Reviving the lost art of bespoke globe-making with patience and determination
He couldn’t find the perfect globe for his dad’s 80th birthday, so Londoner Peter Bellerby decided to make one, and in the process started his bespoke business.
In an age of the Internet of Things, we are all connected to our devices, and getting from point A to B, or even to C, D, and all the way to Timbuktu, is but a finger-tap away. There’s really nothing sexy about staring at Google Maps, even in all its glorious 3D plans. As for that dusty ball that maps out the countries on the third rock from the sun – that’s just a globe; nothing to it. Well, that’s about to change, if Peter Bellerby has anything to do with it.
Bellerby is a bespoke globe maker. His journey to globe-making started when he set out to get a present for his 80-year-old father some years back. “I thought I would buy him a globe because over the years, all I bought him were socks and ties.” And since the elder Bellerby was a naval architect, he thought a globe would be something his father could engage with. After all, he had always been fascinated about the world itself.
So Bellerby went looking for one. First, he found them in stores where there were “lots of school geography globes for 12 pounds. That was obviously not going to work”. Then he went to auction houses and “saw lots of globes for 20,000 pounds and I didn’t have the budget”.
Undeterred, he decided to make a globe himself. He found, to his surprise, that “in the last 100 over years, no one has been making them properly.” It was also “impossible to know their exact techniques”, he added. To make his own, he referenced those made 200 years ago, which he said were the “most beautiful”.
Bellerby started his “little company in North London” to make bespoke globes. Today, that little company, Bellerby & Co Globemakers, has grown to a team of 24. At first, he thought the process of making globes would take him six months. As it turned out, it took him two years and S$450,000 to finally master it. He described the work: “It’s like one of the old crafts, learning how to make something from scratch, and teaching your muscle memory to enable yourself to do a job.”
Bellerby practises the art every day. “You have to be patient about it,” he said. He starts by laying the gore, a triangular piece of paper, onto a sphere. This is the part that is the most challenging, he explained, as the “paper will tear, crease, everything you don’t want it to do; it takes a minimum of six months to learn.
“Pretty much every globe we make now has something that is unique to that person,” remarked Bellerby about the customisation process. In fact, everything about the globe can be customised, he says. His globes have been seen in films and on television, including the movie Hugo by Martin Scorsese. His team has even produced celestial globes that feature the positions of the stars in the galaxy.
He added: “There’s been a shift away from just filling your house with tons of different things. It’s more about having a few select items. You can only engage with a certain amount of things in a day and it’s important that those things work well, are functional, are aesthetically as good as they can be.”
Adapted from the series Remarkable Living. Watch full episodes on CNA, every Sunday at 7pm.