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Woodworker of the Year 2023 finalists announced

Axminster ToolsHeritage Crafts and Axminster Tools have announced the finalists of the second annual Woodworker of the Year award, including two woodcarvers, a furniture maker and a marionette maker.

This award celebrates a heritage craftsperson who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of woodworking over the past year. It recognises a contribution that is far beyond the ordinary, based on a proven dedication to a particular woodworking skill.

Thomas Ball, Oliver Hymans, Yuchin Li and Andrew WattThe four finalists for this year’s award are (in alphabetical order):

  • Thomas Ball – Tom is the de Laszlo Lead Woodcarving Tutor at City & Guilds of London Arts School, and in 2021 was awarded the Master Carver Certificate by the Worshipful Company Of Joiners and Ceilers. Recent projects include restoration of Grinling Gibbons’ carving at Trinity College Chapel, Oxford, and carving the canopy columns for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee.
  • Oliver Hymans – Oliver is an award-winning puppetry artist who has worked across four continents, designing and making puppetry for theatre, opera, film and music video. In 2023 he worked tirelessly to bring the puppetry sector together to get marionette making listed on Heritage Crafts’ Red List of Endangered Crafts to ensure the craft gets passed on to the next generation.
  • Yichen Li – Yichen gathers aged carved wooden panels, which have hundreds of years of history, from the remnants of demolished ancient architecture. She meticulously restores, grinds, polishes, and colors them before combining them with contemporary wood carving techniques to form new spatial and architectural forms. In 2023 she completed her Masters degree at the Royal College of Art as a scholarship recipient.
  • Andrew Watt – Andrew has worked with Method Studio for over six years, and in that time has risen to the position of lead cabinetmaker, running the workshop, making their most important pieces and inventing their way out of complex problems. He has developed and crafted stunning works for the likes of The Glenturret, Burberry, The Macallan, and Vacheron Constantin.

The winner will be announced on Wednesday 15 November at a Winners’ Reception at Vicars’ Hall, St George’s House, Windsor Castle. A Young Woodworker of the Year will be announced at the same time.

Heritage Crafts is the national charity set up to celebrate and safeguard traditional craft skills as a fundamental part of the UK’s living heritage. It launched its partnership with Axminster Tools last year, when luthier Jonathan Hill won the inaugural Woodworker of the Year Award. The company has spent 50 years building its family business into the renowned organisation it is today. They work with makers and creators at all levels, from trade professionals through to craft enthusiasts, to support woodworking skills.

The winner will be selected by a panel of judges made up of renowned advocates of craft skills:

  • Jonathan Hill – stringed instrument maker and 2022 Woodworker of the Year.
  • Alan Styles – Managing Director of Axminster Tools.
  • Sarah Goss – traditional woodcarver and expert on Sky Arts’ Prince’s Master Crafters.
Jonathan Hill Alan Styles Sarah Goss
Image of Andrew Watt by Shannon Tofts

 

About Axminster Tools

Axminster Tools has established itself globally as a trusted seller in the mail order tools and machinery industry. They offer a friendly and personal service to many thousands of customers ranging from trade professionals and businesses to amateur DIY and craft enthusiasts.

Axminster Tools is a family business run by industry professionals and passionate craftspeople. Their knowledge is accessible to all, via regular tutorial videos, live streams, project plans and woodworking tips that are completely free to access.

As a British retailer, Axminster Tools supports British design and quality. They work with a number of UK suppliers in celebration of the nation’s skills and craftsmanship. What’s more, they design and manufacture an increasing number of own branded products in their Devon-based engineering facility, including bringing manufacturing back from overseas in many cases.

www.axminstertools.com

11 new training bursaries awarded

Heritage Crafts is delighted to award 11 new bursaries for trainees from across the UK to learn heritage craft skills, supported by the City & Guilds Foundation, the Army Benevolent Fund, the Ashley Family Foundation, the Principality Building Society’s Future Generations Fund, the Arts Society, DCA Consulting and Kendrick Hobbs.

These follow previous bursaries supported by The Royal Mint and other partners, and are intended to support heritage crafts trainees who are unable to meet the cost of their training, as the UK continues to deal with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Bursaries 2023Hannah Girvan is a Devon-based early-career furniture maker and architectural joiner who works for Woodlab, making furniture from local wood that they kiln-dry on site. Their bursary will allow them to undertake a one-to-one apprenticeship there, alongside spending up to a week per month at fine furniture school Williams & Cleal. Their goal is to develop a skillset based on eco-forestry principles. They plan to teach and speak in support of an inclusive culture in heritage crafts, helping craftspeople of the future.

