David Trubridge graduated from Newcastle University in Northern England in 1972 with a degree in Naval Architecture (Boat Design). For the next ten years he lived and worked in rural Northumberland. He taught himself furniture making while working part-time as a forester on a private estate. He went on to develop his own designs which were exhibited around Britain. Many commissions followed, most notably from the Victoria and Albert Museum, St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh and the Shipley Galler, Newcastle.
Redfern Cottage, the ruined cottage David and Linda renovated whilst in Northumberland; in the background you can see the workshop (image below)
During this time he married Linda, a Fine Arts graduate, and they had two sons, Sam and Billy. In 1981 they sold everything they had, bought the yacht ‘Hornpipe’ and set out on an open ended adventure around the world. For five years they sailed through the Caribbean and Pacific, stopping to work for a while in the Virgin Islands and Tahiti. Here David made commissioned furniture for expatriates on Tortola and Moorea.
David worked extensively in the Carribbean, including creating the interior fitout for this house in the Virgin Islands
They arrived in New Zealand in late 1985 and based themselves in the Bay of Islands, where they continued to sail ‘Hornpipe’. David started to make furniture influenced by their Pacific travels. A series of chairs were made like outrigger canoes: light flexible structures fastened with string lashings held graceful canoe forms as seats. Canoe Chair is in the entrance foyer of the New Zealand embassy in Tokyo.
When Sam and Billy entered High School they sold ‘Hornpipe’ and moved to Hawkes Bay. David was Artist-in-Residence at Hawkes Bay Polytechnic (now EIT). He developed a series of works derived from the East Coast landscape and its fractured, friable rocks. They built a house in Havelock North, which David designed. This led to further architectural commissions.
One of David's housing designs, built in Hawkes Bay
Taking inspiration from their much loved boat, the colourful Hornpipe Bench was made for a national Design competition. Constructed from Radiata Pine, it went to win a number of other awards. It was exhibited in London and in Hannover at ‘Ligna', and was included in the International Design Yearbook. The prize for the design competition was a trip to Japan. David combined this with a short residency at Kyoto College of Art.
David Trubridge, the Company
In 1999 David curated a national exhibition called Furniture in Context for the Hawkes Bay Cultural Trust. He exhibited the first Body Raft 98 design, which was shown with blue-prints of yacht designs.
The second version of the Body Raft was shown at Salone Satellite in the 2001 Milan Furniture Fair, where it was picked up for manufacture by Cappellini. This was the start of a whole new change in David’s business model. His role has developed from that of a local designer/maker to an internationally known designer running his own design and manufacturing business with sales all over the world.
The computer has played a large part in this transformation, both in communication and design. David’s early training in Naval Architecture prepared him well for computer 3D designing. Now the company integrates CNC technology and is able to move fluidly between design and production.
The CNC room in full swing
In September 2011, the business opened the doors to its new home, a specially designed building in Whakatu, Hawkes Bay. Incorporating a showroom, workshop and design studio, it is here that David spends the majority of his time working closely with his design team. The company employs over twenty staff, who all come together to share lunch each day and enjoy the flexibility of an adaptable working environment. Interns from around the world come and participate in the daily life of company, and are encouraged to participate in all departments from design to manufacture and dispatch.
The Showroom in Whakatu, Hawkes Bay
The company has exhibited at numerous trade fairs and shows since its first appearance at Milan in 2001. These include, but are not limited to, 100% Design (London), ICFF (New York), Wanted Design (New York), DMY (Berlin), Dwell on Design (LA), the Pompidou Centre (Paris), Objectspace (Auckland), Cheongju Craft Biennale (South Korea), and the Nobel Peace Centre (in Oslo, Brussels and Monaco).
On Thin Ice, David's exhibition for the Nobel Peace Centre investigating climate change
David's work can be found in many of the world's leading museums, such as the Pompidou Centre, the V& A, Te Papa, the Minneapolis Design Museum, and at the New Zealand Embassy in Tokoyo. He has also been commissioned for various public art projects around New Zealand and Australia and continues to develop this part of the company's practice. Since his early days as the leader of company his lights have been featured in a wide range of restaurants, bars, airports and foyers around the world. Retail displays have included English high street favorite Top Shop as part of the Kate Moss collection; Stella McCartneys diffusion line for Printemps, Paris; and on a catwalk for the Milan Fashion Week.
Commissions and Collaborations
The company has worked extensively with other companies, continuing to deepen its design dialogue and capacity to adapt fluidly and intuitively to a client's needs. Some of these collaborations include Hemptech,Bleux, Finewood, Boffi, CRONZ and Cappellini, whilst commissions range from renowned New Zealand winery Cloudy Bay to Bombay Sapphire and Australian luxury store Oroton.
David has received an incredible range of awards for his work and contributions towards design. These include the Good Design Awards (NZ), the Best Awards (NZ), Home NZ Design Awards, the Silver Leaf Awards (Japan), Designboom / Sotheby's Awards (London), the UN / Natural World Warming awards and New Zealand's greatest prize for innovative design, the John Britten Award.
Over recent years David's designs have been featured countless times in publications around the world, from Portugal to Lithuania, Ireland to Taiwan, Iceland to Ukraine. These include influential Italian magazines Abitare, ddn and Interni, plus Time, Wallpaper, I D magazine, and even the Financial Times. His work and writing have appeared in a number of design books and his designs have featured on the cover of two eco-design books. For two years in a row Abitare picked out one of his designs for their preview of the best things to see in the Milan Furniture Fair. In 2006 the French editors of Elle Décor magazine judged his lighting to be the best of the year. And in 2008 another French magazine Express listed him as one of the top 15 designers in the world. In various recent European articles his work has been identified as internationally trendsetting in a new form of “raw sophistication”.
David continues to play an important role as an ambassador for good design - and all that it entails. Environmental and ethical responsibility and the need to design with a social conscience are embedded in his approach. He was chosen as an Arts Fellow in 2004 / 5 to travel to Antarctica and part of his response was explored in the exhibition, On Thin Ice. An accomplished speaker, he has presented at conferences in Auckland (NZ), Sydney, Adelaide and Perth (Australia), Mexico City, San Francisco, Edinburgh (UK), Dongguan (China) and regularly gives public lectures around the world.
The Vitra Design Museum has hosted him as a teacher in their summer school for a number of years, whilst he has also worked with design students in Iceland investigating the issue of whaling. He has also been recognized as the "Wornick Distinguished Visiting Professor" at the California College of the Arts (San Francisco), and has judged in the Queensland Design Institute Awards (Australia).
Participants work on projects using recycled materials at David's Summer School workshops in Vitra, France; students were sent out into the woods for the night with only a bowl of rice, instructed to create shelter for themselves in the wilderness...