Globe-making is a long tradition, dating back to the middle of the second century BCE. Although our contemporary world loves GPS, we'll never tire of the beautiful artistry and tactility of a globe. Bellerby & Co. Globemakers is one of the very few workshops in the world still handcrafting globes. Based in London, the company creates a variety of bespoke orbs to suit any space.
The Bellerby & Co. artisans spend months, if not years, training as globemakers. They use a combination of traditional and modern techniques to craft the instruments. It all begins with a perfect sphere, which itself is difficult to achieve. Then, the company makes edits to a map to update the cartography or personalize it for a customer; this meticulous process can take years to get right.
Once the map is ready, it’s printed and cut into shapes called gores and is painted by hand with watercolor. The artisans then apply those strips to the globe. It’s a very fragile procedure, but once all of the pieces are successfully applied, Bellerby & Co. adds more watercolor details and seals it with a finish. The globe is then placed on a base and finished according to the customer's preference.
The company makes globes in many sizes, from small orbs that will fit on a desk to large floor models that are 50 inches tall. The variety of sizes represents the demand for globes that still exists today. “A globe is a work of art and a nostalgic thing for many people,” Jade Fenster of Bellerby & Co. tells My Modern Met. “A high-quality globe is also something that you will keep for a lifetime and perhaps pass down to future generations. Just like there is always a demand for paintings and quality furniture, people want to fill their homes with things they love, that tell a story, that are high quality and that have a story behind them.”
Bellerby & Co.’s commitment to customization allows the company to learn about—and now be part of—some incredible stories about their clients.
“A woman recently commissioned a globe in memory of her daughter who passed away,” Fenster shares. “They had always loved traveling and old globes and maps; and during the time they were waiting and hoping her daughter would have a life-saving lung transplant, they saw our globes on a news story on TV. They started talking about how fun it would be to commission one and decided together they would do it at some point.”
Unfortunately, the daughter didn’t survive. After her death, her mom began to write a memoir that was bought by a major literary agency. “When she signed the contract she decided to honor the moment and remembered the globe,” Fenster continues. “She thought it would be a nice thing to commission one in honor of her daughter and the book—it includes passages written by her daughter and a record of her wonderful life. There were so many touching things on the globe. I cried a few times during the process of working with her myself! She and her daughter were really inspiring and I was so touched to be part of the process.”