grown from 4 to 15 in a few years. I think we got a lot of press attention and social media attention early on which really helped spread our story around the world. I think there has been a shift lately and more people see the value in a high quality products and objects over a factory made ones. Every day we are meeting people hand carving spoons, hand smoking salmon, forging their own knives etc.. it’s great. But yeah, when I started everyone thought it was a crazy idea so I am happy people seem to love what we are doing as much as I do.
- How would you describe a day in the life of a Bellerby & Co. Globemaker?
There is no normal day and no one in the team has a strict structure to stick to. Sometimes you are working on something and you just have to walk away and spend some time on something else. There is for the most part a serene atmosphere and everyone spends time chatting and catching up and then other time with headphones in… in their own little world.
For me… I make globes as well as manage the team, admin, accounts, run the errands all over town and try and keep the studio generally up and running – so I am rarely sitting or standing still for more than a moment. I am the sole owner of the company and its a private company, so with a team of 15 and my own schedule of globes due to go out, sometimes I don’t know whether i am coming or going. I check each and every globe throughout the making and painting process and help train new apprentices.
- What do you love most about your job?
Being able to do something I love everyday, being happy to go into work each morning, working in a beautiful, colourful artistic environment and being able to employ talented artists here in London.
- Favorite spot in the world?
I equally love many places around the world for different reasons, it’s hard to just single out one spot. New York City of course for the architecture and buzz, Mexico City is somewhere I have been only once but felt instantly at home. Bangkok Thailand I have been to 5 times and appreciate it for both for the beauty and culture and endless things to explore. But we have to remember all the beauty we have right on our doorstep as well. I love a road trip through Europe, the small towns in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, driving through Switzerland… cities like Sevilla Spain, Rome, Athens … I am happy many places it is too hard to choose… but most of all I love to wake up somewhere brand new with the excitement of exploring and seeing it for the first time.
- What are your hopes for the future?
To continue to do what I love, to grow the team a little more and then stop growing.. we will never be a huge factory mass producing and I think we are almost big enough now! I want to keep working on improving our craft, designing new bases and trying our new colours and styles. Maybe opening up a second studio in America someday. I am not a big planner though, I like things to progress organically and hopefully we can branch out to some interesting side projects and collaborations as well.
- Your life mantra?
I believe in keeping an open mind and positive attitude and helping others wherever and whenever possible. In business I believe in creating quality products that I am proud of and always being open to others ideas and working as a team rather than running a dictatorship!
Thank you Peter Bellerby for this interview. The globes are all masterpieces and I can’t wait to have one of them in my own hands.
All pictures in this blog were used with permission of Bellerby & Co. Globemakers.