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Second nature

Posted on Mar 24, 2014

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By Davina Richards

In an age where homes are cluttered with new stuff, trends do not play a role in the creative processes of this British born designer and the unity of nature, art as sustainability is his signature.

New Zealand-based furniture and lighting designer David Trubridge was catapulted onto the international stage in 2001. He has been on the receiving end of many awards, including the prestigious John Britten Award for innovative design and was also a speaker at last year’s TEDxAuckland.
In a world where waste is polluting our lands, the self taught furniture maker has a strong sense of environmental responsibility. His work details the light and delicate minimalism of materials and anchors the importance of organic and sustainable designs.
From materials, creative processes to his eco-friendly design and manufacturing business in Hawke’s Bay, David likes his products to tell a story; you can read more about his experiences and creative processes in his biography So Far.
Is a good design something which stands out, or something which blends in?
I don’t think you can generalise. Some good designs stand out, while elsewhere a good design may blend in. It all depends on the design and the context.
How has the practise of furniture and lighting design evolved for you?
It started as a self-employed, craft driven practis e making furniture which sustained me for 25 years. Then the lighting came along and that developed into quite a different business which has allowed me to employ a great team of more than 20 people.
What do you think about the current state of the design world?
There are a lot of great people who really care, but they tend to be small players. Unfortunately most of the big players are largely content with business-as-usual while playing lip service to responsibility. I wish the idealism of the young had more influence!
What are you working on at the moment?
We are doing quite a bit with acoustics in some form or other. At last the design world has woken up to the fact that it is not enough to design amazing looking buildings and spaces if they deafen you with reverberation!
Which cultures have given you new insight, inspiration and understanding into the ideas and processes behind design?
I am most inspired by the Australian Aborigines, especially the recent wave of paintings by women artists, such Dorothy Napangardi and Emily Pwerle. Art has always inspired me more than design which has in effect already been done.
Do you find yourself fighting an ongoing battle between form and function; as in is finding the balance one of the toughest elements of design, because if either is compromised the product isn’t what you want it to be?
No not really! The dogma of form following function went out in the last century - it is very minimal and boring! The form of my lights has nothing to do with the function.
But you are right that finding balance in design is very hard - all the different criteria are pulling in opposite directions: aesthetics, structure, material requirements and cost. It is very hard to get them all right and just about every design is a compromise of some sort.
Have you ever had any designs or concepts which you loved, but weren’t feasible, so they never made it to production?
Yes of course. In the old days when I was working alone I
could make just about anything, but now with much larger overheads my options are much more limited.
Sadly we can’t make most of my furniture designs because by the time we have added our costs, then put the piece through our distribution/retail chain mark-ups, the price is prohibitive.
What do you enjoy the most about mentoring young designers and employing interns? And do you find yourself learning new things as well?
I love their fresh energy and enthusiasm. Some of their ideas can be a bit whacky but that is just what we need. Yes of course I learn from them, especially the foreign interns who bring a quite different culture and perspective.
If we take your business as an example of being environmentally responsible, do you think there is an awful amount of ignorance about how wasteful our society is?
I don’t make my business out to be a paragon of virtue, but we do care and we are constantly trying to improve. I think the same may be true for many other people and businesses.

Then there are others who do care, but who are caught in the juggernaut and find it too hard to take enough action. And yes, there is also too much indifference and waste.

There has to be a mixture of hunger for change from the bottom and encouragement and leadership from the top. Sadly our government shows no sign of living up to its responsibility and we drift backwards rudderless.

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