At their modest shopfront in North London, Peter Bellerby and his crew received me warmly and took me on a quick tour of the premises. First I watched plaster of Paris cast into 20-pound orbs, that (after almost twenty hours of work) becomes one of Bellerby's signature globes.
Interest has been pouring in, but ever the stickler for details, Bellerby is still tweaking his methods and has yet to let one out the door. “I don't want to give things to people that I'm not happy with,” he explains. Quality is not the issue as much as his rampant perfectionism. “At some point I'll just have to say 'good enough' and let them go,” he admits.
The waiting list includes the British Royal Geographical Society who would like one for their London library. Also a fan is professor and neighbor James Mosley, a preeminent typographer and creator of the typeface adorning each globe.
The workshop is Situated in a converted residential house in Stoke Newington, the once predominantly working class district of London that's long attracted the talented and eccentric. Bellerby's small team includes the Harrison brothers, two talented woodworkers in their twenties who treat the tulip wood with shellac, creating the aged effect that gives the globes their antique appearance.
In the backroom Peter Bellerby's older brother Chris casts the globes in the plaster of Paris, an effort if not done right wastes a mass of material and hours of time. He's got to work quickly as the plaster begins hardening in mere minutes and the surfaces have to be faultless to meet the shop's exacting standards.
While the first one hundred Britannia Globes will likely soon be spoken for Bellerby is already brainstorming for the future. A 19th-century “Explorer's Globe” in honor of the late explorer David Livingstone is just one idea we can look forward to.