The emotional reason why keeping history alive is so important for Chris
Intrigued by the massed ranks of toy soldiers in the window of his compact shop in Rye, I spent a fascinating half hour talking to Chris, 65, who has had his business there for 31 years. His passion for the tiny figures he creates and dispatches around the world was wonderfully infectious, but it was what he had to say about the reason he is so committed to his craft that really struck an emotional cord with me.
"I either buy old soldiers that need looking after and tenderly bring them back to life again, painting them in the style they were originally done in. Or I make some of them myself by sculpting the figure, making a mould, pouring the metal and painting the finished figure. I only use metal because plastic soldiers don’t sell very well.
My soldiers live all over the world. They live in every South American country, all over the USA with the exception of two states, Alaska and Hawaii. They’ve never bought my soldiers. They’re strange people! They live all over Europe, Scandinavia, Australia. Everywhere you can think of.
My wife told me she thought I was a very good general
My wife has kept a small book in which she’s written down every country my soldiers have gone to. She told me she thought I was a very good general and when I asked her why, she said “Because you’ve sent more soldiers to more countries, cities and towns than anybody ever has, and they’ve never shot anybody!”
Creating these soldiers is more than a joy, it’s a passion. It’s a passion to bring history to life. A passion to engage with the past, and a passion to keep people understanding the most important thing there is - that you must keep the child within your heart alive or you are dead. And little soldiers bring the boy out in everybody.”
Here are some shots of Chris's beautiful work
If you'd like to see and read more about Chris's intricate work, his shop and website are called Soldiers of Rye
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