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Design Stories: David Trubridge

Design Stories

David Trubridge

Known for his mix of intricate craftsmanship, use of sustainable materials and high-tech genius, David Trubridge has gone from a local craftsman to that of an internationally known designer.

YLighting sat down with the insightful Trubridge to talk about his design philosophy, the moment he went from "craftsman" to "designer," and his most cherished item - which, surprisingly, is not one of his designs.

What is your design philosophy?

You could say my work lies somewhere between art and design. I am not interested in designing new objects just for the sake of it. It is not the way I work. For one thing, we have come to the point now where such design has become irresponsible and irrelevant; you could even say immoral. The planet just does not have unlimited resources, and we are discovering those limits every day. So we have to be much more considered in what we do use. But also, at heart there is an artist in me who needs to be saying something. I am driven to communicate, to tell stories. I need to have an artistic reason to design something - to feel that I am contributing to our cultural nourishment.

Where do you search for design inspiration?

The natural world. It is not that I go for a hike in the mountains and see forms for lights in the rocks. But I do find an energy and clarity of thought there that is less easy to access in the focused and more intense atmosphere of our studio. I need that physical distance and emotional separation which I find in remote and wild places. Much of that is about breaking free of the daily rut that is so easy to get locked into.

What's the best design advice you ever received?

The most important thing I learned was how to find where my heart lies, what the Maori call their turangawaewae, or their "place to stand." You could call it your point of inspiration. For me this is the land. I learned how to work from this place and how to develop a vocabulary to articulate my feelings. This is the crucially important part of the design process that is too often short cut, resulting in designs that are derivative.

Why do you use wood as a medium relative to other natural materials?

Because I learned the craft of woodworking before I became a designer. It is what I know and love. I do use other materials but wood has always been the medium closest to my heart. When I first taught myself woodworking I also worked as a part-time forester on a private estate of hardwoods in England, where I learned all about trees.

I skimp when buying . . .

Most things.

I splurge on . . .


My most cherished item is . . .

My MacBook I hate to admit it because I am not a geek, but it enables me to write, design, communicate, listen to music, store photos and keep up with our family!

My favorite vacation spot is . . .

Long Island, Bahamas where our son, William, lives and runs his freediving business.

New Zealand's best kept secret is . . .

If I told you it wouldn't be a secret! Come and find it!

The thing about the future that scares me most is . . .

The destruction of the environment.

I spend my weekends . . .

Windsurfing and hiking at our holiday house at Mahanga Beach.

Design Stories: David Trubridge

David Trubridge is a visionary. Unlike most of us he can translate those visions into something functional.

Floral Pendant by David Trubridge

"Icarus, Freedom in Balance" a lighting installation at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair. The installation suggests a way of living in a balance that does not involve us "flying too high".

Mirror Ball Lights by David Trubridge

Water sports mecca, Mahanga Beach, is located on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

Mirror Ball Lights by David Trubridge

Trubridge's new colored Coral lights at the new product launch at Simon James. The Pendants are made from sustainable Hoop pine plywood.

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