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Man of the world

We meet Peter Bellerby, the founder of artisan globemakers Bellerby & Co

Words by Patrick Tillard | Main image by Julian Love

Photo by Ana Santl

Building the world is no mean feat – just ask Peter Bellerby, founder of artisan globemakers Bellerby & Co. Strips of paper known as ‘gores’ dry on lines above desks in his North London studio, and globes of varying sizes at differing stages of production occupy the work surfaces. All are made by hand and feature mesmerising detail, personalised to the client to capture specific moments and memories from their travels and adventures.

“The inspiration came from not being able to find my father anything for his 80th birthday,” says Peter. “After a lifetime of buying him standard gifts – like books and socks and ties – I decided I wanted to get him a globe, but couldn’t find anything that wasn’t either poor quality, cheap and fragile, or an insanely expensive antique.”

So Peter tackled the issue head on, and decided to make one himself; a globe that was both aesthetically beautiful and functional. Keen to keep up the hobby, he then decided to make another for himself. His ‘hobby’, however, spiraled into the successful business it is today – he now has a team of more than 20 people, including cartographers, illustrators, engravers, woodworkers, painters, and makers.

The method he developed during this period of trial and error is still used to this day. Each globe passes through at least five sets of hands, with the largest – the Churchill, which is 127cm in diameter – taking approximately six months to complete.

Photo by Ana Santl

“It’s a traditional technique of globe-making,” continues Peter, “but as there are no books or how-to guides around from the great globe-makers of the past, we can’t really compare.

“Firstly, we create a perfect sphere using two half-moulds. My first globes were made using plaster of Paris, but for the larger globes we now use modern composites and the smaller ones are made from resin.”

The next step is to edit the map, which is personalised to every client through intricate cartography. It is a skill that requires incredible patience and artistic dexterity. Once the map is ready, it is printed and cut up by hand into precise shapes called ‘gores’, which are painted with watercolours and hung up.

When dry, they are ready to be attached to the sphere in a process called ‘goring the globe’, an extremely meticulous undertaking. The gores are wetted and stretched to shape – there is no room for error. “The paper wants to rip, ripple, bubble and tear,” says Peter, “and if you work with one piece for too long it will naturally degrade.”

Many more layers and detail of watercolour are added before the globe is sealed with either a gloss or matte finish. Lastly the globe is placed onto a base. It is then ready to be sent to the client, where it will go on to be a beautiful addition to their home.

Photo by Ana Santl

In a time when the well-trodden parts of the world are on a never-ending digital catwalk through various social media feeds, a Bellerby & Co globe offers a remarkably unique collection of memories. Building the world is indeed no easy task; it is a true art form.

See more at bellerbyglobemakers.co.uk

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