Alain Sauter

bespoke world globe craftsman


One of the last of its genre and fashioning entirely handmade products in the 21st century in ancient, almost forgotten craft techniques! Enter a small factory in France that produces bespoke world globes. Their various series include celestial ones in tune with the cosmos at your individual birthdate and terrestial ones of the world in Renaissance times. The manufacturers work at the interface of expertise skills and science. So the studio’s unique and always personalised high-quality creations prove the correctness of the saying „good craftsmanship is great art“.

Alain Sauter

bespoke world globe craftsman


Alain Sauter holding the world in his hands.
Alain Sauter holding the world in his hands. | © Globe Sauter

Coincidences sometimes provide the initial spark. This was at least the case with Alain Sauter. While preparing a lecture for his students at the Paris Institute of Geography, the University professor discovered that the artisanal globe making disappeared in France in the 1970s and only some Brits were the last globe-makers standing. His heart began to beat faster. Geography. Travel. Craft. All his passions merged into one obsession: to create a globe himself! But no archive or library has preserved its manufacturing secrets. Everything had to be reinvented. It took him more than a year of research to meet the challenge.

Instead of taking care of gardens as originally planned, the man creates entire globes since 2016. Alain Sauter's career can be summed up in this one-liner. The native Alsacian (* 13 September 1983 in Obernai) acquired a BTS (Brevet de Technicien Supérieur = advanced technical college certificate) in management of natural spaces at École Nationale Supérieure de Paysage Versailles (National School of Landscape Architecture of Versailles) first. He thought for a time about being a gardener. But then everything turned out differently. His place of residence also changed. Instead of the metropolitan Paris it is the greenest city in France now: Besançon, located in the north-east of the French Republic. There in the backyard of the capital of national watchmaking Alain Sauter and shaper Cécile Blary, a former graphic designer, produce some very special collector’s items: various series of extraordinary globes. ‚The Earthlings‘ are called the terrestial ones with self-drawn maps according to UN specifications that can be specified in tune with various color patterns regarding the personal trips. ‚The Mythicals‘ are of the same overall category but from Renaissance times when for example Australia wasn’t discovered yet, the North Pole just fantasized and some imaginary islands dropped randomly. Because of its reference to a period of great travellers and explorers it is set - like in the 16th century - in a solid brass ring, the 50 cm globe placed in an oak table decorated with a calendar featuring the twelves signs of the zodiac. In contrast ‚The Cosmos‘ enables the viewer to admire stars and constellations above earth – for example at one’s date and hour of birth. The cartography of the moon's edition is based on the most recent NASA data, offering a striking precision and stunning shading effect.

Each globe is handmade within about ten hours spread out over two weeks. Sizes range from 21 cm to 80 cm in diameter. The French-only materials of excellent quality are plaster, paper, varnish, watercolour and wood. From all together arises an object that is perennial. Its exceptional state is described by short and sweet as well as pointedly: „A product that is perfectly accomplished, combining the rigour of an exact cartography with the poetry of an object which, nowadays, is much more a vector of dreams than an encyclopaedia, its primary function.“

Alain Sauter & Cécile Blary live and work in Besançon (France).

Interview March 2023

Arts & crafts melting into one world: combining the rigour of an exact cartography with the poetry of a vector of dreams


How does intuition present itself to you – in form of a suspicious impression, a spontaneous visualisation or whatever - maybe in dreams?

It starts with a low noise feeling during a couple of times (could be days, weeks or even months) and, eventually I realize that something is growing in me. Then parts of my mind are working on it until it becomes clear enough to put words or pictures in front of what was the intuition but not yet an idea.

Will any ideas be written down immediately and archived?

Well, hopefully not (laughing)! Lots of ideas, or let’s say “new ways”, appear in an everyday-life of a creator. Of course, not all of them are good or worth enough to go further in the reflexion process. Those one somehow disappears in a faraway land of my memory. But from time to time, an idea seems to be bright enough to be written down in my notebook, which is also a kind of faraway land of my memory. And from those lands, suddenly or called by a discussion with friends, one idea reappears and I start a deeper reflexion on it.

?: How do you come up with good or extraordinary ideas?

Those ideas are a quite rare animal for me. I think that they are always issued from a long process, mostly unconscious. So, in a way, I wait until they are grown enough to grab them like picking a ripe fruit from the tree.

?: Do you feel that new creative ideas come as a whole or do you get like a little seed of inspiration that evolves into something else and has to be realized by endless trials and errors in form of constant developments up until the final result?

Exactly, creative ideas are like seeds: first of all you have to be able to identify good seed from bad, then you have to make it grow gently, keep watering it with trials until it is strong enough to call it a final result. But don’t make it overgrown or it can fade...

