Friday Five with David Trubridge

For this week’s Friday Five we tapped New Zealand-based furniture and lighting designer David Trubridge.  Trubridge is trained in Naval Architecture (or boat design), has worked as a forester, and taught himself how to create furniture. He presented his inspiration in terms of the five elements, along with gorgeous landscape photographs he took himself. Not coincidentally, this also happens to be the structure of the book he is writing about his life and design.

1. Earth: Wilderness
The Earth is grounding. I love to sleep on it and wake refreshed by its energy. If I was only allowed one inspiration, wilderness would be it. It is essential to my state of mind, let alone my creativity, that I loose myself in nature’s wilderness as regularly as possible. Here all else is irrelevant; the trees and the rocks couldn’t care less about my deadlines or my bank balance. Here, where only survival matters, I am put in my place and lose all hubris. And here, when the the whirling waters of my mind settle and clear, I can sometimes see into the depths and find things hidden by the daily surface clutter. The rhythm of footfall induces a contemplative state in which thoughts flow freely.

2. Water: Sea
Water flows; water is movement. My greatest joy is to skip over the waves on a sparkling day riding on a windsurfer. Never still, the restless surface is forever changing and reflecting the light in different ways. The very same patch of sea can be all ripple and glitter one day, and a threatening, raging mass of foam another. The processions of swells, striding relentlessly towards the shore, have been continuing in an unbroken flow ever since water first appeared on the Earth’s surface, several billion years ago. Water is release from the static confines of land. The ocean surface extends unhindered into every corner of the globe. A boat, like a thought, can go anywhere. Water gives us nomadic people, a life of no boundaries, the infinitely possible. Water erodes Earth, but is also contained by it. This element is fecund, relating to sensuality, intuition, and creativity. It is often associated with sex. It is the source of an optimistic enthusiasm and joyfully creative energy.

3. Fire: Art
Fire is cleansing light, the rising sun, the flooding warmth of an exciting new day. Sitting around a campfire is a primal and archetypal experience to which no one is immune, as we soften in its glow. Our thoughts dance and imaginations leap with the flickering light and the soothing crackle of flames. Fire features strongly in many creation stories around the world. It represents the spark of life, and also the spark of creativity; it is the source of art. Prometheus, the mythological Greek proto-artist, stole fire from the gods, enabling humans to survive, physically and spiritually. Art is essential to being human — we have made it since we first evolved, and I cannot live without it. Fire evaporates water, but is doused by it. Where water is female and inward, fire is male and outward, represented by the planet Mars. It is an upward force that transforms and consumes. It relates to personal power and self mastery, but only to the extent where egotism and lack of confidence are in balance.

4. Air: Freedom
Air is the wind in my hair on a mountaintop, blowing free the cobwebs; air is the breath of the Earth driving my boat across the seas. Who has not stood on a cliff-top and longed to jump and fly free like the birds? Flight is the metaphorical and literal freedom we all dream of. Air blows out fire but is consumed by it. It is male and female united. It relates to compassion, unconditional love, and empathy. It is an outward force that tries to enter everything. It is at the heart, the transitional balance point between self and higher consciousness, the point at which we move beyond the ego. The self resides at the heart which connects to all aspects of the body. Below are the internal, bodily concerns of self preservation, survival, sex, and food. Above are the outward, ethereal and spiritual concerns of evolved consciousness that go beyond the personal.

5. Ether: Ideas
Aristotle first described ether as the fifth element. I have included it here because of the symmetry it adds, and how it culminates the progression through the elements. It is an ancient Greek description for that which fills the universe, the pure essence of the gods and what they breathe. Later, philosophers and scientists used it in an attempt to explain the connectivity and unity of the universe. Ether has no structure, form or mass; it has transcended physicality completely. We have entered the pure realm of ideas. Ether is everything and nothing, everywhere, and nowhere. Ether relates to communication, creativity, and speech, and a refinement of one’s essence. It relates to boundless space, both an outer infinite sky and deep inner space, helping us to discriminate and see objectively. Silence nurtures this element, allowing us to hear our inner voice and to have faith in it, remaining true to the self. Artists become transcendent here, free of the love of money or fame. When fully realized, the person becomes a wonderful orator with a harmonious voice, speaking from the heart with an inner authority.

Marni Elyse Katz is a Contributing Editor at Design Milk. She lives in Boston where she contributes regularly to local publications and writes her own interior design blog, StyleCarrot.