Artisans Stories

In Conversation With Globemaker Peter Bellerby, Bellerby & Co | Artisans Stories

artisans story peter bellerby

In Conversation With Globemaker Peter Bellerby, Bellerby & Co | Artisans Stories

There aren’t many people or companies that can say that they have helped to bring an ancient craft back from the brink of extinction - Bellerby & Co are one of only two handmade globemaking companies in the world. Started by Peter and Jade Bellerby, it is now a place for the complex and unique skills of globemaking to flourish.

Despite becoming an amazing life changing venture for the Bellerbys, globe-making only started out as a hobby, inspired in part by Peter’s love of world maps and geography.

Artisan Peter Bellerby's Story

“I wanted to find a gift for my father’s upcoming 80th birthday. I found the options were either poor replicas or priceless antiques. It seemed the art of traditional globe-making was gone. I decided to go about making my own - thinking I would make one for my father and one for myself and that would be it - but after 2 years of teaching myself and hundreds of globes that were not good enough - and after nearly bankrupting myself a business was born!”

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Photo by Paul Mitchell | Bellerby & Co

Looking back on his childhood and early career, Peter makes a connection between where he is now and early childhood fascinations which have stayed with him, such as an interest in making things by hand. His mother and grandmother were also influences through their love of painting in watercolours - an instrumental part of the globe-making process in his workshops today.

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Photo by Paul Mitchell | Bellerby & Co

“I was always the type of child that took things apart to figure out how they worked - I tend to do most things myself as far as building things for my home or repairing things. Before starting the company I bought and sold a few houses. Doing the work on the houses ahead of putting them back on the market taught me a lot about various tools and their many uses and introduced me to a lot of things that have helped in unexpected ways with globemaking. And I previously also tried my hand at violin making in the years before starting the company - very precise and fiddly work like making globes.”

Globe-making has come so close to extinction as a craft, in part due to the variety of complicated processes involved - from watercolour painting to woodwork, all skills needed to successfully create a globe by hand.

Making A Globe By Hand - Steps

“1. Firstly, you need to create a perfect sphere, using two half-moulds.

2. Next, we edit our map, since each globe is made to order we are updating our cartography regularly and personalise depending on our customers’ preferences.

3. We work with each customer to help them design their globe as they’d like it; this can sometimes be a process over months or even years.

4. Once the map is ready, it is printed and cut up by hand into precise shapes called gores. The gores are painted by hand using watercolours, which give a unique result for each globe.

5. When the gores are dry, they are ready to be attached to the globe, which is called ‘goring the globe’.

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Photo by Ana Santl | Bellerby & Co

6. That stage is very precise work and very difficult because you’re wetting the paper and stretching it, wet paper as you can imagine is very fragile.

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Photo by Paul Mitchell | Bellerby & Co

7. The paper wants to rip, ripple, bubble or tear naturally. If you work with one piece too long it will naturally degrade

8. After the gores are applied many more layers and detail of watercolour are added and the globe is sealed with either a gloss or matte finish.

9. The globe is then placed into its base, we make a variety of traditional and modern bases of our own design which are fully handcrafted and stained to the customer’s preference.

10. When the globe is complete it is placed together with the base and engraving.

11. Once we are happy with the final outcome and have thoroughly checked the globe over, it is packaged carefully in either a bespoke “flight case” or a special made crate and shipped off to its new home.”

It’s a precise craft which presents huge challenges. It requires much practice and time to be able to create the perfect Bellerby globe.

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“At the end all your pieces need to perfectly match up. One fraction of a mm off with one gore (strip of the map) and you will have big issues once you lay that last strip.”

“Every single day is different and as the company has grown, things look even more different day to day. In the beginning we had just a few orders and I was making all of the globes, doing the cartography, working on the bases with just one wood-worker. Now we have a full team of makers, painters, wood workers, illustrators, cartographers, engravers and so on - and a diary taking us to the end of the year with deadlines to keep on top of.”

“I spend every day in the studio overseeing the many globes being worked on in their various stages. Helping where needed with finishing work on a base sometimes or helping a new apprentice with training. I source all the wood we work with in person so I might be driving to the other side of London or a few hours outside to look at wood!”

Photo by Paul Mitchell | Bellerby & Co

“When customers order bespoke bases I might need to draw up the designs and work out the feasibility. Some days I am helping check the cartography or updating a map. Some days I am fixing the lighting and plumbing so everyone can continue to work! Some days customers come in to discuss colours or bases and want to see the studio. Some days we have press in doing interviews or photoshoots. A lot of days are less exciting things like doing accounts, making sure everything is running smoothly from the ground up, checking in with each artist - right now we are looking for an additional cartographer to join the team so I am doing interviews over Zoom to start. And I am working on a new Bronze collection of bases which I hope will launch soon.”

Peter’s passion for the intricate and highly specialised craft of globe-making is very apparent, and no doubt without this love for globe-making he could not have established a profession out of something for which there was no blueprint - he had to create this entirely himself.

“There is no manual and nowhere to learn to make globes, I taught myself and learned by trial and error. I am still always learning new things 10 years on.

“I learn something new every day, most importantly patience and the importance of taking your time. Also the importance of doing something you love and creating something you are proud of.”

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Bellerby Globemakers / Citibank Project

Peter is discovering that there is a strong, and growing demand for quality products, which are made to stand the test of time, a demand, which he believes will sustain this endangered craft for many years to come.

“We have a company of over 20 people now which have spent years learning and growing within the company. And we have had many people from all over the world who get in touch and let us know they have tried to make their own globes since seeing our Instagram or press about our company. So I hope the craft continues well past me!”

“All things come and go in phases and right now there is a renewed interest in traditional craft and high quality items - I hope this phase sticks around for many, many years to come and there is not a return to the throw-away culture and mass production we have seen in the past. Right now I think more people are wanting to purchase items that will last them a lifetime and that they can pass on to future generations, and buying things made ethically and sustainably.”

Bellery & Co doesn’t only stand out due to the rarity of Globe-making worldwide, but because of the unique and personal way in which they involve customers in the designing process of their globes, and the story of their creation.

“Each of our globes is handcrafted and hand painted here in London and each is unique and one of a kind in some way. Our customers are involved in the process of designing their own globes, which I think is pretty unique and special, we get to know them and their globes all by name. I hope to see more companies operating like this and creating beautiful things that have a story behind them.”

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