Borders smithy forges ahead after winning prestigious trophy
Eddleston-based Jim Whitson, the Blazing Blacksmith, has been announced as this year’s winner of the hotly contested Tonypandy Cup.
He scooped the prize for decorative gates he made for a private home in Edinburgh, which wowed judges.
The 50-year-old is over the moon that his craftsmanship and creativity have been recognised by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, an institution thought to have been around since 1299.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” he said.
“It really means a lot to me, especially as the competition is judged by very skilled blacksmiths who really know what it involves.
“I’m chuffed to bits.”
Whitson, who originally studied three-dimensional design before training as a blacksmith, has an impressive portfolio of commissions under his belt.
Some are purely decorative, while others are also functional. But all are works of art.
He admits the prize-winning gates – which feature tall-stemmed flowers and take inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement to tie in with detailing in the house they protect – are among his favourite ever creations.
“They were one of the biggest jobs and among the most complex designs I’ve done,” he said.
“And the clients were fantastic.
“They gave me a lot of freedom and put a lot of trust in me.”
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His work is enormously varied, from ornate indoor and outdoors railings and banisters to gates, benches, standalone sculptures and even a bannock toaster.
He enjoys crafting objects that are both functional and beautiful, considering himself a “functional sculptor”.
A lot of time is spent on the design and planning process, making sure customers get the pieces they really want.
“It can take a huge amount of time to plan the design but it’s worth it.
“Most of my jobs are really special.
“When someone commissions a piece from me it’s not some whimsical notion.
“Many projects involve details that really mean something to the people.”
His love of metal-working began in earnest after serving as an apprentice in the Highlands, where his mentor was blacksmith Mike Crummy.
“I first discovered an interest when playing about with metal while I was studying art at college,” he said.
“Then I was really lucky. My first job was in Tomatin, and the guy, Mike, I was working for was doing really interesting work.
“I got a wide range of experience and it helped me decide I really wanted to be a blacksmith.”
His latest project is a big one – making gates and railings for a grand period home in Northumberland – and will probably keep him busy for the rest of the year.
But he will make time for a trip to London, where he is due to be presented with the Tonypandy Cup at a special ceremony in October.
Alderman Alastair King, prime warden of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, which awards the trophy, said: “The gates have good attention to detail and are well executed.
“They are a confident and engaging contemporary design that has a strong visual impact and makes a positive statement for modern-day blacksmithing.”
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