As readers of our annual Handmade issues will know, craftsmanship skills are highly prized by team Wallpaper*. So it was with eagerness that we awaited the results of The Balvenie Masters of Craft Awards, which seek out and champion the finest heritage skills and craftsmanship in the UK.

Now in its second year, the competition calls for craftspeople in the categories of wood, leather, metal, stone, textiles, glass & ceramics, and food. This year's overall winner is Heather Gillespie, a copper wheel glass engraver, who studied her craft in a small village in the Bohemian Mountains and whose extraordinary wares are in high demand. Other category winners range from Sam Holden, a cheesemaker who uses a cheddar recipe dating back over a century, to Phil Barnes, who practices the ancient art of enamelling on a metal base with extreme skill.

The eight-strong judging panel, headed up by Kevin McCloud, picked out their winners not simply for their unique skills but for the relevance of their wares in today's society.

It is often said that the most beautiful things are born from the marriage between form and function. This is never truer than in the field of heritage craftsmanship, which makes keeping these time-tested skills alive all the more important. The exponents of these unique skills bring their crafts into our contemporary world of style and design; the 'firebowl' made by Callum Gray (the dry stone waller who won the stone category) for instance, wouldn't look out of place in a contemporary art gallery.

The Balvenie - which has been making its exquisite single malt whiskies at its distillery in the Scottish Highlands for over a century - is an apt backer of an award that celebrates such time-tested skills. To produce whiskies of this quality, it takes a series of extraordinarily skilled processes, and at The Balvenie, the value of human expertise built up over many years, is truly understood. We'll drink to that.

TAGS: PRODUCT DESIGN