The rebirth of an old trade

Within most people is a curiosity about the world and its places, a desire to explore and discover. A globe can help quench that wanderlust but also breed more fascination for the world, a phenomenon that happens daily on Sarri street for Michael Koimtzis, 30. Nestled between two art studios, Koimtzis has reinvigorated the trade of making handmade globes in the quietest pocket of the Psirri neighborhood off of the Monastiraki flea market.

The storefront is so modest it would be easy to miss if not deliberately seeking it out. And the quiet of the area is fitting for the quiet nature of the globe maker. With subdued eyes and a soft voice, Koimtzis is as humble as they come. At the forefront of the store are rows of industrialized globes, objects the company, called Cosmic, actually profit from.

A globe created by Koimtzis.
Photo by Sophie Cannon

Further in, Koimtzis sits at his desk looking at something on his computer with his brow furrowed and his finger resting on his lip. He is backdropped by a large world map, and all around him are clusters of handmade globes, each ranging in size, color and design. Bundled between them are three older papyrus-colored globes that were made in 1951 by Koimtzis’ grandfather, who started the business in 1951 at the age of 28.

For 30 years the company made handmade globes, until the operation stopped in 1981 and he strictly sold industrialized globes. For years the art was lost, until Koimtzis entered the family business three years ago and started making them from scratch again.

“The art of making globes was kind of lost…I had to re-invent it,” Koimtzis said. “I watched my grandfather make globes, and I’ve always liked maps and globes as a kid.”

It takes about 12 hours to make a globe, which is why Koimtzis creates on average only four a month, each selling at around 250 to 300 euros, or $280 to $336. As of now, he has made fewer than 100 handmade globes. He still treasures the three that remain in good shape from his grandfather’s era.

Customers can choose the kind of globe they want online, customize it and then place the order. Koimtzis later retreats to his studio in the back to put it together. The skeleton of the globe is made out of two halves of plastic, fused together with glue. The map is printed into 24 strips and carefully glued onto the globe, with extra attention given to making sure there is no gap or overlap. Later, the globe is covered in two layers of varnish to give it a sheen. A wooden base and aluminum axis are added to complete and balance it.

“When I finish a globe, it feels really good. It feels really good when I put the last pieces together. It relaxes me,” Koimtzis said with a shrug.

Inside Koimtzis’ studio, boxes are stacked high and balance precariously, making them look like mini versions of the leaning Tower of Pisa. They overflow with glues, nails, spray paint bottles, globes and other tools.

In the middle of the room is an elongated desk where containers of paint brushes, pencils, map strips and other various tools are strewn about, waiting to be used. The only source of light comes from a small lamp on the desk and a small window to the right that illuminates particles of dust as they dance in the air.

Koimtzis sits at the desk, cutting 24 strips of paper with scissors for his newest globe. The light from his lamp bathes his face in a soft orange glow. He is at home with his globes. The only sound in the studio is the repeated crisp contact that the scissors make with paper.

“Michael was born between globes, his entire life was around globes,” said Anna Koimtzis, 52, Koimtzis’ mother, as her son works nearby. She means it quite literally. “His first steps,” she said, “were on a map.”