Anyone with an interest in international relations likes maps. Peter Bellerby loves them. He loves them so much he creates beautiful works of art out of pieces of paper glued to perfect spheres.
It is a departure for the W&Y to write a story set in a workshop filled with plaster casts, the smell of glue and resin, and maps, maps everywhere, but the gravitational pull of the globe, and the shared love of the map pulled us to Stoke Newington in North London.
The workshop is the home of Bellerby and Co founded after a fruitless two year search for a globe fit to honour the 80th birthday of Peter Bellerby’s father.
Frustrated by the mass produced globes, which he says are rarely accurate and frequently of low quality, he decided to make one himself. And then another one. And another. Now the company produces globe after globe for customers from around the world. He’s even made globes for Martin Scorsese. They can be seen in the film Hugo.
This is high-end quality stuff, Mr. Bellerby says ‘I want these globes to still be used 200 years from now”.
One of the joys of the globe is the perspective they offer, the ability to trace with your finger the oil route down the Shatt al Arab waterway, through the Strait of Hormuz, across the ocean towards China passing through the Malacca Strait and seeing how all the countries in the neighborhood are suspicious of China’s growing power and have close relations with the United States (and its navy). A measured spin of the sphere and you can turn right out of the Strait of Hormuz, come round past Yemen, up the Red Sea and through the Suez canal. At a glance the economic importance of the war in Yemen is apparent.
That can be done with many a globe, but the craftsmanship put into these heightens the experience. Speaking of perspective – a globe made for a Brazilian client and from a Latin American view is discombobulating to a European. There’s Australia, instantly recognizable, but hang on, there’s China – below it!
Bellerby is passionate about accuracy and so each strip of paper laid on to the hand made sphere has to be not only exactly, to the ‘nth millimeter in the right place, but every detail, name, shoreline, and capital city has to be right, and right up to date. This requires following the news about wars, climate change, independence movements etc – in itself a full time job.
And the cost? The artist in Bellerby seems to find talk of money almost painful but when you’re working with quality materials, and quality staff, the final product cannot come cheap. There’s nothing base about the base model other than the stand upon which the ‘Standard mini’ desk model sits, and it will cost you £999. If this is too small for your tastes, but not your wallet, you can go up in sizes all the way to the Churchill model. For that you need just under £40,000. But then again, our world is priceless.
Disclosure. The W&Y hopes to use one of these things of beauty at the July launch of the book ‘Prisoners of Geography’. But that makes no difference to how lovely they are.