Here at Inhabitat, we’ve been following New Zealand designer David Trubridge‘s career since we first spotted him at Milan Design Week years ago. As one of his country’s most celebrated designers, Trubridge emerged on the international design scene in 2001 with his airy bentwood lounge chair known as the Body Raft, and has been innovating ever since. These days, he has jumped into lighting design with his iconic organic lights and his flat pack system. In that spirit, Trubridge has released a a brand new book called So Far to share his design mind with the world. So Far is the autobiography of his life that parallels his personal journey with his design evolution, perfectly weaving the two together in a beautifully illustrated book.
Drawn by the purity of nature, Trubridge fell in love with the sea and studied naval architecture in his native England. One summer, inspired by a summer trip across Europe, Trubridge tried his hand at design and carved out a small wood statue that would open the door to his future in design. By the early 80s, Trubridge decided that the politics of England were no longer for him and he decided to set sail to live as a wanderer, taking his young family across the ocean. Trubridge and his family spent time in the Caribbean and Polynesia, working their way from place to place, with Trubridge honing his craft as he went. They eventually landed and settled in New Zealand.
It was there that Trubridge was asked to create an exhibition for the Hawke’s Bay Exhibition Center, which would launch him onto the international stage with his Body Raft design. The Body Raft would eventually be sold by Italian furniture company Capellini and become a classic piece of furniture. With So Far, the reader gets to share in that journey, experiencing everything from simple wood-carving to garnering acclaim for his designa, as they are recounted through his eyes.
So Far is divided into sections, each one corresponding with an original element (earth, air, water, fire, ether). The elemental influence is evident in Trubridge‘s work, which makes this organization the perfect way to tie everything together. The furniture that he created in England is anchored in the earth, while his work from his ocean travels bears the liquid lines of the water and sailing, using the tropical wood from the places he visited. By the 90s, his work takes on the vibrancy of the flame and finally the lightness of air, marrying all of the elements together. The author’s narrative ties the story of his progression and his work’s progression together, and it is an uncommon look into the evolution of great design.
The book is peppered with Trubridge‘s asides on topics like living as a nomad, his philosophies on function, his business model and the evolution of his craft with the invention of computers. These segments shed a captivating light on Trubridge’s process and influences, but also on the design business itself. Trubridge’s career has spanned decades, and his time has seen the the return to hand work in the 70s as well as the art-craft debate in the late 90s. Watching the evolution through Trubridge’s eyes is fascinating and at times, it reveals the intimate emotions behind the process.
Trubridge shares the philosophy behind his sustainable innovations, such as the Seed System: his packing method which reduces the size of a box for shipping a light to 1/40th the original size. It is obvious that green design isn’t just a fad for Trubridge, and his passion is evident from the first pages of the book. He shares his own personal growth when it comes to living in harmony with nature and the importance of sustainability within his business without veering into the puritanical, and sets a standard for all designers to follow.
Trubridge writes like a patient teacher, perhaps not coincidentally given his position as a teacher at the Vitra Design Museum for a number of summers, sharing what he has learned through his own journeys. The prose is accompanied by beautiful images, including images of Trubridge’s work and some photographs of his travels. The pictures are stunning, but more than that, they thoughtfully illustrate the story that the author is weaving.
So Far reminds us that life and design are inextricably intertwined—one can’t exist without the other. And like the name of the book implies, both are always a work in progress. So Far is published in New Zealand by Craig Potton Publishing and available right now.