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Country Living's The Balvenie Artisan Awards winners

Country Living's The Balvenie Artisan Awards logo
Winner: Steven Laing of Laing Traditional Masonry

Stonemason Steven Laing was awarded Country Living's The Balvenie Artisan of the Year award for the impressive apprenticeship programme run by his company Laing Traditional Masonry. Steven began his career as a trainee bricklayer and, frustrated by the lack of structured training and encouragement, he applied for an apprenticeship with Historic Scotland at Elgin Cathedral. It was his experience working alongside master masons that encouraged him to instigate a training scheme in his own business. 13 apprentices have already completed his unique programme and he currently has five new trainees working for him. Read more in the June issue of Country Living.

Winner: Dave Cockwell of Cockwells Modern and Classic Boatbuilding

Dave Cockwell's skills of hand-crafting wooden boats are predominantly self-taught and it was his struggle to learn through trial and error that inspired him to set-up a formal apprenticeship scheme in his own company, Cockwells Modern and Classic Boatbuilding. Read more in the June issue of Country Living.

Highly commended: Tim Donaghy of Dry Stone Walls Ltd
Originally a graphic designer, Tim Donaghy was drawn into a career as a dry-stone waller when he began to tire of life behind a desk. He joined a friend, who was experienced in the craft, for a few walling sessions and quickly became hooked, forming his own business in 1998.
Dry-stone walling has historically been seen as a man's profession, but a year ago Tim broke away from traditional stereotypes by training his first female apprentice, Kay Lane. Kay had worked in event management for 10 years before she gave up her world of commutes and deadlines in pursuit of a career with ‘soul', and now works full time with Tim.
Although initially unsure whether Kay would take to the male-dominated and physically demanding work environment, Tim has been amazed at her natural ability and impressed with her meticulous approach. He also feels that by encouraging women to learn the craft, the profession will be opened up to all those who may not have considered it as a career.

Winner: Aiveen Daly

Upholsterer Aiveen Daly creates glamorous and contemporary chairs using traditional methods and tools, including foot-long needles. Aiveen originally worked in marketing and started upholstery at an evening class, but now has a thriving business reinvigorating antique and vintage furniture.

Highly commended: Helen Rogers and Barbara Massey of Massey & Rogers

Helen Rogers and Barbara Massey met and became friends 15 years ago. They discovered a mutual love of textiles and took a degree in textile design together at the University of Derby with a view to fulfilling their shared ambition of setting up their own business.
The course enabled them to explore a variety of weave and print methods, experimenting with hand looms and screen printing, as well as computerised design. But it was the older techniques that involve the designer in every stage of production that they both became interested in.
They weave their textiles using old fashioned looms and hand screen-print their textiles - but their designs are innovative and contemporary rather than traditional, and include baskets and wallets woven from recycled materials such as newspapers, comics and plastic carrier bags.

Winner: Paul Jewby

Woodcarver Paul Jewby was selected by the judges for his carvings and antique furniture restorations using predominately Victorian tools. Paul has been carving for over 20 years and has restored many important pieces of furniture, including a pair of tables that were badly burnt in the fire at Windsor Castle. Read more in the June issue of Country Living.

Highly commended: Marion Kane

Determined to keep the old skills of her trade alive, silversmith Marion Kane produces contemporary silver tableware using a technique called hand raising. She ‘brings a flat disk of silver up' using just a hammer and a metal former, to make vases, coffee pots and a variety of other pieces. She steers away from more formal, highly polished silverware and instead creates textured surfaces using old, worn hammers.
It is this hands-on, labour intensive way of working with precious metals that Marion finds so rewarding, as it allows a greater understanding of the metal - its thickness, weight and balance - and enables her to realise her designs through a gradual process of transformation, which, she says, is very satisfying.
Since it opened, the business has flourished and Marion's most notable commission to date was a coffee pot, mug and cream jug made for Ewan McGregor as part of the ‘Silver of the Stars' collection, which celebrated the Incorporation of Goldsmiths 550th anniversary.

Read more about The Balvenie's traditional craftsmen at

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