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.
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. David made whole house lots of furniture for expatriates on Tortola and Moorea. They arrived in New Zealand in late 1985 basing themselves in the Bay of Islands from where they continued to sail on ‘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 on to further architectural commissions. Taking inspiration from their much loved boat, the colourful Hornpipe Bench was made for a national Design competition using Radiata Pine, which it won as well as a number of other awards. It was exhibited in Hannover at ‘Ligna’ and London, 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. With the help of a Creative New Zealand (Arts Council) grant David produced a series of figurative works. They retained expressive tool-marks from the making process and also incorporated wood block prints. In 1999 David curated a national exhibition called Furniture in Context for the Hawkes Bay Cultural Trust, which later travelled to the Dowse Art Museum. For it he made the first Body Raft 98 designs, which were exhibited 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 fortunes, life style and 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.
In the last few years he has exhibited at 100% Design in London, nine times at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, and four times at ICFF in New York. His ‘Body Raft’ design is currently being manufactured by Cappellini, and was voted ‘an iconic New Zealand design’ by Urbis readers. His design ‘Raft’ was the only piece of furniture in the finals of the Japan Design Foundation’s International Competition 2001, and was also selected for the International Design Yearbook (IDYB). Snowflake light won a Silver Leaf at ISDA Japan. He has been selected for five IDYB entries.
Over recent years his designs have been featured countless times in publications around the world, from Portugal to Lithuania, Ireland to Taiwan, Iceland to Ukraine, including the 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” His work has been exhibited in the Pompidou Centre, Paris and at important design shows in Zurich, Gwangju (Korea), Taipei, Singapore, Sydney, Dubai. It has been used in shops as part of displays supporting fashion designers Kate Moss in London’s Top Shop, and Stella McCartney in Printemps Paris, and on the catwalk in Milan fashion week. It can be seen in luxury resorts around the world in such places as the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Fiji.