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David Harber - The Desire to Create

David Harber and his team of craftspeople, engineers and designers work from a charming studio/workshop on the very edge of the Cotswolds in South Oxfordshire, England, where each piece is carefully handcrafted using natural materials. David Harber creates sculptures, sundials and water features of exceptional quality and extraordinary beauty for a global audience. Our pieces now adorn palaces, private residences, company headquarters, aiports, universities, schools and colleges and superyachts all over the world.

David’s eclectic early career includes being a potter, thatcher, rock-climbing instructor, mountaineering cameraman and many years spent converting and running a travelling theatre on a barge throughout Europe. This evolution of unconventional activities led seamlessly to an obsession with the art and craft of sundial-making, and the David Harber brand now celebrates its 30th anniversary.  

David’s passion for creating sundials, sculptures and water features was born out of a fleeting encounter with an antique sundial destined for an antiques market. Like a man-possessed, that very day, a visit to the History of Science Museum in Oxford, England, and the purchase of some metal and David’s first armillary started to take shape. The elegant simplicity of the Armillary sphere sundial and the sublime and ancient mathematics allowed this piece to impart its ethereal wisdom and to convey the simplest message of a universal truth: ‘time passes’. David’s obsession with these metaphysical objects is in part because of their roots in ancient history and the intellectual, almost emotional connection that is created with the great thinkers, astronomers, philosophers of the past who devised and created these scientific instruments.

Sundials are imbued with oracle-like status and the tradition of engraving a motto or quotation is as old as sundials themselves. Sundials are often commissioned to celebrate or commemorate a moment in time, a wedding anniversary, birthday, a special date in someone’s life. The very fact that the sundial will function from millennia to come, providing our earth keeps orbiting the sun, means that any messages or sentinels conveyed on this elegant object will be conveyed and hopefully resonate to future generations. We are creating heirlooms of the future.  

‘The constraints of the mathematics and the desire to create a beautiful emotional object is a permanent but immensely rewarding challenge. The marriage of art and science for a sundial to function correctly, it must be made for its precise latitude and longitude, its very place on the surface of the planet’ – David Harber. 

Whilst sundials take their function and magic from the heavens, our sculptures and water features are conceived and designed to embellish gardens, to pay homage to nature and are invariably inspired by the natural world, be it the organic shapes of the Mantle petals, mimicking leaves or the sublimely distorted reflection of a garden as found in the immaculate surface of a Torus. 

‘My inspiration is elemental nature, the reflection of light on water, the dappled silhouette of leaves in a tree, the texture of tree bark and the shadows cast by foliage and structures. Nothing is static and everything evokes an emotion. Some of our my pieces are designed to be hidden and therefore harmonized with their natural environment whilst others form a striking focal point to draw the eye deep into a garden or the landscape. I believe it is impossible to create a sculpture without considering the context – this is both the desire of the client and the synergy with the physical garden location. Over the thirty years I have been making pieces, we have created a portfolio of sculptures, sundials and water features’. David Harber

‘I am always delighted and challenged when asked to devise a unique and bespoke piece for a specific location. This process is very much one of dialogue with the client, who I consider to be a patron, supporting me as the artist, and the location, be it in nature, a garden or a landscape, or one of our interior pieces which will reference or be inspired by the architecture, décor and taste of the client and their property’ – David Harber.

‘My 30 year love affair with time-telling sculptures would probably never have started had not one of my very first dials been seen and bought by the actor Jeremy Irons, who was kind enough to say that I had captured something magical in the product and that I should continue making and developing this truly quirky career’ – David Harber.


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