What if there is a deadline, but no intuition? Does the first fuel the latter maybe?

Having a deadline is an excellent way to force your brain working harder. So yes, the first helps to fuel the latter.


What inspires you and how do you stimulate this special form of imaginativeness?

I already have had several ‘professional-lives’, and I have been lucky enough to say that they were all linked to a passion. As a former university lecturer, this experience, mixing natural sciences and geography, spiced with history, is my main source of inspiration, completed by current events.

?: How do you filter between ideas worthwhile pursuing and bad ones that you just let go of?

My team and friends are the filter. If I'm able to explain the idea and get good feedback, it's probably worth pursuing it, because it means that an emotion has emerged.

Has it to appeal to you primarily or is its commercial potential an essential factor?

This is an important issue in this day and age, where business is the primary concern, but I don't think it's the primary factor. I'm probably still a child in my brain, the dream is the first step.

Do you revisit old ideas or check what colleagues/competitors are up to at times?

Ideas don't get old, but they can idle for a long time and need a refresh. I usually avoid looking to my direct competitors because I'm afraid of imitating them, but colleagues in other professions can be inspiring. It's like traveling to another country, another culture.


Which time/place/environment suits your creative work process the best (tranquillity or pressure) and which path do you take from theory/idea to creation?

Being on a journey is a good time for me because, by definition, you are between two places, in a temporality that is not your daily routine. On a daily basis, I need to be alone and I prefer the early morning moment. The path is always the same: starting with sketches on paper, then improvising a rough prototype to confront with reality, then again sketches completed by documentation on the subjects that are the source of the main inspiration, until I feel ready enough.

What is better in the realization process: speed and force creativity i.e. grasp the magic of the moment, or a slow, ripening process for implementation/elaboration?

Both of them. I believe creativity is a slow process but when I suddenly feel that I get a spark, yes, I need to deepen in this “magic moment”.

?: Do you have any specific strategies you use when you are feeling stuck creatively?

I move on to other subjects and start reading up on them, just to feed my brain, or I go for a walk. But creating is not my main task and I also have to manage my workshop, which is a good idea not to feel stuck.

How important are self-doubt and criticism (by others) during such a process i.e. is it better to be creative on your own, only trust your own instincts, or in a team? 

As a former scientist, I always have doubts and can always push the button further. I need others to make a creation, especially my team.

Should a creative always remain true to him-/herself including taking risks & going against the flow or must one, for reasons of (commercial) survival, make concessions to the demands of the market, the wishes of clients and the audience’s expectations?

If you are lucky enough to have the perfect creative environment (including the financials), I think you naturally stay true to yourself. But, as far as my current position goes, some concessions are necessary to make the workshop work.

?: How is innovation still possible if one has established a distinctive style and, just in case, is it good to be ahead of one’s time even one hazards not being understood?

Establishing your own creative style is like establishing your way of traveling. You can travel the world without seeing the same things as your neighbour because you develop your own filters and habits. It is a constant exploration that leads you to discover something new for you, which maybe is already known to others or completely incomprehensible. The important thing about exploration is your ability to tell the story with your own eyes.

When does the time come to end the creative process, to be content and set the final result free - or is it work-in-progress with an endless possibility of improvement?

As I’ve mentioned before: for me it is a neverending game, but you have to be willing to set the final point and let others take ownership of your work. Creativity is a kind of discussion, you can't talk all the time, you have to finish your sentence and get an answer.

?: In case of failure or - worse - a creativity crisis how do you get out of such a hole?

Exploring, again and again.


?: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.“ Do you agree with Winston Churchill’s quote?

That is fully true! I also like the image of the iceberg: success is only the small piece above the sea level, behind is a fight between failure and enthusiasm.

Should/can one resist the temptation to recycle a ‘formula’ one’s successful with?

Recycling can be a good process if one understands that it is about making something new because the old is worn out. Otherwise, it is just repetition, which can lead to weariness.

?: Is it desirable to create the ultimate/timeless work, but doesn’t “top of the ladder” bring up the question of “what’s next?” i.e. isn’t such a personal peak “the end”?

The really great thing about creativity is that it's a neverending process. I'm not sure if I can identify what my ultimate work would be until the dawn of my death. Believe me, I'm not impatient (laughs).


This model called "gyro", taking the old and well-known concept of the gyroscope. It is my favourite, probably because it concentrates a lot of reflections on the old globes and the new geophysical representations. It can be summarized as an analog Google Earth. This piece is also the first one for which I spent a lot of time on sketches to arrive at an aesthetic result with a long list of constraints. It is still today the most difficult piece to realize in my workshop.

My favorite work: 'Gyro'

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