By Dominique Koudsi.
When I saw the tweet from @globemakers asking if we’d ever featured an artisanal globemaker on Handful of Salt, my interest was immediately sparked. I still remember the first globe my dad ever bought me: a special purchase meant to complete my brand new desk and make me feel grown up (and also a chance for my dad to help me correct my woeful ignorance of geography). There wasn’t anything unique or especially lovely about this globe, but I think it means something that it still holds its place on my desk, and a place in my memories, as well.
The more I delved into the work of Bellerby & Co., however, the more I couldn’t believe that we hadn’t featured an artisanal globemaker yet—and more specifically, this artisanal globemaker. (I also couldn’t believe I’d been content for all these years with such an inferior globe. Sorry, dad.) Their gorgeous pieces are one part careful handcrafting and one part unmistakable artisanal dedication to quality and tradition. Add a healthy dash of luxury and bespoke charm and you’ve got something truly spectacular.
Bellerby & Co. embodies everything we stand for at Handful of Salt. Moreover, these artisans are essentially the sole masters of their niche craft: the only other two artisan globemakers in the world are really only doing old reproductions and don’t even coming close to Bellerby & Co.’s fastidious and creative approach. For founder, Peter Bellerby, it’s land mass, not mass made—a space that’s on the grid just as much as it’s off—and in speaking with him, I couldn’t help but be drawn into the world that he holds so carefully in his hands.
I know that the genesis of your globemaking began with the search for the perfect globe for your father’s 80th birthday. Why a globe in the first place? A result of spending two weeks every year trying to find a gift for my father for the previous 79 years. I have always found him to be hard to shop for and I thought it would be a lot easier to find a globe I really knew he would love.
What about the globes available made you decide that you needed to take matters into your own hands? Why did it have to be something of artisanal quality? A simple Google search is all you need to do. The standard and variety of globes was at school-level—they really were just for reference. I wanted to inspire. For some reason, hand-making had been dropped (perhaps with the advent of new printing methods), but the fact that half the globes out there are artificially “aged” by someone dumping a bucket of sepia paint in the mix prior to printing suggested that the market was looking for vintage product.
Why do you think the art of globemaking seems to have essentially been lost until now? It is a very difficult art to master. In the past, many globemakers have relied on handmade paper which you can shape almost at will. The demand has also always been there, and so poor quality pieces have been accepted because of the desire to own a globe. I have seen globes from well-respected companies (now ceased trading!) from the 1980/90’s where entire countries have been wiped out because the overlaps between the gores were so large on the globe.
As an art, you have to continually learn, and we have invested years of time in R&D. Not only do we do research constantly to check that we are utilising the best techniques, I also spent almost two years researching how to make globes in the first place. It takes a trainee a minimum of 6 months to learn how to make a globe and because it is so difficult, each member of our team now specializes in a certain size of globe.
It took you so long to make the globe you had envisioned (18 months to perfect the goring process alone); at what point did you realize this was something you wanted to make available to others, too? I very quickly lost control of the budget, which started at about £6k and spiraled to about £200,000! The initial sum lasted less than 3 months.
What’s your clientele like? Our clientele come from all corners of the globe and range from students to captains of industry, movie stars to mad about stars (we do a celestial globe).
What’s the best thing you’ve heard about your work? A quote we liked so much we added it to the homepage: “Let me again compliment you for really creating something that has the same kind of addictive quality as an Apple product; this thing practically forces me to constantly spin it.” -E.N, Finland
Also, the head of the British Library map collection (Peter Barber) saying we are the only current globe worth talking about.
Were you “artsy” as a kid? Have you always had the creative bug? Art has always been in the family. I was also quite a keen mathematician finishing my pre-school math 2 years early. I used to do photography (including developing my own photos), and I still paint a little. But to be honest, when I left school I didn’t see where I could go by studying art (other than to teach it and I am the world’s worst teacher—and student, probably). As a kid, I also took apart every toy that was bought for me. I literally destroyed every single one. I like to think it was because I was inquisitive and I wanted a good quality product. My mother might add that I was a little destructive!
What are you really trying to achieve at Bellerby & Co? What would you like to be doing more of? I think I’m trying to make the most beautiful, original, and accurate globes ever made. I really don’t think about it. My friends say I must be proud of what I have achieved, but to be honest, if people were capable of doing this 500 years ago, I’d be embarrassed if I couldn’t do it now! Each day brings up new challenges and new requests and I hate to say no. I’m currently trying to restore an old globe, but I will definitely never offer to do that again!
What’s on your playlist right now? My playlist is all over the place: The Doors, Johnny Cash, Rodriguez, Interpol, Radiohead, and Muse…
We always like to ask this at Handful of Salt, and I feel like you’d have a great answer… What five objects define you? Eeek, put me under pressure, ay? Object wise…you’ll just find me surrounded by a lot of wooden elephants and tools. If I can answer in the looser sense of the question, I’d say: an idea, a poorly constructed plan, a beat up car, a passport, and a map.
And lastly, what’s next for Bellerby & Co.? What should we be keeping an eye out for? We are currently spreading the word organically around the world. Then, who knows—hopefully, develop other products. I am currently under duress to make a budget and a five year plan, so I’ll let you know if I succeed! Though the fun thing about what we do is that we have to change direction every day and nothing is really planned…it just happens.
We are hoping to do a pop-up Globemakers Workshop in a New York City storefront for a year. There are no globe makers in America, so we think it would be great fun to give people a chance to stop by and see what we do. Most customers buy our globes without seeing them in person first, so this would also give more people a chance to interact with the product and be part of the process.
From mini desk globes produced in limited numbers and fitted into their own luxury carrying cases, to the made-to-order 80s Series collection with bases made by heritage technicians from Aston Martin, to traditional freestanding pieces and a Churchill collection that pays homage to WWII sentiments, Bellerby & Co. has truly uncovered the spirit and meaning behind globes, both past and present. Whether they bring up fond memories, function as a lovely piece of art in their own right, or inspire you to travel or marvel at the wonders of the world, it’s good to know that expert craftsmanship and the beauty of the handmade have returned to globemaking, and to this hemisphere.