Idealog's Most Creative: designer David Trubridge talks creativity

Furniture designer David Trubridge was one of the People's Choice winners for the design category in Idealog and Accenture's Most Creative People. A well established creative force renowned for stunning lighting, David Trubridge has brought a distinctive sense of New Zealandness into his work – and sent New Zealand design all around the world, with his work frequently appearing on the international stage. Here, he discusses creativity, finding inspiration and integrity.

What does creativity mean to you?

It is an internal imperative that I can’t ignore.  It is an expression of what I feel for the amazing life and nature around me.

What do you think it is about your nature/habits/interests that makes you creative?

An innate curiosity — to always ask the question, “what if...?” To never be satisfied with accepting things the way they are. To look for the other side of things.

What first drew you to your chosen field?

I have always loved making since I was a child, when I used to build models from used match sticks I collected off the seaside promenade.

What was your upbringing like, and how do you think that led you to where you are today?

I was largely left to my own resources; I did not have the constant entertainment and distraction that today’s kids live with. I went to school in the Highlands of Scotland and since then have always been drawn back to empty moors and wildernesses.

Where do your best ideas come from?

From what I call the ‘art process’, from creating just for the sake of it, not with a fixed  and restrained brief or agenda. In this way you will discover things you never knew existed.

The nature of creativity is that you never stop or leave it alone—it is always with you, it is your life. But that does not make it obsessive necessarily. You need to know when to let it go and relax, and then maybe something will hit you quite unexpectedly!

What does inspiration look like for you?

It is a process and you have to understand how it works in order to allow it to happen. You cannot will it, you can only put yourself in the right situation and wait. If you are lucky it will come to you but you can’t go chasing it.

Is there an ethos/motto you abide by in your work?

Integrity, honesty and care for the environment.

If there were a secret to success, what would it be?

No longer a secret! Just persistence and self belief.

What were some of the challenges that you faced early on? What went wrong? Any regrets?

There were many challenges and also hard times. But a sailor never learned to sail on calm seas. Starting again in new countries, and even regions, is very hard. I was just beginning to get going in New Zealand when the stock market crashed in 1987 and I had no work again. But absolutely no regrets!

Do you work a lot? Do you have an obsessive part to your personality?

The nature of creativity is that you never stop or leave it alone—it is always with you, it is your life. But that does not make it obsessive necessarily. You need to know when to let it go and relax, and then maybe something will hit you quite unexpectedly!

What’s the secret to resilience?  

Enjoying doing it and being rewarded by it.

What have been some of the highlights of your career?

Sailing half way round the world on a yacht with my family and making furniture on remote islands along the way. Being picked up by Cappellini the first time I went to the Milan Salone del Mobile. Going to Antarctica as a visiting artist.

What do you think New Zealand is like for creativity? Is there something about ‘Kiwiness’ that helps or hinders?

Compared to Europe, it is more free and open: the glass walls restricting what you can do are far further out. This is partly because there is much less weight of history, of pressure from what others are doing, of the ubiquity of an amazing landscape and Polynesian history.

What would be the advice you’d give someone who wants to turn their creative passion into a full-time gig?

Believe in yourself because you are unique. Do not try and fit in with what’s around you or follow fashion. It will be gone tomorrow and you with it. Don’t expect everything all at once; you have no entitlement, you must work for it and earn it and that takes a long time.

What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned?

To do my own thing and to have faith in it. To expect nothing and fully appreciate what you do get. To launch out and take risks, to never stand still.

Where to next? Do you have a goal you’re working towards?

To wherever the winds take me. To keep on doing what I believe in as long as I can.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).