Little did Peter Bellerby know that finding a globe for his dad’s birthday would lead him to become an artisan globemaker himself.
by Julia Migné
When Peter Bellerby has an idea in mind, he is not the type to let go of it until he has found a way to make that idea a reality. This is why when he decided to buy his dad a globe for his 80th birthday, he would not settle for an average looking globe.
“I’ve always liked taking things apart to figure out how they work and I have been the type to see something and think “I can do that better”. I hate the idea of buying a low-quality thing or something that “could be better” just for lack of options out there,” he explains.
So after skimming through various shops unsuccessfully, he decided to take the matter into his hands. Little did he know that his determination to make a globe himself would take him on a two years venture.
“I realised that a little project to make a globe for my father had gone way out of control,” he explains. “I had only intended to make one globe for him and probably one for myself if it wasn’t too difficult but somehow two years later I had sold my house and car and had thrown away a couple hundred trial spheres!”
Peter’s stubbornness and passion turned out to grow into a company: Bellerby & Co Globemakers. Based in London, the company grew quite organically “out of the passion to continue to get better and better and create beautiful products” according to the passionate globemaker.
“You can turn the strangest things into tools you need! No challenge is too big if you keep at it and stay positive.”
Having worked in the past on buying and selling houses while doing a lot of internal work himself, Peter was not afraid of the manual aspect of the challenge he had set to accomplish. “There is always a way you can turn the strangest things into tools you need,” he says. “No challenge is too big if you keep at it and stay positive.”
He was surprised however to discover that almost no one in the market knew how to make high-quality globes anymore. “The craftsmanship really had been lost over the last few generations,” Peter says. That loss though was a gain for him. There was a gap in the market and it allowed him to thrive and develop a successful business.
“I don’t think that our blueprint is something that would work with many other businesses, our model is unusual to say the least,” adds the renowned globemaker.
“I just wanted to see where it would go and amazingly we have grown by word of mouth and with the help and enthusiasm of worldwide press who found us via Instagram and wanted to write about us as well as come, film and take photos!”
Creating a globe from scratch is a very thorough process with the first step being to create a perfect sphere using two half-moulds. Once that’s done the globemakers need to edit the map the client wants to have displayed, print it, cut it up by hand into precise shapes called gores. “The gores are then painted by hand using watercolors,” explains Peter, “and that gives a unique result for each globe.”
Once the gores are dry, they need to be attached to the globe and that step is extremely challenging, requiring a lot of precision. “It’s very difficult because you’re wetting the paper and stretching it,” adds Peter. “Wet paper as you can imagine is very fragile so it wants to rip, ripple, bubble or tear naturally and if you work with one piece too long it will naturally degrade.”
When the gores are applied, the artisan globemaker will add more layers and details of watercolor and seal the globe with a gloss or matte finish. It will then be placed into a hand-made base and placed together with the engraving ready to be “shipped off to its new home”.
“After intense concentration being up close to the globe, standing back and seeing it complete is my favourite part of the process,” says Peter. “I love admiring how each one is different in some way!”
Customers are taken very seriously at Bellerby & Co Globemakers with the company going the extra mile and offering its clientele the possibility to customise their globes. “Some people place an order not being aware but then really do go to town with ideas,” exclaims the artisan globemaker.
There are surely some classics such as the addition or removal of specific cities but some clients take their customisation quite far. “We did a globe for a tour manager who had been touring with a band for 40 years straight,” explains Peter. “We had about 60 pages of flights taken and had to map each flight line with a date across and around the globe. It was a big job but it looked very cool in the end!”
The customisation definitely keeps things more fun for the team and Peter admits that there has been a lot of unexpected things that he would not volunteer to print. Being a globemaker also means that each day is different! “Every day there is a new challenge as each globe is made bespoke and each customer comes up with unique requests,” says Peter.
The company actually receives so many requests that it has grown considerably in ten years and is now taking apprentices. However, being a good globemaker requires a certain set of skills including patience, stubbornness, passion and last but not the least nimble fingers!
“We look for talented artists who seem to be passionate about working away from a computer screen – working with their hands all day,” explains Peter. “Then they come in and do a trial.”
The team will have to invest six months into training someone new so they need to make sure the apprentices are the right fit before actually selecting them.
“We give them all the tools and the map and the sphere and see how they go about making a globe with little instruction. You can tell a lot about a person by how they approach the challenge and equally they can see if this is what they want to be doing day in /day out which is also very important.”
The company definitely needs more hands though as its success is such that they are booked completely through to summer 2018 across all sizes already. “The Louvre have also asked us to make a globe for them,” adds the enthusiastic artisan.
When asked about the key advice he would give to the new generation of artisans out there, Peter exclaims: “Never be afraid to do whatever you want, you are your own judge! The advice I always try to give is that you are only here once, so you might as well try out different things and don’t be afraid to change if you don’t like what you are doing.”
“You being you will always be more interesting than you trying to be like someone else so ignore what is currently successful and try to set the next trend.”
Being genuine is another crucial criteria to thrive in the competitive creative industry. Peter advises wannabe artisan or artists to create quality products and to avoid looking for loopholes on how to make the process faster or cheaper.
“Don’t look to another product out there to replicate it! You being you will always be more interesting than you trying to be like someone else so ignore what is currently successful and try to set the next trend.”