Globes captured Peter Bellerby’s fancy early on. “We grow up with globes, we see one and ask our parents where we’re from. They show us. We see this massive expanse and you’re just this tiny dot. It helps you dream of things.” The experience planted a seed.
When Bellerby searched for a globe for his father’s 80th birthday, in 2008, he wanted something sublime. Though he looked far and wide, all he found were antique celestial and terrestrial globes. And Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map—essentially a world map projected onto the surface of an icosahedron. None “came up to par,” he despaired. “I think the reason for this is that [globe making] is impossibly difficult.”
And why? “A perfect sphere requires perfect molds made through trial and error. I ended up making a map from scratch, getting the sizing of the gores [slices of the map on a sphere] correct for each size globe. Then learning to wet and stretch paper across a sphere without the paper ripping, tearing, or turning into mush.”
Bellerby adds that a new globe maker must try to make a globe every day for six months before they get it right. Using studio space in Stoke Newington, London, Bellerby & Co’s 23 employees, working without music or chatter, are monkish in their devotion to detail. They’ll make 700 globes this year. A commercial globe online costs $50. The costs at Bellerby & Co run from £1,200 to £79,000 (about $1,600 to $105,121) if you want a five-foot Churchill Globe with a stand.
“There’s no harm in commercial globes for kids to learn from,” Bellerby explains. “We are measuring craftsmanship, the time and effort it takes to make something by hand, the aesthetic, too. If you see our globes I hope you would be wowed by them every time. If you see another globe you might just look at it and find the country where you live.”