An award-winning artist with an international reputation, David Harber has been making contemporary and innovative sculptures, sundials and water features for over two decades. David collaborated with Haddonstone several years ago to create two stunning cast stone and mirror-polished stainless steel sundials and in this exclusive guest blog, David discusses the process and considerations he works through when commissioned to create sculptures and sundials for his clients.
David Harber’s sculptures are synonymous with elegance and simplicity. His designs playfully incorporate light, water and reflections to create dramatic focal points in both exterior and interior settings. Each commission is hand made at the David Harber workshops in Oxfordshire and uses materials such as copper, bronze, stainless steel and stone.
Since 1992, David has gained an impressive worldwide following, with his designs gracing private gardens and homes, hotels, corporate headquarters and Royal palaces around the world. The company has since grown from strength to strength. Based in Oxfordshire, the studio is a hive of creative activity with over 30 employees including designers, engineers, craftsmen and installation experts. Drawing integrity from David’s commitment to using only the finest quality materials, his talented team practice time-honoured methods to bring his designs to life. David continues to have a hands-on approach, particularly with bespoke commissions, from attending initial site viewings, designing and manufacturing in the workshop right through to the installation.
David Harber’s commissions extend far beyond the UK and he has made both customised and bespoke pieces for private, corporate and public body clients the world over with projects as far
afield as Qatar, Singapore and U.S.A. Highlights of his career include undertaking many royal commissions around the world with his work being unveiled by HM Queen Elizabeth II, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Prince Charles. In April 2016, David Harber received a Queen’s Award for International Trade.
He is also a six times winner of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Sundries Trophy, and has produced private commissions for a host of illustrious clients including Dame Judi Dench and George Michael.
I have been producing sculpture and notably sundials, for over a quarter of a century. I am constantly reminded that the durability of a piece and its appropriateness for the setting are my guiding influences.
Engaging with the client, getting a feel for the garden or setting, and notably the intent – is the piece designed to be a focal point, a dominant statement in the location, or a more quizzical side show to the drama of the landscape? Are we intending to complement and reference the landscape or is the piece to be dramatic counterfoil to the nature it sits within?
Often the very use of hard metal sculptures with their polished surfaces or defiant shapes are in themselves a reminder of the juxtaposition of the manmade and nature. By which I mean, is this a decorative bauble to enhance a site, possibly for the short term? Or, hopefully an impassioned commission that will give pleasure to the homeowner for decades and centuries to come.
We work in many different materials and each will have its own character and identity. The material appearance may evolve with time and will undoubtedly look different as the seasons change. With this in mind, dialogue with the client and an understanding of the mood of the garden or location, is vital. A shining example of where this plays out is in the commissioning of our classical armillary sphere – a sundial I have been making since the beginning of my career as a sculptor and sundial maker. It’s a piece which sits atop numerous Haddonstone plinths dotted around the world.
The armillary sphere is an elegant marriage of art and science, sculpture in its ephemeral, delicate appearance, cerebral in its strict adherence to mathematic and scientific norms. It appeals on many levels – it’s reassuringly traditional, steeped in classical history (originally conceived by the 250AD Greek Philosopher Astronomer Ptolomy).
I revel in some discreet detective dialogue with my commissioning clients to extract relevant bits of information that can be conveyed on the dial. Given that every sundial is totally unique, and must be made for its intended location, it is the perfect opportunity to create a time capsule, an heirloom and a truly personalised object that will last generations. Sharing its time telling ability for years to come, but also imparting oracle like wisdom.
There is a long-standing tradition of mottoes or sayings on sundials. The sundial is effectively the voice of the heavens (the oracle). I always encourage my clients to select a meaningful, beautiful motto – a line of poetry, a personal quote or commissioning statement.
One client’s time-related personal quote still brings a tear to my eyes as it did the recipient on the day of its unveiling:
To Charles on the occasion of his 60th birthday
From his wife Elizabeth and their children Peter, John and Tara
To whom he has given both roots and wings.
Other embellishments I encourage are the inclusion of a topography. Given that we know the precise location of the sundial’s resting place, and if the client nominates a handful of places of personal significance from around the globe, we can calculate and engrave the true direction and distance of each of these important memories.
All sculptures – and notably sundials – need their stage. Standing sentinel like in the middle of a lawn or nestling in a flowerbed, they require to be securely rooted to their given spot. In the case of the armillary sphere, its height, relative to the observer and the formality with which it presents itself is often the perfect opportunity for a plinth. The selection of the plinth is part of the aesthetic and the vast range offered by Haddonstone allows clients to have the perfect ensemble to complement both the dial and the architecture of the house or the mood of the garden.
The solid brass Haddonstone Armillary Sphere was designed by David Harber and is exclusive to Haddonstone. Calibrated to tell solar time, the sphere features three rings depicting the equator, the meridian and a colour, with a cruciform stand on a circular base to support it.
The equator band is engraved with Roman numerals, whilst the outer sphere includes a thoughtful sundial verse:
“Make time, save time while time lasts. All time is no time when time is past.”
It is photographed infront of the Haddonstone Small Classical Temple.
The mirror-polished stainless steel Haddonstone Crescent Sundial was also exclusively created for Haddonstone by David Harber.
David Harber chose to showcase a range of his beautiful sculptures in the Haddonstone Show Gardens in 2010.
A selection of David’s sculptures photographed in the Show Gardens can be seen below. Click on each image to enlarge.
Whether you’re working on a private residential or large commercial project, or if you are interested in home and garden products, our friendly and expert team are happy to discuss your requirements.