We have established the TOAST New Makers programme to support and mentor five emerging makers who are at the beginning of their journey.

As a brand, TOAST emphasises the importance of material and the trace of 'the making hand' in their products. The New Makers programme reflects and magnifies that commitment and offers support to makers at an important stage in their careers. Rebecca Salter, Artist and Keeper, Royal Academy of Arts.

Launched in April 2019, we asked makers from across the globe to apply. We were overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of applications we received. After an arduous selection process, and with the help of the artist and Keeper at the Royal Academy of Arts, Rebecca Salter, we narrowed the selection down to our chosen five.

These five will now receive business and marketing advice from TOAST, as well as a platform to sell their pieces until the end of this year, with full profits being returned to them.

Each New Maker demonstrated a great appreciation for material and texture in their designs and, while varied in their approaches and disciplines, all showed commonalities in tune with our own ethosthat of thoughtfulness, simplicity, and a celebration of age-old techniques.

The final grouping brings together Blue Firth and Ali Hewson, both working in ceramics, Nicholas Shurey and Takahashi McGil, sculpting with wood, and House of Quinn creating quilted textiles.

The resulting collection is a cohesive one; full of earthy tones and a strong sense of narrative.

They all share a level of underlying technical ability combined with an individual aesthetic and a strong feeling of visual curiosity, says Rebecca of the finalists. I'm looking forward to seeing where they go from here.

Meet the New Makers:

Blue Firth

Nottingham-based artist Blue Firth studied painting at Loughborough University before embarking on a Masters in Fine Art at the Royal Academy Schools. Blue set up her own studio two years ago after falling in love with the grounding, meditative and process-based approach to working with clay. She now holds weekly beginner classes, sharing knowledge and giving something back to her community. Her work is exhibited regularly in the UK and across Europe, pivoting from graphic design and screen-printed pieces to serene ceramics. Her recent clay pieces are created using a raku firing technique. Blue uses horsehair in this process (as a passionate horse rider, Blue manages to take off-cuts at the stables where she rides) which yields expressive, feathery smoke marks onto the surface of the clay. Her heavy-footed bowls are striking sculptures that can also serve to function in our daily rituals.

Takahashi McGil

Originally hailing from South Africa, Mark McGil met Tokyo-born Kaori Takahashi while they were studying Fine Art at the Wimbledon School of Art. Now based in Torquay, Devon, the husband and wife team behind Takahashi McGil create functional bowls, pouring bowls and rice spoons made from local hardwoods. Using Japanese tools sourced in Tokyo they plane, chisel, turn, wax and lacquer their designs with the precision and attention to detail that comes with true craftsmanship. Mark and Kaori spent this past summer in Japan learning the art of Urushi lacquering, a technique that's been used traditionally for thousands of years. Utilising these time-honoured techniques honed in Japan and applied at their studio in southwest England, each considered piece celebrates the natural beauty of the material including knots and air-dried cracks.

House of Quinn

Brighton-based Julius Arthur graduated with a Masters in Fashion Design and worked in menswear before honing in on his true passion for collage and textiles. House of Quinn was created in 2016, debuting signature quilts, cushions and soft furnishings. Each abstract, one-of-a-kind design is made by hand out of Julius' Brighton studio using sustainable fabrics. Keen to imbue his pieces with memory, Julius evokes his upbringing in Cornwall into the narrative for House of Quinn. All his collections have a Cornish name; the latest, En TIr, meaning Of the Land' is inspired by terra firma, mining tools, and the shapes that have come out of the land. His striking, playful pieces look as fitting draped on a bed as they do hanging on a wall and blend traditional quilting techniques with a thoroughly modern approach to textile composition.

Nicholas Shurey

British architect turned sculptor and object-maker Nicholas Shurey resides in Copenhagen. Taking a sabbatical from practicing architecture, he began experimenting with woodwork and found the process both liberating and expanding. Spending time in Switzerland with a sheep farmer-cum-sculptor he traded building greenhouses and help on the farm for woodworking lessons. Finding joy in these pure, organic forms, Nicholas continued with this newfound design approach. His carved objects are designed to be simultaneously sculptural and practical. Nicholas' Little Lady sculpture in Danish maple can sit ambiguously in a room and be enjoyed as an artwork yet it can disassemble to become a table and stool. Similarly, his Eduardo Chillida-inspired smiley face carving in walnut is both pleasingly tactile and a useful vessel to hold fruit. Nicholas' work investigates the negative space in the volume of his pieces, playing with single lines and curved forms. His latest series of large bowls are rich in texture with abstract facial features lending a touch of humour to the everyday object.

Ali Hewson

Ali Hewson studied illustration at Camberwell College of Arts, graduating in 2013. Based in Norfolk, Ali works as an arts educator at the Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts and balances this with her own ceramic work at her Norwich studio. With a background in drawing, Ali's pieces are informed by traditional handwriting studies and repeated motifs, which are translated to the clay through the use of gestural slip. The resulting designs skillfully demonstrate freeform slip trailing, a technique that creates unique textural patterns you can't help but touch. This, combined with a keen interest in natural oxides, has led her to produce hand-built, functional objects with a depth of colour in rich, earthy tones. The tactile nature of her pieces references the past yet remains thoroughly modern in their simplistic forms.

Thank you to all our New Makers from this year. We will be announcing the New Makers for 2020 in April.

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