A retired Royal Navy chief engineer from Plymouth, Harry Chadwick, has won this year’s Rising Star award at Farnham’s New Ashgate Gallery.

The Rising Stars competition is run annually by the New Ashgate Gallery Trust in partnership with the University for the Creative Arts and Making Goode, and was also supported this year by the Billmeir Charitable Trust.

It seeks to champion the UK’s most exciting new craft by early career makers in crafts, design and applied arts, and offers a programme of professional development events and a £1,000 prize.

The 2023 competition put a special focus on supporting new makers in the market place, impacted by the cost-of-living crisis.

Following a popular open call, 24 makers of diverse backgrounds were selected for this year’s curated exhibition by a panel of craft professionals, focusing on potential and talent.

Sculptural artist Harry Chadwick, who had travelled up from Plymouth for the awards ceremony in Farnham last Friday, was announced the winner, with ceramicist Nancy Main the runner-up.

Harry, 60, said: “It’s just amazing – it’s totally unexpected. It’s a vindication of three years of hard slog through college, and to come here and people think my work is worthy is just amazing.”

Harry joined the Navy at 16 as an apprentice artificer and served as a chief engineer from 1989 until his retirement in 2018, when he decided to follow a different path in the arts.

He said: “I spent my entire career in the Navy and came out the other end wanting to take a different route for my life, and here I am now, at the New Ashgate and I’ve just won Rising Stars!”

Harry only accepted New Ashgate’s invitation to enter Rising Stars “at the 11th hour” after being pestered by his wife Donna, but said it was beyond his wildest dreams that he could win it.

“This is like the cherry on the icing of a cake, I’m dumbstruck – it’s fantastic,” he added.

Harry works predominantly with glass and steel, utilising his engineering background and detailed knowledge of  fabrication and welding. 

He remains a Royal Navy reservist and still works part time in the Navy, supporting the Fleet.

Dr Outi Remes, of the New Ashgate Gallery Trust, said: “Many of the graduating makers are at a crossroads: they have a full portfolio of fabulous ideas, but are yet to establish their business skills and a network of collectors. 

“Rising Stars offers just the right platform, and for many, it is a starting point for an exceptional career.”

Harry and Nancy’s work, as well as that of other shortlisted Rising Stars 2023 artists, will be on display at the New Ashgate Gallery (https://www.newashgate.org.uk/) in Waggon Yard, Farnham, until April 22. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30am to 5pm.