From an early age, John Makepeace had an affinity with wood. He first saw superb contemporary craftsmanship at eleven. His design awareness grew from visits to Denmark, Italy and the United States.
After his apprenticeship in furniture making, he designed and made ranges of products for design retailers including Heal’s and Liberty’s. Some went into production. These brought early recognition and commissions for Oxford Colleges, company boardrooms, museum collections and private homes.
In 1976 he bought historic Parnham House, Dorset to provide larger workshops and showrooms open to the public, alongside but separately from the residential College for those aspiring to careers as designers and makers. Graduates include Sean Sutcliffe (Benchmark), Konstantin Grcic, Wales and Wales, David Linley and Jim Partridge.
Starting in 1983, he developed a new campus for the College at Hooke Park, a 350 acre woodland nearby. Working with an eminent team of architects, engineers, chemists and material scientists each of the award-winning buildings was constructed from the small diameter trees removed from the surrounding plantations to favour the final crop. Each building demonstrates new technologies for the improved utilisation of indigenous timber, the result of collaborative research with different universities across Europe. The College amalgamated with the Architectural Association when John retired as Director in 2001.
Throughout John Makepeace has run his practice carrying out furniture commissions for companies, universities and private clients in Britain and abroad. He has received an OBE., the Prince Philip Designer Prize, the Award for Outstanding Achievement from the American Furniture Society and the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers, London. Recently published ‘Beyond Parnham’ records the story of the College, a hundred graduates and some of John Makepeace’s most recent commissions can be ordered online.