Founder, David Harber, Walpole Member
David Harber, the British artist and sculptor renowned for his garden creations, started his career more than twenty years ago. He embarked upon his design journey by creating bespoke sundials, and is credited with making them sought after timepieces.
David is now most well known for exquisite garden art and installations, and is proud to have won the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Sundries Trophy five times. 2017 will see the team compete for Garden Product of the Year with his new sculpture, The Quiver.
Some of the other most notable highlights of David’s career include having three of his pieces being unveiled by Her Majesty The Queen, a special sundial commission for the late Queen Mother’s 100th birthday and last year, won a Queen’s Award for International Trade.
In order to be a successful luxury entrepreneur what are three pieces of advice you would give?
Firstly, have a vision and the confidence to only ever evolve in a positive or greater quality direction. Over the years, people have suggested that we consider producing a secondary range of more affordable sculptures, which may make sense from a financial perspective, but would have undoubtedly diluted the brand and our vision for its evolution.
You must also gradually build a team of likeminded people who understand the direction and ethos of the company and product. Then, learn to take advice. I have confidence in my ability to create desirable sculptures and water features, but it is important to recognise the need for professional input – marketing, accountancy and branding to name but a few.
What are the most important lessons you have learned along your journey?
Retain a sense of humour at all times and remember what your original motivation was. Never lose sight of the constant need to strive for improvement. I believe that you must empower people in the team to help drive the vision. It is very important to not be distracted by the wishes of demanding clients – the client is all important, however, it is vital to have the confidence to say no, to remain true to your visions and beliefs, whilst taking in the wishes of the client.
What are the watch outs along the way?
As a brand and team grows, it is important to nurture and acknowledge that it is a group effort and egos must be left at the door. Look out for the first signs of anyone copying your work, and be prepared to take the relevant action. Both the creative flair for designing and producing luxury items, and the passion and drive to promote and market the products, need to be closely supported by very sound financial control.
When you started out who was your biggest inspiration? And what did they tell you that helped make you a success?
In a previous life, I impetuously bought and converted a 120 tonne barge into a travelling art centre and theatre, which successfully navigated the waterways of Europe for many years. I was fortunate enough to have two friends, Michael and Mary Lloyd, also converting a boat, who were silversmiths from the Royal College of Art. Watching their attention to detail and total lack of compromise in both design and execution has always been both an inspiration and a reminder that excellence is a result of dedication and focus.