After a two year search for a globe for my father’s 80th birthday present I was faced with a choice of a modern political globe (albeit frequently available with a generous dose of sepia colouring).. very fragile expensive antique models, which you can’t really use on a daily basis… or trying to make my own.
So the original plan, hatched in a Kings Cross pub was to make just two, one for Dad, one for me. It assumed it would probably take three, maybe four months… and cost a few thousand pounds. After all how difficult can it be to make a ball and put a map on it?
So firstly I had to license a map. The one i settled on was from a reputable source… it had incorrect capitals, most of the names in the Middle East were either rubbish or incorrectly spelled or positioned. Don’t let me start on the Aral Sea. That took at least 6 hours a day for about a year. In the end we changed everything and these days we have two full-time cartographers working from our studio.
Next i found a friend to write the programme to morph a rectangular map into ‘gores’- the triangular shapes that fit onto a sphere. I offered him a globe as a bribe. Easy. Even better his job was far from taxing so a month, two at most. Three days later he was re-assigned to Kabul (with a bodyguard and Uzi as company). So that look over a year to complete!
Then make a sphere. I thought … at least I can rely on a manufacturer to make a perfect mould. This was the beginning of my introduction to the world of tolerance. I found several companies prepared to make a 50cm sphere mould, but the moulds were neither round, often had plateaus on and were far from accurate. Now the actual globe is not exactly round, but thats not really the point.
In the end we have relied on Formula 1 fabricators to make our moulds. The reason being that when you have a tolerance (error) on a sphere, you might as well multiply this by Pi (3.14159 etc etc) …if you can imagine sticking 24 pieces of map on a sphere and each one is 0.1mm too small you have a 2.4 mm gap to contend with.
Then there are other little treasures. How for instance do you balance a ball so that when it spins it comes naturally to rest rather than swinging drunkenly like a weighted ping pong ball? Later on… how do you get a ball balanced with lead weights through customs? You would have thought that if customs detected heavy metal, that they might possibly use a geiger counter rather than a hammer to establish the contents?
Goring the globe (applying the map) was something that took eighteen months to perfect. The difficultly I had was that none of the current breed of globemakers, and I mean ALL the current globemakers and copy artists/ model makers are producing anything close to perfect globes. Latitude lines that don’t match is a personal passion. There are makers who overlap gores to the extent that they wipe out entire countries. There are even some who in order to prevent the paper ridging cut out little triangles of map. How is it possible to do it so badly? Some makers even have latitude lines that look like they have been drawn with a ruler after the map has been pasted on they are so straight. There just seemed little point in spending two years researching a project only to produce a poor quality finish.
It is a thrill that in the past few years our globes are used in Hollywood movies and for TV productions worldwide. We have had the pleasure of working with established artists.. but more importantly our globes are enjoyed by many customers around the world. The comments on our testimonials page are entirely unsolicited and are a source of great pride.
Now it is me along with a small team of highly trained Globemakers. Together we create the high quality, hand made globes that Bellerby & Co. has come to be recognised for. From the wooden and metal bases, to the artwork, the painting and map-making, each piece is expertly crafted using traditional and modern globe-making techniques, and is lovingly produced in our North London studio; each piece is an individual model of style and grandeur and the larger globes are works of art in their own right.
The collection is ever increasing, with the popular mini desk globe that spins 360 degrees in a fluid motion by hand being our favourite. Watch a video here.
As well as the models displayed online, we undertake commissions of all kinds. Each globe is made bespoke to order so it is a great opportunity to add personalisation like hand engraved messages, edits to the map or artwork. A bespoke globe is an excellent way to commemorate a special occasion or journey.
Alternatively a special range of the 22cm Mini Desk Globes and our 36cm Livingstone globes can be viewed at Harrods, Knightsbridge and a bespoke collaboration can be seen at Linley.
Check out the video section for a glimpse into our London studio and the press section to see recent interviews.
For any further information on our products do not hesitate to call our office or send an email.
And for a glimpse into daily life in the studio check out our instagram.
Please note that the studio is not open to the public day to day and we do not have a store or keep ready to buy keep. All globes are made bespoke to order, to arrange a meeting contact [email protected]
Photos via Sebastian Boettcher for Freunde von Freunden & Paul Marc Mitchell.