THIS September marks the 40-year anniversary of the opening of Parnham College – the pioneering, highly influential, globally regarded design college founded in 1977 by the equally eminent John Makepeace. The occasion, which represents a milestone not only for the college but for the career of Makepeace himself, is to be celebrated with the publication of Beyond Parnham – a visually stunning tome which reflects upon the remarkable impact that the school has had, and indeed continues to have, on the field of contemporary design.
Makepeace’s simply phenomenal career can be traced back to the fascination for woodwork he exhibited from a remarkably young age. He began carpentry classes at the age of six and visited various factories and workshops which provided the inspiration which was to foster his creativity and come to determine his professional aspirations. After having completed an apprenticeship under Keith Cooper, Makepeace soon established his own furniture making workshop, the output of which earnt the young craftsman national acclaim and was distinguished by an eccentric, somewhat unconventional aesthetic.
“I have a strong rebellious streak – as an artist, designer and maker. I am constantly searching for more eloquent concepts for furniture. My objective is to achieve freer, lighter, stronger and more sculptural forms expressed through each unique commission,” he says. In the 1970s, Makepeace became a founder trustee of the Crafts Council which sought to promote the work of artist-craftsmen, though his work for the Council only made him more aware of the inadequacies in existing training schemes for those wanting to pursue career in the sector.
Some Parnham College Alumni
This was precisely what prompted him in 1976, to purchase Parnham House in Dorset. He intended to renovate the stunning Tudor Manor and to turn it into an establishment that would firstly, provide larger studios for the growing team he employed, secondly to establish workshops and teaching facilities for aspiring furniture makers, and thirdly, to open the historic house to the public with exhibitions of contemporary art and design.
Since it opened, the college has fostered the careers of several world-famous designers such as Konstantin Gric, David Linley, Sean Sutcliffe, Juliane Trummer, Jake Phipps and Verena Wriedt to name but a few.
John Makepeace speaking at the Design Museum
Makepeace’s remarkable career culminated in his being granted an OBE for his services to furniture design, which was followed by the Prince Philip Designers Prize, a Lifetime Achievement Award and the Award of Distinction from the American Furniture Society and the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award to be granted by the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers. The 40th anniversary of Parnham is yet another accomplishment for the Briton, who has significantly influenced the world of international design through not only his own creations, but through those of the alumni whom he has nurtured also.
The book will officially be launched at the British Design Museum in early September at an event with speakers including Richard Sennett, John Makepeace, Glenn Adamson and Catharine Rossi who will talk about the importance of making, design and the future of craftsmanship.
by Hannah Bergin
A small number of copies of Beyond Parnham are available now at the special price of £30 (plus £5pp). To buy one please visit Makepeace’s website
Copies are also available for sale from the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Design Museum. For information about the book and to reserve your copy, please email Beyondparnham@gmail.com
A limited edition of the book will be published in September 2017 retailing at £35 (plus £5pp)
The Beyond Parnham launch at the British Design Museum will take place on September 5, 2017 at 18:15 until 19:45.
For more details and to book your place, please go to this link or visit Design Museum.