In the modern age, with the advent of GPS in addition to the abundance of mass-produced globes and maps, the art of globe-making has seemingly long disappeared. Only two workshops in the world still make modern handcrafted globes; one of them is us….. Bellerby & Co. Globemakers, a studio based in London, England.
Our studio began in 2008 when Peter Bellerby struggled to find a quality globe for his father’s 80th birthday present. Faced with a choice between cheaply made modern globes or fragile, expensive antique reproductions, Peter decided to try and make his own. The process turned out to be more complicated and costly then he imagined. After two years of trying to create the perfect globe, Peter turned this newfound passion into an artisan business.
We now have a small team of dedicated Globemakers constructing high-quality, handmade, terrestrial and celestial globes. With bespoke cartography, each globe is made to order and essentially one-of-a-kind. From the various bases, to the painting, to the mapmaking, each piece is expertly crafted in-house using both traditional and modern techniques. We ship worldwide and undertake bespoke commissions of all sorts.
It takes each new team member at least 6 months of practising and learning to make a globe
Shading around the coastlines on a 50cm globe.
I figured out how to create globes by trial and error
It took a long time to make one that was perfectly balanced and approx. 2 years before I produced a globe that I could sell. (Photo by Stuart Freedman)
Favourite part? Putting on the last gore
It is an immense feeling of pride and you can stand back and admire what has taken so long to complete.
Peter hopes his skills can be passed down within his family
Jon, adding detail to an 80cm globe.
Gores with one layer of paint added
We have to make multiple sets of gores matched in colour, if the wet paper is ripped or torn while it is being stretched, it can then be replaced with another perfectly matched gore
Adding a tiny illustration of a polar bear
I feel like people are turning away from a throw-away society where you can get everything quickly but it soon falls apart.
One of the challenges in globe making is the fight with Pi – if you don’t constantly measure and re-measure, you will be unable to complete the process
Section of the world in water
This piece of paper is called a gore, it is left in water for just the perfect amount of time before it is then stretched and manipulated onto a sphere without tearing or overlapping
We all love what we do and are happy to come to work everyday, i don’t think many people could say that of their jobs and we realise we are very lucky.
Our largest globe… the 127cm Churchill
What does it take to be a globemaker? Incredible amount of patience and the ability to re-train your body
You have to re-train your body in a almost tai-chi manner to do everything with great control and precision.
Isis started painting around the coastlines in England and is working her way around Cambodia, Vietnam & towards the Americas
Our office dog George and some finished globe behind him
An 80cm world globe in progress, the first half of the gores must be laid perfectly before the second half can be matched up on the other hemisphere
These strips of paper have been expertly cut & a first wash of paint has gone on, they can now be laid & stretched onto a sphere to form the perfect world!
We are attempting to make our globes aesthetically beautiful and that is never going to be achieved by colour print out. The depth that is achieved by adding layer upon layer of pigment is only possible through this lengthy process….. and it is immensely worthwhile.
Listening to music while painting the first wash of colour onto large gores for an 80cm globe
Painting the World
Every day is different in the studio and as each globe and each stop of the process requires drying and resting time, we can work on multiple globes at once…
Painting final details
Varnishing a finished globe that will then go onto a handcrafted wooden base
We developed the roller bearing system, and have a number of people who do designs for me. Grenville Herrald (one of the team who designed the pods for the British Antarctic Survey) designed the curve and it is fabricated by heritage technicians from Aston Martin.
Varnishing an 80cm globe
Smiles.. working on the terrace on a summers day
Since we have almost 90,000 followers on Instagram and have gotten a fair bit of worldwide press (we are very lucky!), we have people emailing daily to come see the studio. If we kept our doors open like that we would never get any work done and all concentration would be lost, so we do have to limit visitors.
Everyone also brings up a Star Wars globe or a Mars globe or a Moon globe, but then when it comes to ordering…. they realise they would rather spend their money on a world globe as it has so much more detail.
Laying & manipulating the paper of the last gore going onto a 36cm handmade world globe
Photo by Stuart Freedman
After the sphere is made, the next step is measuring out the distances and where the weight lays. All globes are weighted for the perfect spin. (Photo by Allun Callender)
We still all use google maps / the map on our phones daily. The map we work on (daily still) is just a different kettle of fish completely. (Photo by Ana Santl)
Painting our largest globe, the 127cm Churchill
During WW2 Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt were presented with two fifty inch globes, seen as a sign of friendship in an intensely difficult period of the war, and have since come to symbolise their owners; two important figures in our history. Our Churchill globe is very closely modeled on its original namesake in terms of appearance and size and combines the classic techniques used in the making of the original with the technology and durability of modern construction. We have plans to make just 40 at a rate of only one per year.
The largest globe we make next to the smallest
127cm Churchill next to a 23cm Mini Desk Globe.
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