As a designer and a maker, I am constantly searching for more eloquent concepts for furniture. My objective is to achieve freer, lighter, stronger, and more sculptural forms better suited to their function.’ – John Makepeace OBE


John Makepeace OBE is internationally regarded as one of Britain’s most influential designer-makers. He was an early proponent of material innovation and sustainability, setting up the acclaimed Parnham College for furniture designers in 1976 and initiating Hooke Park in 1982, as a School for Woodland Industries and Forestry Management. 


His Embrace collection and Trine series, specially created for the gallery, reflects his interest in organic aesthetics. These three-legged chairs, which appear enigmatically balanced, are structured using internal metal connections adapted from ground-breaking NASA technology, first developed to join enormous wooden blades to the central metal hub of a Hawaiian wind generator. John highlights the innate beauty of the material by layering 13 laminates of English Oak, polished back to expose the cross-grain pattern achieved through the substrata. This exquisite patina is further enlivened by scorching the wood to a lustrous finish. He comments that, ‘I have been looking at ways to express the luxury of solid timber by sculpting the material, working it as a potter might work clay.’


John has been working recently to support a new programme at the V&A. Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures which invites practitioners from different disciplines ranging from science, design, forestry and academia to share research, knowledge and skills. Make Good is a 10-year project that encompasses an annual display, symposium and programme of acquisitions dedicated to looking at the use of renewable, natural materials and the future of sustainable forestry in connection to design and architecture. The programme encourages ideas of stewardship of natural resources and considers the responsibilities of designers and consumers towards the natural world in a time of climate crisis.


John was a founding member of the Crafts Council UK in 1975, and from 1987–91 was a trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. He was awarded an OBE in 1988 for his services to furniture design and in 2004, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Furniture Society. In 2012, his work was included in the UK’s Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age. He was the Winner of the UK’s Prince Philip Designers Prize in 2016. John’s work is part of major museum, corporate and private collections around the world, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, UK; the Museum fur Kunsthanwerk, Germany; the Art Institute of Chicago, USA; the Fitzwilliam Museum, UK; Birmingham, Cardiff and Leeds City Galleries; The Royal Scottish Museum, UK; Plymouth University, UK; Templeton and Keble College Oxford, UK; and the Banque General du Luxembourg.

Installation shots