Royal College of Art


Master’s degree in furniture design


In Autumn 1982 Jasper began his three-year graduate degree at the Royal College. Frank Guille led the furniture department at the time. For most of his first year Jasper lived at the family home at 28 Westbourne Park Road, as he had done while at Kingston, before moving in with a friend. He spent the second year of his degree in Berlin on a scholarship studying at the Hochschule der Kunst. His dissertation ‘Owing to its Nature’, written in spring 1985, was about construction and invention. The photograph above, taken at the College in 1983, shows Jasper with the Slatted Stool, the one design that emerged from his first year.

There was a professor who was never there and there was Frank Guille who was the head of the school, a nice man but mostly a manager figure. We were left very much to do our own work, which was a criticism you could level at the Royal College for a long time. You went there and you did what you wanted to and you left. But for me it was important, it gave me the time to develop a little more. When I graduated I was twenty-six.

There was one good teacher there, Fred Scott, who designed the Supporto chair. He was the only one with industrial experience. We were really starved of that industrial experience except for him. He was the one you could ask: ‘If this was made in production would you do it this or that way?’ He was there one day a week and everybody grabbed him. In those days product design was separate from furniture design, and I was studying furniture design, while the logical thing to do would have been to put the courses together and have a design course which reflected the work that designers do. But later on they did the reverse and put the furniture design course with architecture, so it took this more specialised, commission-based direction. A big mistake.

Fred Scott was revered as a furniture designer and a teacher. Born in High Wycombe, England’s centre of furniture manufacturing at the time, he spent summer holidays sweeping floors at the Ercolani factory, followed by an apprenticeship at the G-plan factory. Aged 20, he went to the Royal College. After graduation, he worked for Hille among others. He designed the Supporto range, his crowning achievement, for Hille in the late 1970s. He taught at the Royal College in the 1970s and 80s. From the mid-80s he suffered from depression after a dispute with Hille over non-payment of royalties and the sudden death of his wife. He died in 2001 in his 50s. Jasper maintained contact with him in the 80s. The Independent wrote in its obituary of Scott: ‘He would question everything, often to the exasperation of his colleagues. But he would do nothing unless he was convinced it was right.’

Jasper’s sketchbook, 1983.

Jasper’s sketchbook, 1985.