Thomas Thwaites on making a toaster (by hand)
Thomas Thwaites was one of the first people I wanted to interview when I started Material Matters in 2019. I’m not entirely certain why it has taken so long to arrange a chat. He graduated from the Design Interactions course of Royal College of Art in 2009, with a piece that has gone on to become genuinely iconic.
In The Toaster Project, Thwaites set out to make this industrially manufactured product by hand. He mined his own iron ore, extracted copper from water and attempted to persuade BP to allow him onto an oil rig to bring back a jug of crude. His adventure was published as a (highly readable) book in 2011.
And not satisfied with that, a few years later this most unpredictable of creatives came up with another book. Goatman: How I took a Holiday from Being Human charted his quest to live his life as a goat and cross the Alps on all fours, eating grass along the route.
It was described by designer Anthony Dunne as ‘a wonderfully eccentric, at times absurd, but always thoughtful reflection on one man’s journey into the wilder regions of design.’
In this episode we talk about: becoming a father during the pandemic; deciding to create a toaster by hand; persuading people to do the strangest things; why his approach to design is like journalism (only more difficult); how his mother’s microwave ended up in the permanent collection of the V&A; hosting a TV show in South Korea; and, last but by no means least, his quest to become a goat.
Find out more about Thomas Thwaites
The Toaster Project is now part of the V&A’s permanent collection (including the Thwaites family microwave). Image: Patrick Lydon
How Thomas’ handmade toaster stacks up in terms of price with its industrially-manufactured competitors. Image courtesy of the designer
This is Thomas crossing the Alps in his goat apparatus. Image: Tim Bowditch
He undertook various tasks to understand how goats behaved, including taking part in a dissection. Image: Daniel Alexander