INSIDE THE HOME OF BRITISH FURNITURE
This September marks 40 years since the start of the first term at Parnham College. We sit down with founder John Makepeace OBE to discuss his book ‘Beyond Parnham’
Parnham College has trained generations of furniture makers, which means new book Beyond Parnham reads like a who’s who of the British – and indeed, international – furniture-making scene. Curated by celebrated furniture maker John Makepeace, who founded Parnham College in 1977, the book tells the tale of the educational phenomenon that ignited the careers of many. Featuring contributions from over 100 alumni, including David Linley, Konstantin Grcic and Benchmark’s Sean Sutcliffe, it’s a volume filled with reflections and work from ex-students, as well as a source of reference for designers working today.
Passionate about making furniture from a young age (he started carpentry lessons aged six), Makepeace was a founder of the Crafts Council in the 1970s, which aimed to support craftspeople. He became increasingly aware of the inadequacies in training in these areas: ‘It’s no good just being very skilled at woodwork, or being skilled in business; putting them together is what gives you the entrepreneurial ability,’ he explains. Following his vision to help young designers, after a bout of heavy fundraising in 1976, Makepeace bought Parnham House, an 80-room Tudor manor buried within the Dorset countryside. It became his home and workshop, as well as a residential teaching facility.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the college, alongside producing the book, Makepeace also called a reunion, inviting his 200 or so alumni to gather at London’s Design Museum. ‘It was such a joyous day,’ he recalls. ‘And I could remember everybody’s name!’ When asked if he felt proud to see a room full of protégés, after a long pause, he replies: ‘I tend to think of it more from the other side – what a marvellous lot they are.’ Beyond Parnham, £30 ( beyondparnham.com).
Beyond Parnham tells the tale of the educational phenomenon that ignited hundreds of careers