John Makepeace Furniture Ltd Honorary Fellow
Furniture & Boxes
The crafts associated with wood really start when nature, or a forester, deposits a seed in the ground. The history of that seed, soil, climate and subsequent sylviculture will determine the quality of the timber. Trees, especially our indigenous hardwoods, are so important to the landscape. The maker gives those trees a new and indefinite life once they reach maturity, enriching our lives and providing an expression of our time for future generations. No small responsibility.
There is a fine tradition of craftsmanship in wood for buildings, boats, musical instruments, utensils, paper and furniture. Through their deep and intimate understanding of different timber’s properties, makers are able to select the most suitable species and the best part of the tree to fulfil a particular function over time.
Whilst there is no better way to learn about the properties of wood than working it by hand, many of the more laborious processes can be assisted by advancing technologies, giving the imaginative maker new scope for individuality in unprecedented ways. To remain vital, tradition responds to change.
For example, material science reveals the benefits of using materials for their best properties. Whilst strong for its weight and aesthetically pleasing, wood tends to fail at its junctions. Combining materials with contrasting properties achieves vastly superior performance.
The history of art and design closely reflects the changing social, economic and philosophical climate. The time required to produce works of distinction has always been more expensive but the adventure of commissioning makers enables their shared vision to be realised, a collaboration that can yield ‘landmarks’ in the constant search that drives us forward.
John Makepeace OBE was awarded the Prince Philip Designer Prize 2016, in recognition of his contribution to design through his own design practice, the college he established at Parnham House in Dorset, and the research and development of sustainable timber utilisation and building systems for the Trust’s forest campus at Hooke Park.
Early professional recognition led to his being appointed a consultant to All India Handicrafts Board, a founding Member of the Crafts Council and a Trustee of the V & A. In addition to his many private clients, commissions for Plymouth University, Templeton and Keble College, Oxford, Liberty’s, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Birmingham, Cardiff and Leeds City Galleries, The Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, the V & A, London, the Museum fur Kunsthanwerk, Frankfurt, the Art Institute, Chicago, and the Banque General du Luxembourg have followed.
John specialises in the design of furniture and interiors for private clients from his home and studio in Beaminster, West Dorset. In adjacent seasoning sheds, extraordinary trees of indigenous timber are seasoning in preparation for future commissions. He compares his role to that of the composer and conductor working with instrumentalists, the craftsmen he has worked with for many years.