Natural muse

19:36, Nov 22 2012
David Trubridge
ON LAND: David Trubridge's furniture design has always been inspired by the landscape.

The inaugural Ted McCoy Lecture in Dunedin will be given by renowned Hawke's Bay furniture designer David Trubridge. Gavin Bertram reports.

David Trubridge recently developed some photographs from more than 40 years ago, many of landscapes, trees and rocks.

He took them as a university student in the northern English city of Newcastle, when he had no idea what he wanted to do.

Now Trubridge is an internationally recognised furniture designer based in Hastings - and he still takes photos of nature.

"It's always been there, " he says.

"I was brought up in the outdoors and we had lots of holidays in the mountains. I think those formative experiences are vitally important and you spend the rest of your life reliving them."


The designer visits Dunedin on Friday to give the inaugural Ted McCoy Lecture, a public event held in association with the NZIA Southern Architecture Awards.

Trubridge will be speaking about the creative process, which he believes is common between all creative disciplines.

"I've tried to distill a common denominator, " Trubridge says.

"A fairly general understanding of the creative process which can be applied to any number of areas of creativity. I do think that whether you're writing a book, painting a painting or designing a light, there are common factors."

As his company has grown to almost 20 staff, Trubridge says he experiences fewer distractions from the creative process these days, allowing him to focus.

Even so, during the crucial early stages of a project he likes to escape from the everyday routines.

"You need to get out of that and find your own place, " Trubridge says.

"For me, it's up a mountain or on the beach, just getting away from it.

"When you do it, stuff comes out that you weren't aware was there and it wouldn't have happened if you hadn't made that space."

He was drawn to furniture design after completing a degree in boat design in 1972. Trubridge and his wife renovated a ruined cottage in Northumberland, and he learned woodworking skills in the process.

After sailing to New Zealand on their own yacht, Trubridge gradually grew his furniture business in the Hawke's Bay.

When his Body Raft design was shown at the hugely influential Milan Furniture Fair in 2001, manufacturer Cappellini picked it up, changing the business in the process.

"I went there as a studio craftsman and came back as a designer, " Trubridge recalls.

"That's how they saw me. I was still working in a shed in the garden at the time and wanted to find a bigger audience than a few people in New Zealand.

"But they didn't see me as a designer/maker; they saw me as a designer and asked me to do more work. And that opening allowed me to go into what I'm doing now."

Now he has forged a reputation internationally not only for his furniture, but for his revolutionary lighting designs, which are all manufactured in New Zealand.

And photos of nature remain a vital part of Trubridge's creative process.

Fast facts
WHAT: Ted McCoy Lecture - David Trubridge

WHERE: University of Otago College of Education

WHEN: 3.30pm Friday

The Southland Times