I am a risk taker. I took our young family across oceans in a yacht. I always like to live "on the edge", whether it is literally standing on the rim of an abyss or windsurfing
offshore. I am not being reckless - these are calculated risks, feeling for the edge.
This sort of risk taking is also a prerequisite for being truly creative and innovative.
You have to break free from conventions, avoid the comfortable, launch out into uncharted territory and throw caution to the wind. Sure, you will crash sometimes, but it's better to get hurt occasionally than to never move forward.
More than that, you have to do this to put yourself closer to nature. If you venture off the road only as far as a lay-by, you won't feel the land - all you'll see is litter and you'll be deafened by the whoosh of passing cars. You will feel the land a little more if you venture down side tracks. But you will only really feel it when you leave cars and even tracks behind, and take off into the wilderness where no paths tell you which way to go or how to get back. The open Australian country is wonderful for this because there you can roam utterly free over untouched land - land as it always has been.
Every step is a frightening decision - you are totally exposed, open and vulnerable - but now the land gets into you. There is no intervening pattern laid down by passing feet to say that this way is okay and this is your safety route back. Your memory is not of twisting and turning along the winding thread of a track, but of reaching out over the expansive open spaces that stop only when you decide to turn back. You are dreaming, creating your own pathway in life, going where no person has gone before. But that requires risk, and only risk takers will go there.
LIFE CYCLE ANALYSIS
Throughout the design process, the designer is called upon to make difficult decisions. On top of all the conflicting demands of practicality, aesthetics, cost and so on, responsible designers will also have to consider the environmental effects of their chosen materials and processes. This opens up a minefield of difficulty. For example, is an imported material from a sustainable resource better than a local one that is not sustainable?
Or does the shipping outweigh the sustainability? How can we qualitatively compare them? The result of that comparison will be different for every location on Earth.
Life cycle analysis is a new discipline that tries to give us a tool to answer these questions, though it is not yet a precise science. The problem is that the deeper you delve into it, the more impossibly complex it becomes.
Do you consider the pollution and waste of the rubber worn from the tyres of the logging trucks? Or do you make the decision-making process more manageable by not considering such seemingly minor issues, but then risk oversimplification?
It would be wonderfully helpful if life cycle analysis could label each material with a number so that we could just choose the best-rated material.
Unfortunately, we are nowhere near that yet, though I still believe that every designer should make as much use of the tool as they can.
Wherever possible, I use natural materials that respect nature and try to echo its patterns. The designs reference archetypal forms of the past, and yet are thoroughly contemporary. They use computer technology for design and manufacture, yet are also made with the finest traditional craft skills. They are designed to endure in material, making and aesthetics. Their impact on the planet is minimal, but their impact on our lives is emotional and lasting.
• This extract is from So Far (Craig Potton Publishing: $69.99) which is on sale now.