44 Toys at 44 – Illustrator Claire Fletcher’s Spring Clean

Claire Fletcher is a Hastings-based illustrator and toy collector. Her work can be enjoyed at Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop as part of the 44 Years at No. 44 exhibition, showcasing 44 vintage toys from the artist’s collection and the respective original illustrations by her. All these are for sale alongside the popular Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop Pop-Up Card exclusively designed by Claire for us!

44 Toys at 44 Exhibition – Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop 2024


Pollocks: Hello Claire, thank you for answering our questions – we are big fans of your work here at Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop! As you know, Pollock’s is celebrating 44 years at no. 44! Where were you 44 years ago? Would you like to tell us more about your journey as a creative? How long have you known us for? What’s your relation to the shop (including the pop-up card you designed for us!)?

Claire: 44 years ago, l’d recently moved from Northern lreland to Sidcup in Kent. It was a big move for all the family. ( l had moved from Leicestershire to County Antrim, at the age of three months old. ) The Troubles were a backdrop to our time there. l packed up all my childhood things in a couple of tea chests. Part of the reason my Father wanted to move back to England, near London was so that my brother and l might have greater opportunities. My ambition was to go to art school so l was thrilled to be awarded a place at Central School of Art and Design Foundation course. I followed that with a first class honours degree from Kingson University and finally a two year MA with distinction at The Royal College of Art. It was there that l met Quentin Blake who was to introduce me to Hastings on a college trip.

Making the pop up card for Pollocks is one of my favourite commissions, although quite a challenge to work out the illustration. It was so amazing to see the ingenious pop up, designed by Mark, come to life. It feels just like the shop, bursting at the seams. Covent Garden was only half an hour on the train from Sidcup and such a vibrant and exciting place. I loved the Apple Market, the buskers and the Tim Hunkin automata at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre. I loved visiting Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop too and buying pocket money toys. More favourites were The Bead Shop (now Choosing Keeping at this location) and the amazing Neal Street East, an emporium of oriental merchandise and miniature sketchbooks. I also often shopped at the London Graphic Centre and Cowling and Wilcox for materials.

Flat artwork by Claire Fletcher for Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop Pop-Up Card, 3-D design by Paper D’Art


Pollocks: Your current exhibition at the shop is a selection of 44 vintage toys from your collection and the respective original illustrations by you. Where does your interest in toys come from? How long have you been collecting them for and how extensive is your collection?

Claire: I love old toys especially, they have so much character. I still have some of my childhood toys and have enjoyed searching at boot fairs and antique fairs for more to add to the collection. Over the 25 years in our tall town house the collection grew and grew. We had a museum wall covered in cabinets, inspired amongst other things by the artwork Toy Shop by Peter Blake. We have recently downsized our collection so that we can move house. After 25 years we are moving to a totally different house with beams and low ceilings. There is a small office building outside which we might make into a mini museum.

Doll Case as part of Claire Fletcher’s Toy Collection


Pollocks: Do you have a favourite toy? What about the top item on your collector’s wish-list?

Claire: My favourite toy is a small green wooden doll’s house which my daughter was given by an elderly family friend. It has a collection of miniature bears living in it. I am only buying little things now, but look forward to summer boot fairs already!

Dolls House Cookers from Claire Fletcher’s Toy Collection


Pollocks: Your drawing and painting style couldn’t be more perfect to illustrate toys. Is this something you’ve always been interested in? What are your inspirations from this point of view?

Claire: My artwork has evolved over the years, l go through different phases. At the moment l am enjoying drawing mainly with home made oak apple ink and adding colour with watercolour. But l used to love acrylic paint which can be heavier, with richer colours. I have been inspired by so many artists and illustrators, Arthur Rackham, Beatrix Potter, Red Grooms, Saul Steinberg, Randolph Caldecott, Norman Rockwell, Mabel Lucie Attwell, Kate Greenaway so many! As an illustrator it is your job to bring a text to life and you have to be adaptable, it’s a challenge. When l’m painting pictures for myself it’s totally different, inspired by nature, animals and things that make me happy.

Some of the 44 oringal paintings by Claire Fletcher for sale with their respective toys at Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop


Pollocks: We think the love you put into your work is so evident – the subjects always look full of life. Thinking about the toys exhibited at the shop, how have you managed to capture their character so well? Do you have any secret tip for this?

Claire: Drawing is my job and also my hobby. I enjoy taking my paints on holiday and on walks in the countryside, recording places and memories. The more you draw the more fluent you become and it becomes easier to imbue the drawing with your emotions. I have really enjoyed recording many of the many toys that l have had to rehome. Not only have l loved hearing about the new places the toys are going to live, but l have a scan of all the paintings and hope to create something with the images.

Rabbit toy illustrated by Claire Fletcher for 44 Toys at 44 (SOLD)


Pollocks: In 2024 we’re celebrating 44 years at no. 44, but what about you? Do you have any exciting project coming up? Or even some new creative territory you’d like to explore?

Claire: This is an important year for me already… I have just completed a painting of Hilltop, Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lake District, it was such a honour to be asked. The painting will be available there as a print, card and on other souvenirs. I painted designs for Polar Post for Easter, Bunny Post, and hope to work together soon on another Christmas book. I am very lucky and delighted to have the exhibition at Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop, it is perfectly timed with my move and the rehoming of some of my treasures. It’s the 20th Birthday of Made in Hastings, selling locally made gifts and artwork in Hastings, l have a selection of work available there and online.  I am working towards exhibitions at Rudyard Kipling’s home Bateman’s and The Black Winkle Studio later this year. For the next few weeks l am concentrating on settling in to my new studio in the countryside just outside Hastings and getting outside with a sketchbook to enjoy Spring, my favourite time of year.

Claire Fletcher’s exhibition 44 Toys at 44 can be seen at Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop until the end of May 2024

Interview by Chiara Scoglio