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 pub in Kings Cross was to make just two, one for Dad, one for me. 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? My last venture was setting up and managing a place called Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes, which within a year of opening had become one of the most interesting venues in London turning over more than £100,000 per week, so perhaps I was a little over confident. Blatantly obsessed with spheres either way!
So firstly I had to license a map. 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. At the start I had to learn Adobe illustrator, which is not so difficult. It's about as intuitive as the interweb and the email web are to my parents.
Then, find a friend to write the programme to morph a rectangular map into 'gores'- the triangular shapes that fit onto a sphere. Offer 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 Lahore (with a bodyguard and ouzi as company). Over a year to complete.
Then make a ball. 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 our globes are used in Hollywood movies and for BBC and ITV productions as well as established artists, but more importantly enjoyed by our many customers around the world. The comments on our testimonials page are entirely unsolicited and are a source of great pride.
Now a small team of trained globemakers create high quality, hand made globes that Bellerby & Co. has come to be recognised for. From the stand, to the artwork, the painting and map-making, each piece is expertly crafted using traditional and modern globemaking 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 our favourite. Watch a video here.
As well as the models displayed in our online catalogue, we undertake commissions from personal engravings to specific maps or artwork; a bespoke globe is an excellent way to commemorate a special occasion or journey. Please browse our products online, or visit our studio to see some of our globes in person.
Alternatively our range of mini desk globes and Livingstone globes can be viewed at Harrods, Knightsbridge, and will be available to purchase from selected international outlets soon.
And if you have time, check out this lovely short film
for a glimpse into Bellerby & Co. and what we do or catch a recent interview here.
For any further information on our products do not hesitate to call our office. Please read our blog here to find out lots of interestings globey facts, and behind-the-scenes globe secrets.
And for a glimpse into daily life in the studio check out our instagram.