Next Generation Champions

Blacksmith sparks-flyJason Willie – Blacksmith

Head Blacksmith/Director

Anvils Blacksmiths, East Grinstead, West Sussex

What do you do?

I am a blacksmith and head up my family business, Anvils Blacksmiths in East Grinstead, which serves customers throughout the South East.

What makes you different?

Customer service and attention to detail is what I feel makes us stand out. No two pieces are ever the same because we specialise in bespoke wrought iron work and most of our commissions are individual one-off pieces.

We are a small but very dedicated and hard working team. I’m very proud of keeping our work traditional, but I also understand the importance of keeping eyes forward and ensuring the next generation is supported and as such, I have successfully mentored three young apprentices over the last few years.

What have been the highlights so far?

It was 17 years ago at the age of 20 when I won the prestigious title of Young Craftsman of the Year and I will always remember that moment. I was so thrilled to finally win as I had been placed runner up the year before and was third the year before that.  I am also pretty chuffed now that I was placed above the very famous TV presenter, Holly Willoughby who had entered as a young pupil from Burgess Hill School for Girls – it’s always a good story to the tell the kids.

Anvils has continued to go from strength to strength since winning the competition, with a steady stream of specialist commissions including many of my pieces featured at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. 

How are you involved with the Society?

Winning the Young Craftsman of the Year competition was undoubtedly a big turning point for me and I have always continued to be an enthusiastic supporter of the competition and several of my apprentices have also gone on to be winners.

The competition remains at the heart of the South of England Show and demonstrates skills, diversity and technical expertise across five categories: wood, metal (incl. jewellery), textiles, ceramics and design and technology.

Sarah Peay and the Society team work incredibly hard each year to put on the most incredible display of entries and I’m always happy to do anything I can to help. I am often up at the Showground helping and making things for the Society and I am a great supporter of all the work they do as a charity in showcasing farming, agriculture and the countryside through their seasonal shows and events.

What are your plans next?

I will continue to work hard and hopefully take on more apprentices so that we can keep the traditions of excellent blacksmithing alive for generations to come. I didn’t exhibit at Chelsea this year, but hope to return again their next year.