Born in Ireland, Barber became interested in African ceramics when he worked as a teacher of mathematics in Zambia. On returning to Ireland he began to explore early Celtic, Neolithic and Bronze Age ceramics that he was able to study in museums. This historical and technical research inspired him to make and fire replicas, some quite large. Most of his contemporary work is influenced by the technique and feeling of early ceramics.
He was a guest demonstrator at the International Potters Festival Aberystwyth in 1993 where he recreated pit firings. The pots were coiled, burnished, decorated with simple markings and fired in a bonfire with wood and straw.