Leena Patel is an Edinburgh-based early-career jewellery maker. For the last two years she has attended weekly community-based jewellery-making sessions. Her bursary will allow her to complete a one-year foundation course to continue on her jewellery-making journey. The course would provide an in-depth knowledge into the skills required to become a jewellery maker and designer. Ultimately, she hopes to start a business, and to encourage a diverse range of people with different backgrounds and cultures to feel comfortable and able to consider jewellery making or other crafts as part of their future.

Roy Evans trained as a metalsmith in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. After leaving the Army he got a job in IT but always wanted to return to his passion, and started making metal sculptures in his spare time before giving up the day job in June this year. His bursary will allow him to train with Michael Johnson at Newlyn Copperworks in Cornwall, a workshop with an international reputation in a number of coppersmithing techniques. He plans to go on to teach the craft to others.

Andy Fisher is an early-career leatherworker who served in the Army and Reserves for 22 years in the Royal Corps of Transport, Royal Logistic Corps and 21 SAS. He currently works part time as a training provider in construction skills but his passion lies in leatherworking, especially for vintage vehicle interiors. His bursary will allow him to attend three courses on leather restoration and repair, seat upholstery, and industrial sewing machine repair. As well as restoring vehicles and making leather products, he also intends to run short courses for veterans.

Gareth Roberts was introduced to the craft of bookbinding by Bound by Veterans (BBV), after serving in the British Army. BBV is a charity which supports wounded, injured and sick ex-service personnel using the restorative powers of manual bookbinding to assist rehabilitation and develop employment skills. His bursary will allow him to continue to train with BBV and at Cit Lit College, London, under experts Kate Rochester, Sue Doggett, Ina Baumeister and 2018 Heritage Crafts Trainer of the Year Kathy Abbott. He plans to pass on his craft, believing that every sector of society has the right to learn this age-old skill.

Ieuan Williamson is a Gwynedd-based slate roofer whose great, great grandfather was a ferryman bringing slate down the river Dwyryd from the Ffestiniog slate quarries. He wishes to expand his skills into timber framing in order to incorporate whole building construction into his projects and make his business more viable to support his young family. His bursary will allow him, and his apprentice Dwyryd to attend an intensive two-week residential timber framing course. In the future he would like to pass on his skills to other young people in this area through the Welsh language.

Barney Murray is a Denbighshire-based early-career drystone waller who took up the craft after deciding that he preferred being outdoors than studying at college. His bursary will allow him to undertake the extremely rigorous and notoriously challenging Drystone Walling Association’s Master Craftsman certification scheme, under the mentorship of master waller Andy Loudon. In the future he intends to take on an apprentice of his own, replicating his own training path.

Bodhi King, based in Pembrokeshire, took up blacksmithing after attending a private week-long course last year in mid Wales. After experiencing homelessness he has spent the last few years building a more financially stable life for him and his son. His bursary will allow him to undertake a number of specialised courses focusing on traditional and heritage blacksmithing. He intends to operate as an independent blacksmith, doing smaller local jobs whilst developing his skillset and portfolio to do larger heritage and architectural work.

Abby Gray, originally from rural Galloway and now based in Glasgow, participated in a trainee programme in the costume department of an independent feature film in 2021. She had no prior professional experience, but as a result realised that university wasn’t the right path for her and that she wanted to pursue a career in bespoke tailoring. Her bursary will allow her to undertake an apprenticeship with renowned tailor and dressmaker Alis Le May. In the future she would like to run her own business focusing on creating bespoke clothing for people who feel that they aren’t catered for.

Logan Beckford-China, aged 16, is based in Cornwall and passionate about supporting the critically endangered craft of Cornish hedging, having been introduced to the craft through Heritage Crafts’ Pre-apprenticeship Project earlier this year. Logan intends to undertake 40 days training under the auspices of the newly-formed Cornwall Rural Education and Skills Trust (CREST) while studying in the evenings for his GCSE in Environmental Management. He intends to work as a freelance Cornish hedger, the first of a new generation that will ensure the future of this centuries-old craft.

Cameron Wallace is a Clackmannanshire-based monumental mason in his first year of self-employment with a young family. Not content with computer-controlled sandblasting to inscribe memorials, Cameron wishes to join the small number of Scottish hand lettercutters. His bursary will allow him to learn with master lettercutter Gillian Forbes, and eventually set up his own workshop making beautiful hand-crafted memorials.

