Mastercraftsman and British sculptor David Harber on the importance of nature and healing
By Fiona Sanderson
Exclusive interview with internationally recognised sculptor David Harber who’s eponymous company is renowned for creating exquisite signature sundials and sculptural pieces, combining a visual beauty where art and engineering collide….
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE IDEA OF NATURE BEING ABLE TO HEAL, AND IN WHAT WAYS WOULD ONE OF YOUR SCULPTURES AID THIS THEORY?
The wounds and scars from this extraordinary event will be deep and slow to heal; however, the enforced slowing down of our frenetic lives encourages and forces us to be aware of our environment. Every element of the natural world reminds us of the reassuring cycle of life and the pleasure we can take in the small things around us, from the shoots of leaves on a tree to the serenity of a garden without the noise and scarred sky from vapour trails. Taking time to enjoy the stillness of a garden is often helped by a focal point, a piece created to harmonise and compliment the garden, such as sundials which have, since early man’s attempts to harness the energy of the sun, helped us to consider the bigger questions.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY SHOULD BE THE PREDOMINANT FOCUS OF A GARDEN, IN TERMS OF ITS AESTHETIC AND PURPOSE?
For me, the predominant focus of a garden should be a place of calm where the pace of nature allows contemplation and reflection. The drama of foliage with its colours and textures creates an ever-changing scene, like theatre, and should be a place that draws your mind and eye.
IF SOMEONE WAS CONSIDERING GETTING A SCULPTURE MADE BY YOU, WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST THAT THEY NEED TO CONSIDER?
Commissioning a piece of sculpture is a relationship between the designer and the client, and its intended environment. Is the piece to be a bold dramatic statement, such as the Torus (pictured above), or our latest sculptural work called Orbis, which was inspired by the elliptical orbits of comets and evokes thoughts of planets, as well as the notion of outer space. Or is the piece something more cerebral, like the Armillary Sphere? If we are having a conversation, it’s because the client likes our portfolio of classic designs. Alternatively, the Classic designs can also form the basis for a collaboration between the client and the David Harber studio. This process can be done remotely with the sharing of photographs and all-important conversations or where possible, the conversation can take place during a site visit. This can lead to flights of fantasy where the location, the client’s personality and the designer’s desire to create all come together to fulfil the commission.
WHERE WOULD YOU IDEALLY NEED TO POSITION A SCULPTURE IN THE GARDEN?
A sculpture can be a centrepiece, such as an Armillary in a parterre, something to intellectually and romantically engage and to hold the attention of the on-looker with its oracle-like quotations and ancient time-telling abilities; the alternative being a bold focal point that draws the eye deep into the garden and that becomes a visual and physical destination.
WHAT IS THE MOST AMBITIOUS PIECE YOU HAVE EVER CREATED, AND WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES INVOLVED?
We have created a giant pendulum for the centre of King Abdulaziz International Airport Jeddah and an enormous sundial for ONE°15, a superyacht marina in Singapore, both of which had technical and logistical challenges. We are currently revelling in the difficulties of creating an enormous sail-like sculpture for a municipality in Florida, sufficiently large enough to produce engineering and installation complexities, but the desire to create these pieces always trumps the difficulties that we are presented with.
FINALLY, WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LUXURY?
The Mercedez Benz 300SL that I am currently restoring.
For more information about David Harber, or to commission a piece of your own, go to www.davidharber.co.uk.