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The Q&A

Artists under Lockdown: John Makepeace

A furniture maker in Dorset.

By TDE Editorial Team / 2nd June 2020
John Makepeace COURTESY: John Makepeace

John Makepeace
COURTESY: John Makepeace

The Design Edit (TDE): How are you keeping busy in self-isolation?
John Makepeace (JM): We are certainly keeping busy. We have projects in hand which will carry well into 2021. Firstly, I have an assistant with whom I can work remotely, on drawings. Then I work with two workshops, who have been able to carry on making my furniture. So in terms of production, I have been interrupted very little.

'Flutter' work in progress COURTESY: John Makepeace

‘Flutter’ work in progress
COURTESY: John Makepeace

However, in another way, my routine has changed drastically. I turned eighty last year so it seemed time to develop a ten year plan. A lot of my time has been spent discussing my ideas, developing the focus and putting them into action. I want to find ways to enable the best students of design to come into woodlands and see how they are managed. We have become so remote from what actually happens, in a tangible way, with sustainable woodland. So I am sponsoring a student design award with the RSA. Then I am working with the Architectural Association (AA) to sponsor two fellowships through AA Wood Lab. This would involve residencies at the AA’s woodland campus in Hooke Park, Dorset, which I founded when director of the Parnham Trust between 1982 and 2001. The idea is to educate architects in the sustainable use of forest produce, to both build projects and drive new forms of research. And then I am working with the V&A to sponsor research into what is going on around the world in terms of working with wood and other natural materials, creating an annual forum and an annual acquisition. All of this is very time consuming! But it fits in very well with designing.

John Makepeace, 'Black Trine Variations' chairs, 2017 COURTESY: © John Makepeace

John Makepeace, ‘Black Trine Variations’ chairs, 2017
COURTESY: © John Makepeace

TDE: Everyone’s pace of life has slowed down considerably; what is the impact of this new rhythm on your work and home life?
JM: Normally we would have lots of groups to visit our house and garden over the summer. This isn’t happening and that has offered more freedom. But I miss my weekly visits to London and it seems I have to do more work to achieve the same outcomes as before, so I have been very stretched.

John Makepeace, 'Scorched Embrace' chairs and table, 2019 COURTESY: © John Makepeace

John Makepeace, ‘Scorched Embrace’ chairs and table, 2019
COURTESY: © John Makepeace

TDE: Do you have a favourite self-isolation recipe to share with us?
JM: We have been enjoying Riesling in the sunshine – and we have been eating more vegetables under lockdown, straight from our garden.

TDE: What is saving your sanity under lockdown?
JM: Just going to the workshop makes a very welcome break. And we also drive to walk the dog in different places, which makes for a bit of variation.

'Flutter' work in progress COURTESY: John Makepeace

‘Flutter’ work in progress
COURTESY: John Makepeace

TDE: Which online exhibition/gallery viewing room, or other internet offerings have caught your eye?
JM: I thought this might be the time to watch more webinars, but that’s hardly happened. I do miss going to exhibitions – it doesn’t work particularly well for me online. However, I was really impressed by Formafantasma’s Cambio exhibition at The Serpentine. This is an ongoing investigation into the governance of the timber industry and looks at the crucial role that design can play in our environment – the exhibition is available online in a way that’s really enjoyable.

Formafantasma: Cambio – at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery.

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