hope garden furniture was started in 1992 by a waiter way past his sell-by date, with a romantic inclination to be a blacksmith. a purist, who found, bartered and borrowed original french café chairs and garden benches, owner adrian hope, began his garden furniture business in a disused cold storage room in cape town.
both triumph and disaster emerged from this curious choice of workshop, as he endeavored to copy the originals he had collected. enveloped in the romance of true craftsmanship and inspired by his growing library of old, but intact samples, he strove to produce exact replicas, taking it as far as having sheet metal strips cut to imperial measurement.
what inspired a person to take a mass produced product found in every london park at the turn of last century and painstakingly steambend, then shape, every chair back by hand?
“i was in d.h. lawrence state of mind!” he explains, “…also young and very idealistic. seeing how long the original ones had lasted i was convinced that this was the method in the recipe for longevity and besides, i wanted people not to be able to tell them apart from my old ones”
the impracticality of these methods soon became apparent and a more mechanised method had to evolve to keep up with demand and make the dream an economic reality. the search for a person with a natural affinity for iron, with the same belief and appreciation for a ‘well made thing’, and preferably with more suitable equipment, led him into an odd partnership which is now 17 years old. enter david timothy – a self made engineer, a genius concrete mould maker, whose only formal training was as a fireman on a SAR steam train – ‘a boer wat werklik a plan kan maak’. (translation – a farmer that really knows how to get something done with nothing, or very little anyway). he was also a collector and renovator of old heavy duty pre-war engineering machinery.
“i knew i’d found my man, besides no one else i approached believed this business was going to work”.
david became the supplier of the meticulous, forged metal work that characterises hope products. he then joined forces in an alliance which doggedly believes in ‘doing it yourself ’. he has remodeled many of the old machines for production and ingeniously produced hand operated jigs for turning out the curves and scrolls that characterise these replications of french furniture. as an indication of his ingenuity the metal table tops are formed on one of his large pre-ww2 lathes that, according to the previous owner, once made parts for panzer tanks!
now a small team of skilled metal workers, trained by david, are capable of producing the components and assembling them in the traditional method with rivets hammers and the smiths’ trademark anvil. eschewing the trend to modernise the woodwork shop, (i.e. read lack of funds here) and to keep the production process on a par with the metal work, after relentless attendances at woodwork auctions for the past 20 years it also now boasts a fine collection of previously obsolete woodwork machinery all renovated to operate as they used to 60 years ago.
hope is proud of its endeavour to remain an entirely south african company, from the use of local products to the manufacturing process in cape town.