From early on in is life craftsmanship came naturally to John, and an early influence was visiting some of the great cabinet makers in Copenhagen as a teenager and seeing fine furniture being made in the Scandinavian modernist tradition.
Makepeace gained professional acknowledgment early in his career that led him to be a founding member of the Crafts Council and Trustee of the V&A Museum. Commissions in this early period included Liberty’s of London, Keble College and Templeton College, Oxford and the Banque Générale du Luxembourg and were followed by further commissions from major museums and private collectors throughout the world.
Always aware of a requirement to foster education and integration in furniture design with making and management of business he founded the Parnham Trust and School for Craftsmen in Wood in 1977 alongside his own separate furniture workshops. Parnham College soon gained international recognition and became one of the foremost specialist schools of furniture design in the world, including as its alumni the designer Viscount Linley.
This October we are delighted to be offering an important centre table and corresponding cabinet on stand, made during Makepeace’s tenure at Parnham, in Modern Made at the Mall Galleries in London. The pieces display some of the most important principals that Makepeace held as central to his furniture design, and reflecting on these works John notes:
“I bought the tree of burr elm from Brackley Sawmills in circa 1972 and they sawed it into ten 3”(75mm.) thick boards. It was remarkable for the consistency of the burr throughout the tree. At the time, Brackley Sawmills specialised in cutting elm for coffin boards and this tree was of no particular interest as it was not suitable for their purpose. The tree was 12ft (3.6M) long and about 4ft (1.2M) diameter.
After the move to Parnham House, Dorset in 1976, I received a series of commissions for dining tables for clients including Lord MacAlpine, Sir David Lean and several others, each made from a single plank from this tree, the length depending on the particular requirements.
Unlike most solid timber, burr elm is remarkably stable. This meant that a solid slab of it did not require any support across its width, and the legs could be joined directly into the table top. The combination of the simplicity of form and the extraordinary markings of the burr elm make this an especially valuable piece made in my workshop at Parnham House by Alan Amey.” (John Makepeace, 2020)
Makepeace was awarded an OBE for services to furniture design in 1988, received Lifetime Achievements Awards from the American Furniture Society (2004) and Furniture Makers Company (2010) and won the Prince Philip Designer’s Prize in 2016.
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