Peter Bellerby speaks about his company's development, its phenomenal fan-base and how the craft of globemaking continues to influence travel today
Bellerby & Co. are creators of high quality, handmade globes. Established in 2010, they are the country's only traditional globemakers - combining traditional techniques with pioneering design.
The great story of Bellerby & Co began when founder, Peter Bellerby (pictured below) spent the best part of two years searching for a globe of significance to gift his father for his 80th birthday. Struggling to find 'the one' and eventually deciding to take the task literally into his own hands, Peter soon embarked on a project of tasking craft and incredible detail, learning just how much work is required to create a globe of sufficient accuracy and quality in build. This passion project has since seen the amazing development of a widely-renowned and much respected British company. Based in their Stoke Newington studio, the team of expertly-trained globemakers at Bellerby continue to craft unique, commissioned globes on a daily basis.
Taking some much appreciated time out of his schedule, Peter has answered our eager questions to reveal more about the company's development, its phenomenal fan-base and how the craft of globemaking continues to influence travel today:
The company began on very personal foundations. Do you ever find yourself taking a moment to consider how this all started from the very simple idea of wanting to give your father a great, memorable gift?
It seemed like a simple idea but it in end if was the most difficult thing I ever tasked myself to do in my life. I had many years of unremarkable gifts to make up for to be honest, my father is a hard one to buy for. Now whenever I go back to his house I think it’s about time I updated his globe since we have come so far as a company.
Is the studio generally a very quiet and solitary environment to work in due to concentration levels?
It's definitely quiet, but not solitary. As we work in a small area there is still a lot of interaction. We share the space with other artists too who make sure to disturb us from time to time as well. Sometimes hours do go by in complete silence though, we tend to get lost in the movements and detail.
What skills and interests do you generally look for in a keen globe-making apprentice?
We hope to find true 'makers' - that is something you can’t always learn. Working with your hands every day has to be a passion. The work is so delicate and precise that it does take a certain personality. We look for people who have studied art, 3d design, engineering etc. but do also hire people from unexpected (but related) fields sometimes. Since it takes 6 months of training by trial and error before making anything we can use, scrapping hard work each day only to start again, it really does take someone who is determined, confident and perhaps stubborn.
Due to popular demand you are going to be hosting open-house events in the future at the studio. Is there a plan in mind about what the events might entail yet, or do you think attendees will be more than happy to be able to see your globes up close?
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. A lot of people want to see the products and interact with them. It’s nice for people to be able to see the weight of the globes, the layers of watercolour and the different materials we work with, also the studio itself.
The Instagram community is really important to us, we have met so many great people. This month we had a small group visit and we let those who wanted to have a go at laying gores on a globe and showed them the various stages of globemaking.
Have there been any custom globe requests that you haven’t been able to fulfill but would love to have worked on?
No there is not actually. We try and work with everyone, often it is the time frame that is the deciding factor rather than the individuality of the design. Some things people request sound fabulous but they clash with who we are as a company and brand, for example we don’t do replicas or copies of old globes. Star Wars, Mars and Moon globes do get brought up, but then when it comes to ordering I think people realise they would rather spend their money on a traditional globe as it offers so much more detail.
Would you ever consider a globe drinks cabinet or are they particularly frowned upon for being sheer novelty?
I am anti-drinks cabinets at the moment. They are fun - novelty isn’t a dirty word - but we are hoping what we make is more than novelty. I could be tempted as I have never seen a modern one that I liked. I would like to see what we could do with the design and functionality. Never say never...
Are secret compartments ever requested?
Just once. A lady in Los Angeles was wanting a tiny globe that opened up into a ring box. We could have done it, but with the tiny scale of the globe and the time frame in which it was needed, it didn’t make sense to move forward. We would have had to drop everything we were currently working on and do a lot of trial and error. It would have been really fun though!
Do you think physical globes still hold an influence on travel?
I think they inspire travel… or the word everyone loves at the moment 'wanderlust'. I think a lot of people are so used to a flat map or more likely just looking at their phone that they don’t realise what is on route from A to B on the actual spherical world, also just how big some countries are. We've heard “Wow, Australia is all the way down there and bigger than all of Europe together?” a lot. Taking the time to look at a globe also does lead you to noticing cities or countries you might not have thought about researching before. Even in the studio we often ask each other "What’s this place like? I've never thought about it.", then give it a Google because we're intrigued to find out more.
What advice would you offer somebody looking to use a globe to map out a trip the traditional way?
As romantic as the idea sounds, I don’t think people should use a globe to map out a trip unless it is around the world and they want to have a think about sensible flight paths and routing. Our globes aren’t tools to tell you how to get to A to B, but they will inspire you to go there. They're more realistically works of art, design, decor. I think people really appreciate that they are handcrafted as that is kind of a lost art. Also owning something that is essentially one of a kind and made for you. We add to that sentiment and value by editing the cartography to add in special places for each customer and so on.
Have you ever based a trip yourself on spinning a globe and dropping a pin?
No! It was a great idea when I was 18 years old but now I appreciate being able to plan a trip based on my interests of the moment, the time of year, the weather etc. Also I know the globe well enough now that I would just cheat and at least be able to control what hemisphere I land on (aka not ending up in the Arctic).
Having spent hours working on a physical map, is shifting to digital on-the-go bothersome or is it quite nice to experience a change of format?
I use Google Maps on my phone daily. The physical map I work on (daily still) is just a different kettle of fish completely.
Visit Bellerby & Co. to read more of Peter's story and browse their incredible range of handcrafted globes.