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Discover the Hidden Treasures of Globe Making

Peek inside the workshop of Peter Bellerby, with one of the world’s most leading fabricators.

Freunde von Freunden is an independent and international publication documenting inspiring people from diverse creative and cultural backgrounds. Through online interviews, videos, mixtapes, and studio visits, from Istanbul to Seoul, FvF documents the lives of global creatives. In their latest 'Workplaces' segment, FVF’s Sarah Rowland interviews 82-year-old fashion designer Manuel Cuevas in his Nashville, Tennesse shop.  

Like a lot of great ideas, Peter Bellerby’s was hatched in a Kings Cross pub. 

After a fruitless, two-year search for the perfect globe, worthy of his father’s 80th birthday, he decided one night to take matters into his own hands.

Today, his globes make appearances in Hollywood movies, BBC television shows, music videos and more. The artisan company now produces hundreds of bespoke globes each year that range from small desk-sized globes, to massive spheres up to five feet wide. Combining traditional globe-making techniques with their own pioneering designs, their globes are true works of art.

This was no overnight journey though. Along the way, many questions had to be answered with no previous experience to draw on. How do you get a large ball balanced with lead weights through customs? How do you actually balance the ball in the first place, so that it comes to a natural rest after spinning? For Bellerby, figuring out all of these challenges was like finding small treasures along the way.

In their globe-making studio, strips of paper with sections of world maps hang from the ceiling while paint dries. Different sized globes line the studio walls and tables, all in various stages of production. Situated in a light-filled warehouse building in London’s borough of Stoke Newington, we meet with this a leading purveyor of beautifully hand-crafted world globes. 

Freunde von Freunden: What was the actual process behind starting the company from the ground up? How did you figure out the construction? 

Peter Bellerby: There are various processes you have to go through. You really have to start with the actual construction of the stand for the globe. So we began first with a traditional wooden stand model  — that was the easy part. You have to work out a brass meridian and all the various pieces that make the globe sit just so. It has to sit on the axis so that the North Pole is in the north and the South Pole is in the south. The main challenge was constructing the spheres out of the Plaster of Paris and making those perfectly circular. And after that, we had to work out how to attach the map to it. In the end, that’s the thing that really took the most time. Some of the map will be  hand-painted before we paste it to the sphere, and the majority is painted afterwards. The paper is in strips, and we place the pieces onto the sphere one by one. When the globes are finished, we let them rest in a hard case. 

You essentially decided one day that you wanted to make a globe, and you set out to do it. What drove you?

I was looking for a globe to give as a gift, and I realized there wasn’t anything available that was exactly what I wanted. I couldn’t find anything that was hand-finished. That was the fundamental thing to me from the start—having everything done by hand from the very beginning to the very end. That’s really what we believe in at Bellerby, and so we put a lot of effort into each process. Especially the painting. It can take days, or weeks to finish a single globe. There are so many details. For example, the ocean can take days in itself. The painting of the sea is actually done before the map is put onto the globe, because it’s so extensive. 

When you started crafting your first globe, how did you figure out what to do? You had no instruction, or any models to really follow

From the very first construction to the painting, I did everything in the beginning. I have one or two of those globes upstairs — they’re not the best, I must say. I think that was one of the drivers for me. I didn’t really like school when I was younger. I didn’t like being told what to do, honestly. So the best thing about this type of work is no one can tell me what to do because there’s no one in the world who actually knew how to tell me what to do. To me, that’s been one of the best bits about it. Working from the beginning to craft something new is certainly a nice, fun way to learn. I must say though, it was equally stressful at the start. I was very lucky that there were various moments that happened along the way that were completely by fluke, and they enabled me to save a lot of time and money. Thankfully, I was able to achieve the end result. It still took a much longer than I had anticipated!

Read Sarah Rowland's entire interview for Freunde von Freunden here

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