Over time the skills of traditional globemaking were lost to factory manufacture and with no one left to pass on the secrets of the lost craft, Bellerby set out to teach himself, spending 18 months learning just to place paper gores on to the globe. This was followed by tireless months deducing everything from how to weight the globe to ensure it spins perfectly, through to finding the recipe for the perfect adhesive. “It’s nice being able to know you did something entirely under your own steam,” says Bellerby. “I didn’t like being taught at school.” Two years later his persistence paid off, as he emerged with his first globe ready for sale.
Today Bellerby’s team of craftspeople, who are drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds in everything from fine art to woodworking, take six months to fully qualify in the skills required to make a Bellerby & Co. globe. Although artistic training is useful, Bellerby believes the most important qualities are personality-based. “The key ingredients are bloody-mindedness, persistence and patience,” he says. One wrong move in the finishing stages could undo hours of painstaking work, so Bellerby’s team are meditative in their calm as they delicately hand-paint minute details on to each globe.
Options range from modest-sized desk globes with a diameter of 23cm, through to giant versions at 1.27 metres, which require 180 hours of detailed painting. Each globe is made to order, personalised with anything from engravings along the arm of the globe stand to tailored cartography. “We let customers add meaningful locations to the map,” says Bellerby. “A lot of people also request illustrations. For example, if a customer has travelled over the temples of Myanmar in a hot-air balloon, we’ll depict the scene in miniature at that location.” Everything from mythical sea monsters, family photos and love letters have been added to a globe, along with a new flourish Bellerby demonstrates – hand-painted gold edging that follows the coastline of every country, shimmering delicately when the light catches it.
From humble beginnings in Bellerby’s living room, the business has expanded at an unprecedented rate. “A year-and-a-half ago there were four of us working here, now there’s 14,” explains Bellerby. “A lot of our customers make the journey here from as far as Mexico, America and Australia as they love being involved in the process and seeing how we work. People are always intrigued by how globemaking is done.” Being based in London also gives Bellerby’s workshop a particular pedigree.
“People really respect London and the UK as a whole as a centre for excellence because we have a rich history of making,” he says. “Also, English people are often unable to compromise.” In an age where almost everyone has a smartphone with maps, Bellerby believes the appeal of a traditional globe is enduring. “I use Google Maps every day to get me from A to B, but it doesn’t help you make the decision to travel, it just helps you make the journey,” he says. “Globes inspire you to visit new places.”