Christine Preisig discovers the art of globemaking at Bellerby & Co
There is a focused energy in the Stoke Newington workshop where 17 people work in silence and with full concentration on manufacturing the finest globes one could imagine.
The team of artists, designers and cartographers draw borders between countries, colour in oceans, cut out lobe-shaped pieces of paper, shade contours of continents and carefully protect the precious ball with layers of varnish.
The process to make a globe sounds simple, but wetting and stretching a piece of paper across a sphere with the utmost precision is a tricky business.
“All it wants to do is turn to mush under your fingers and tear,” says Peter Bellerby, the company’s founder.
One mistake can destroy weeks’ worth of paintwork. A globemaker therefore needs to be dexterous and very, very patient.
A Bellerby globe is a piece of perfection. The maps are accurate to the smallest detail. The blue and green hues of the oceans are painted on without the slightest spill or smudge. On a wooden base with invisible roller bearings the spherical models of the world move fluidly in any direction or spin effortlessly on a brass arm. The fingers of the viewer, on their journey over the continents, glide easily over the ever-so-smooth surface.
Every globe is unique and often bespoke. Clients choose the colours or have places highlighted that are important to them. Some request sea monsters, portraits of heads of state or even their spouse painted on as a mermaid.
Peter founded the company seven years ago following an unsuccessful search for a globe for his father’s 80th birthday.
The choices available were either cheap mass-produced, or fragile and outdated antique models. None was up-to-date or aesthetically pleasing. That’s why Peter decided to build his own.
The plan was to invest three months in the project. But things got completely out of hand. Every step in the creation brought up new and different challenges: creating a perfectly round mould for the globe, morphing a rectangular map into shapes that fit onto a sphere, finding specialist tools.
Two years on, he finally succeeded in making a model that met his own perfectionist requirements (his dad had to make do with a pair of socks for his 80th birthday). Peter had turned his passion into a business.
Peter’s story was mentioned in the press and the business has been flourishing ever since. The waiting time for a globe is currently 12 months.
“I don’t really want to grow much bigger. I want to get to a stage where we can make around 1,000 globes a year so that we keep it a really special thing.” he says.
Bellerby & Co Globemakers, 7 Bouverie Mews, Bouverie Road, N16 0AE. 0208 800 7235. bellerbyandco.com. Instagram: globemakers