The Duchess of Cambridge has been praised as “a natural Stokie” after mucking in during a visit to the Potteries in aid of children’s hospices in Stoke-on-Trent.
Her Royal Highness was visiting the Emma Bridgewater ceramics factory in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, touring the shopfloor and watching youngsters getting creative with paint – to the delight of their Royal Visitor.
The visit was a chance for The Duchess to witness production of a new line of mugs the historic company has launched in support of East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH), of which The Duchess is Patron.
The Duchess was all smiles as she chatted with production staff before meeting families from Stoke-based Donna Louise Children’s Hospice for a painting session.
She earned plenty of fans among the workers, as she tried her hand at making flatware – which involved the precision throwing of a piece of clay on to a machine.
Warning onlookers to “watch out”, The Duchess managed to hit the mark first time although she remarked: “It’s a little lop-sided.”
She met a good portion of the 180 site staff, who have been busy with an order to create mugs to raise money for EACH’s Nook Appeal aimed at building a new hospice in Norfolk.
Emma Bridgewater – who called the royal visit “a golden day” for her and the staff – said The Duchess had a big hand in the eventual design of one of the mugs in particular, featuring a ladybird motif.
“She gives so much time to people, and makes each person she talks with feel they are the sole focus,” she said.
The Duchess later saw the mugs being decorated, describing the work as “amazingly intricate”.
She even had a go herself, but branded her efforts “massive blobs”.
The Duchess then met a handful of families who use a local hospice, and met four-year-old Daniel O’Sullivan who delighted her with his painting skills.
Warned by his watchful mother, Sarah O’Sullivan, that her son might make a mess, The Duchess replied: “Oh, it’s fine, I’m used to it with George as well.”
Mrs O’Sullivan, of Loggerheads in Staffordshire, told The Duchess that two nights a week of respite care for her son had proven “a lifeline” to the single mother.
Afterwards, the 37-year-old said The Duchess had been completely unhurried and “down to earth”.
Her son has autism and a rare infant form of Marfan Syndrome, which affects the connective tissues in his body, meaning he needs a ventilator at night.
“Doctors gave him a life expectancy of two years old, but he’s well and truly kicked that prediction out,” she said, proudly.
The Duchess concluded her visit by unveiling a plaque in front of staff, to cheers from the gathered crowd.
The historic Hanley-based company, which still mainly employs traditional handcrafting techniques for which the Potteries is famed, is making the mugs to go on sale on March 2.
Later, The Duchess toured a children’s centre run by charity Action for Children which helps vulnerable families in Smethwick in the West Midlands.
She met staff and volunteers, finding out about the work done for young children to help develop self-confidence and their emotional well-being.
She also helped out with a play session, joining in with games and nursery rhymes and earning a high-five from one exuberant youngster.
Charity Chief Executive Sir Tony Hawkhead said: “We are very grateful to Her Royal Highness for her interest in the vital work we do, not just in Sandwell but at our 650 services across the UK.”
The Duchess’s visit came two days after she released a video message drawing attention to Children’s Mental Health Week, saying: “Both William and I sincerely believe that early action can prevent problems in childhood from turning into larger ones later in life.”