David Trubridge. Risky DNA.

David Trubridge. Risky DNA.

What happens when a graduate in Naval Architecture and a Fine Arts Graduate get married, and then in 1981 they cash in all their belongings for a yacht called Hornpipe and sail across the world with their two small sons on an open ended adventure?

Well, if you’re the Trubridge family, the land and sea becomes a part of who you are just as much as what you stand for. You explore, discover, persevere, and create – and you’re not afraid to take risks.

David Trubridge exhibits his work extensively throughout the world, and is widely celebrated for his creations original and environmentally sensitive qualities. His work is produced in New Zealand using only natural materials in order to reduce the effect on the environment.

I’ve been stalking the Trubridge family for a little while now, and whilst I find myself in awe of David’s exceptional craft, it was actually his youngest son William that first caught my attention. Back in 1997 he embarked on a world record breaking roll for free diving, was the first person ever to break the 100m barrier unassisted, and as of 2013 he holds the world record in the free immersion and the constant weight without fins disciplines. I came across a blog William wrote where he shared childhood memories. Of his father David, William said:

The lessons that have enabled me to become a better freediver have mostly been learnt out of the water. Making wood carvings alongside my father in his workshop I learnt that the initial ecstasy of inspiration will never last you to the end of the task – after its energy was exhausted by the first gleeful hour of chiselling then if patience and discipline didn’t take over you’d be left with a hacked-at block of wood… Thanks to my father, I have never reneged on a training session, or quit when results were discouraging.

All grown up, it was William’s older brother Sam that committed his life to workshopping ideas in the creative realm, and is an award winning performance designer. David’s partner Linda splits up her time between design, art and yoga, and is currently writing a book called Passages about that 1980s yacht voyage to New Zealand.

When speaking with David, who had just returned from New York after the US launch of his own book So Far, which explores his fascinating life and his approach to design, I asked him how those wanderlust days affected both the family and him personally in the role of designer.

“I think the word RISK is key to that,” he tells me of their ten year nomadic journey. “If you are brought up in a more static system in suburbia most people wouldn’t have the realisation as children that you can do what others propose to be impossible or unacceptable.”

As a designer David believes risk is absolutely a fundamental part of being a designer.

“If you play it safe you are never going to come up with new, exciting, radical things. You only do that by stepping out into the unknown. And it’s a risk, you might fail, but if you get it right there are a lot more gains to be made.”

Present day, David would prefer to travel a little less, but the demand for tours and exhibitions keeps him on the move, and with a passion for educating and encouraging the next generation of designers, he has given lectures all over the world.

“I need those jolts that you get when travelling.” says David commenting on global culture. “The unfamiliar encourages us to see things differently, so it’s really important for me to get those insights, and be in a more challenging environment.”

We live in a world where designers often get caught up in the machine where they find themselves working for a large company that needs to keep upgrading and selling new products. We live in a world where fashion is more important than durability, and profit is more important than planet. David, however, has a timeless attitude, and strives for quality over quantity.

“There is a massive world conflict that is happening between this juggernaut of world commerce that marches along uncontrollably, and what it is that people actually need. We don’t need bigger cars, and a plasma in every room, and a new cellphone every year. Actually, we can be happy with a little more time and a little less stuff.”

David sees hope in the grassroots movements popping up all over the world.

“Wherever I go I see communities creating their own identity and amazing things are happening on a small scale,” says David. “Whereas governments are locked into bottom line inertia, individuals are becoming more responsible and self-sufficient and are breaking the ties to mass commerce. People are taking back the power.”

David Trubrige will be speaking at TEDxAuckland on Saturday 3 August 2013 at Aotea Centre.

Jamie Joseph

- Jamie Joseph is blogging at riseandflow.net

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