Heritage Crafts Endangered Director Daniel Carpenter said:

“Building on the five bursaries awarded earlier this year in partnership with The Royal Mint, we are immensely grateful to be working with so many wonderful partners to increase that number to sixteen in 2023. These bursaries will not only change the course of their recipients lives for the better, but will help ensure the future of so many skills that are rooted deep within the UK’s intangible cultural heritage.”

 

Click here to see the 22 bursaries awarded since 2021

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About Heritage Crafts

Founded in 2009, the Heritage Crafts is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) registered as the ‘Heritage Crafts Association’. Working in partnership with government and key agencies, it provides a focus for craftspeople, groups, societies and guilds, as well as individuals who care about the loss of traditional crafts skills, and works towards a healthy and sustainable framework for the future. Its aim is to support and promote heritage crafts as a fundamental part of our living heritage.

www.heritagecrafts.org.uk

 

About the City & Guilds Foundation

The City & Guilds Foundation is part of the City & Guilds Group charity, and has a specific focus on high impact social investment, recognition and advocacy programmes. Each of the programmes it runs act as a catalyst to make a difference to people, organisations and society, through investing part of its surplus and resources into helping everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, get opportunities to succeed.

cityandguildsfoundation.org

 

About the Army Benevolent Fund The Soldiers’ Charity

The Army Benevolent Fund is the Army’s national charity. It stands at the forefront of support for the Army family, last year supporting 70,000 people in 45 countries around the world. As one of the largest funders in the sector, it awards grants to individuals and families, and fund leading organisations that support soldiers, former soldiers, and their families.

soldierscharity.org

 

About the Ashley Family Foundation

The Ashley Family Foundation (formerly The Laura Ashley Foundation) is a registered charity founded by Sir Bernard and Laura Ashley following the success of the Laura Ashley fashion and interiors business. It uses its funding to develop strong communities, social welfare and creative arts in England and Wales, with a particular emphasis on supporting rural communities.

www.ashleyfamilyfoundation.org.uk

 

About the Principality Building Society’s Future Generations Fund

The Principality Building Society’s Future Generations Fund is a Wales-wide fund set up in partnership with Principality Building Society with the aim of having a positive impact on society and the lives of young people in Wales.

communityfoundationwales.org.uk/grants/the-principality-building-societys-future-generations-fund

 

About the Arts Society

The Arts Society is a leading arts education charity with a global network of local societies which bring people together through a shared curiosity for the arts. Its belief that the arts have the potential to enrich peoples’ lives is at the heart of everything it does.

theartssociety.org

 

About DCA Consulting

DCA is a Birmingham based culture, creativity and regeneration consultancy and project development company working on arts, creative industries, media, heritage, regeneration and broader economic development projects.

www.dca-consultants.com

 

About Kendrick Hobbs

Kendrick Hobbs delivers relevant, sympathetic and financially sustainable catering solutions, and is uniquely placed to advise how best to plan, setup, design, organise and manage catering operations in theatres, visitor attractions, historic houses, music halls, museums and galleries.

kendrickhobbs.co.uk

Woodworker of the Year finalists 2022

WWotY finalistsHeritage Crafts and Axminster Tools have announced the finalists of the inaugural Woodworker of the Year award, including a woodcarver, a furniture maker and a musical instrument maker.

This new award celebrates a heritage craftsperson who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of woodworking over the past year. It recognises a contribution that is far beyond the ordinary, based on a proven dedication to a particular woodworking skill.

The three finalists for this year’s award are (in alphabetical order):

  • Jonathan Hill – Jonathan is a maker of historic and modern stringed instruments including the viola d’amore, lira da braccio, violin and viola families. Following training at West Dean College, he worked for a master violin maker in Yorkshire, and studied instrument making in Turkey with a master traditional oud maker.
  • Robin Johnson – Robin is produces tailor-made joinery, furniture and metalwork from his workshop in hastings. In the past 12 months he has designed and built the furniture for a Gold Medal winning main garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and been featured on TV shows Kings of the Wood and Salvage Hunters: The Restorers.
  • David Robinson – David is a self-taught woodcarver with 30 years’ experience, and the Master Carver’s Association’s most recent inductee. He works largely with chisels he made himself from old penknives and bits of old Land Rover spring.

The winner will be announced on Monday 30 January at a Winners’ Reception at the House of Lords.

Heritage Crafts is the national charity set up to celebrate and safeguard traditional craft skills as a fundamental part of the UK’s living heritage.

Axminster Tools works together with makers and creators at all levels, from trade professionals through to craft enthusiasts.