Tracing the grain

An exhibition of John Makepeace’s work is as much about the achievements and genius of ’the father of British furniture design’, as it is a celebration of wood in all its glory. Inspired by Danish designers in the 1960s, Makepeace built his own workshop and soon earned acclaim for retail products and in competitions. In the 1970s he was a founder trustee of the Crafts Council and set up Parnham College, which integrated the teaching of fine craftsmanship in wood with design and entrepreneurship.

Through the 1980s and 1990s he brought together foresters, chemists, material scientists, structural engineers and designers to research and develop sustainable new technologies and building systems. Makepeace is driven by the belief that the potential of wood as a material has been severely neglected – wood is too often regarded as having had its day rather than being a material of the future.

Makespeace’s work with scientists has revealed great scope for wood to rival new, energy intensive and finite resources. But it is his designs that do a lot of the convincing.

In Makepeace’s first solo exhibition, which opens next month, his work will be set in ’clusters’ and demonstrate his shift to the use of indigenous woods, such as elm, ash, holly, oak and others. The wood is carved, layered, lathed, bleached and bent in a combination of traditional and new, high-performance technologies. With pieces from public and private collections on show, the exhibition is a tribute to the versatility of their maker and his favourite material.

John Makepeace: Enriching the Language of Furniture is on at The Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Bovey Tracey, Devon TQ13 9AF from 18 September to 29 October, before travelling to different venues across the UK

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