We were in last weeks WirtschaftsWoche, which is Germany’s leading business weekly magazine.
Click here for PDF of :: WirtschaftsWoche German Business Week Sept 2015
>>>>>>>>>>Rough translation ::
Briton builds exclusive globes
Peter Bellerby looks tired, but satisfied. He sits on a couch, wrapped up in a fluffy sweater and a thick scarf, in his hand a cup of tea with milk. “We have so much to do,” he says, “we are already booked through to April 2016.” His small workshop is in London’s Stoke Newington and manufactures Bellerby Globes with help of six employees.
Amazing: In times when people use Google Maps to search for the correct route and rely on announcements of their navigation devices, there is an eight-month waiting list for handmade, spherical models of the Earth, some of which are as expensive as a luxury sedan.
One reason for the success is the perfectionism of the founder: The maps on Bellerbys globes must be down to the smallest detail correct. Watercolor is applied by brush, being very careful not to drip of blur; the outlines of the continents are shaded with precision; Cities and water must accurately depicted, the surfaces are then coated with a protective layer. A time-consuming and expensive process. The larger of the globe, the longer it takes. Each year the team has made about 300 globes and neither the quality of the product nor the enjoyment of work is projected to decline.
But where does – 300 years after the death of the Sun King, and given the availability of digital maps – the continuing fascination with globes come from, a fascination which goes far beyond the maritime nation Britain?
World Travel by coup
Perhaps, therefore, because alone inspired her sight. They shall inform the countries clearly interrelated, a trip around the world is always only a coup removed – and created a completely different feel than the digital navigation via Google Earth. “One can as an individual with his own life story itself situate” says Bellerby, “on a computer screen, which only shows a section, you can not.” Even an Atlas does not offer this comprehensive, angle and length accurate perspective.
“A counterpoint to the soulless mass-produced goods”
Some customers is not enough. They can also draw their birthplace to their custom-made globes. Others choose a place that was important in her life, and let him highlight graphically. In the workshop float on a globe two filigree drawn Angels over the city Madeira – where the customer had once celebrated his engagement.
Such distinctive, analog single pieces are like a counterpoint to the supposedly soulless mass-produced goods of the digital age. The quality contributes to its popularity. A Bellerby globe can easily rotate, the finger of the viewer slide while walking across the continents unhindered over the smooth surface. The mechanical secret of lightness is invisible to the eye: The balls rest under the surface, in shells with invisible ball bearings.
The studio is a quiet work atmosphere where everyone is concentrating. On the shelves and tables and on the floor are terrestrial and celestial globes – which are available in five sizes and different colours. Across the studio hags clotheslines, on which dry paper wedges with cartographic detail that will be glued later on the globes: there are 24 on the smaller globes, 48 on the larger globes.
This process sounds simple, but it is very complicated. The wet paper must be smoothly joined and then precisely stretched – the paper can tear easily. In addition, the gores of paper must not overlap. With other globe-makers, entire countries often disappear from the globe: “Greenland and Alaska are especially often affected,” says Bellerby. It is a finicky job also requires the mapping of latitude and longitude.
The biggest Bellerby globe has a diameter of 127 cm, the smallest of 23 centimeters. That model is currently the best-seller, it fits on a desk and costs the equivalent of 1535-3070 euros – depending on the design, base and the amount of colour that needs to be applied for oceans and continents.
All his employees have learned the craft from him. The apprenticeships last between six to twelve months in Bellerbys workshop, until they masters the manufacturing process of the smallest globe. The company founder himself took about 18 months, until he made his first globe perfectly.
Bellerby has told the story many times, yet the story still sounds good: the company started in 2008 after a search for a gift for his fathers 80th birthday, he could only find either cheap mass products or fragile expensive antiques globes – but not correctly drawn, aesthetically pleasing and high-quality modern world; he then began experiments at home. Until he finally succeeded in a piece that was enough for his perfectionist demands.
“Things got out of hand,” he says, when he remembers his obsession back then.
Qualified he was not sure, because as a high school senior, he had last been employed with geography and physics. After that, he had held various occupations. He sold the film rights for video to television stations, then he led a nightclub and a bowling alley, and renovated a London house to sell on. The latter financed him his start at globe-making. Even the plaster ball for his first specimen he once tinkered itself. After all: These activities are usually done mostly by external suppliers today.
Each production step was initially associated with new challenges: the acquisition of the tools and the printing of the maps was expensive, cartography often flawed and requiring work, place names has often been mis-translated. Frustrated, the novice re-did the cartography using commercially available maps like Google Maps. It was a very lengthy method but worked in the end. Bellerby says in total that he probably invested more than EUR 200,000 in the birthday gift from his father. It only later dawned on him that he could have casually discovered a niche in the market. It was then in 2010 that he sold his first globe to an Australian.
It seems luxury globes speak not only to retired nostalgics, the success of Bellerby & Co on social networks like Facebook and Instagram prove the younger generations love them as well. The biggest markets for the globes are currently the US and Britain, in third place is Germany with nearly 40 customers already.
Including celebrities: The director Martin Scorsese bought four globes as props for his 3-D film “Hugo”, the Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare has commissioned many pieces. However, 75 percent of the customers are private individuals.
The individual design wishes of his buyers normally comes Bellerby like after, even if a company with a globe purple continents and oceans ordered silver. The situation is different in politically motivated special requests from: As a customer a world without the State of Israel would have refused Bellerby. He wants to stay out of territorial conflicts.
However, he spent the night doing cartography for an Indian customers to make sure that the border with Kashmir runs correctly. “Whoever makes a mistake, to him could face up to six months in jail,” says Bellerby, “and that must me on my next trip to India now not really happen.”