‘Chatting to Lucy’ by Corinne Marbrow
Sitting at my kitchen table one rainy afternoon, Lucy Carmel, of Carmel Critters, tells me all about her work. We share a pot of tea and we talk about childhood and family, and how the meaning of home and the importance of belonging all influence, shape and inspire the wonderful toys she makes, from her home studio in the Shropshire Hills.
“For me”, says Lucy gently, “I want to make something that becomes a part of childhood. Something that is special to a child, and which will be kept and treasured through the years.” She adds sincerely, “I want these soft toys to become a child’s friend.”
Understanding how Lucy works to create such timeless, gentle characters is to recognise the importance she places on childhood being a time of imagination, free play and creativity; but also, that childhood should be encircled with security, comfort, warmth and nurturing love. And in many ways, Lucy’s soft toys embody her belief; they are full of character and personality, inviting the child’s imagination to bring them to life – but they symbolise something gentle, sustaining and comforting too. It is, quite simply, an enchanting and genuine combination.
I ask Lucy about her craftmanship, and she shares with me how everything from the shape of the toys, to the choice of fabric and weight of the toy itself, are all considered aspects of her designs. When I ask her to tell me more, she explains how sourcing fabric from within the British Isles and supporting traditional British crafts and skills are vital in her work. And that passing these different skills onto the next generation is something we need to do to ensure these traditions and artistry are kept alive and valued. “Teaching sewing to children is one way I can help towards supporting that idea.” She tells me passionately.
As if to demonstrate, my two-year-old daughter toddles into the room, and picks up a beautifully made cat, from the kitchen table, instantly cradling it in her arms. My daughter and the cat fit perfectly together. “I couldn’t explain my design ethos any better than that, really”, laughs Lucy.
With the afternoon coming to an end and the second teapot drained of its contents, I am left feeling what a warm, inspiring experience, spending time with Lucy is. She is supremely talented, producing original, charming, soulful toys and yet she is also humble, kind and deeply passionate about her work and the meaningful way in which she engages with the notion of childhood, and all that means. Her principles of slow living, authenticity, and supporting British craftmanship are what impress me most of all.
I think any child who comes to have a Critter of their own, has a gift ahead of them, in every way that means.