Woodworker of the Year 2023 finalists announced

15th October 2023  |  ANNOUNCEMENTS

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.