what’s in your toolbox: kiel mead

Kiel Mead is in the business of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. This product designer (and c0-founder of the American Design Club) is no stranger to creating cult items. His forget-me-knot ring has sparked countless copies and has graced the fingers of legions of cool girls everywhere. I would happily install one of his birdie lamps in my kitchen. And his heartsmith rings or necklaces would be the most delicately lovely bridesmaid gifts! I also wouldn’t mind hiring him to help me find a recliner that could bring ultimate compromise to my household. Read on for a glimpse into the creative world of Kiel Mead! Oh, and the adorable Basset Hound? Her name is George :)

1. Design*Sponge: What is in your toolbox?

Kiel Mead: In my tool box are . . . various tools that I purchased thinking I would need them (but usually didn’t).

Things that I am fixing, things I am inventorying, business cards of people I should probably contact, my dog (well not in my literal tool box, but she’s always around), touch paints, necklace chains, jax ring blackener, silicone molds, darts, boxes, packing slips, drill, ladder, Canon G10 and all the fun lens attachments, check book, line sheets, AmDC flyers, show posters . . .

2. Design*Sponge: Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ______________.”

CLICK HERE for the rest of Kiel’s interview (what inspires him, what he’s listening to and reading) after the jump!

3. Design*Sponge: What are on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

Kiel Mead:

Books: Take Ivy, Birds of the World, Self-Hypnosis in Two Days, Roy McMakin, Trips To Hell, McMaster . . .

Blogs: Design*Sponge, Core 77, Cool Hunting, Curated Assortment, Continuous Lean, Sight Unseen, The New Yorker

4. Design*Sponge: How do you keep yourself organized? Time management is often one of the biggest obstacles for creative minds. Do you have an agenda book, and do you make to-do lists?

Kiel Mead: Right now I am making my to-do lists on 3 x 5 note cards. It should be in my phone, but I feel like I am more likely to get it done if it is written down.

5. Design*Sponge: If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?

Kiel Mead: I thought of this great power one time . . . the ability to make a herd of sheep appear out of thin air. Not sure if it would be that great of a power; it would be loud, and there would probably be a lot of poop everywhere. Sheep are so soft and nice looking. Kinda puts a funny picture in your mind. I would be called something likeThe Shepherd” and carry a big stick.

6. Design*Sponge: What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist/designer?

Kiel Mead: Don’t touch that. J/K, I think the best piece of advice was to always tell people you are working on something new. This lets people know you are here to stay.

7. Design*Sponge: How do you combat creative blocks?

Kiel Mead: Doing something I haven’t done before. This can be as simple as a walk in a new neighborhood, a vacation or even just finding a new website to look at.

8. Design*Sponge: Where do you like to shop for inspiration?

Kiel Mead: I find myself in antique shops more and more. Something about products that aren’t made anymore is very inspiring.

9. Design*Sponge: If you could peek inside the studio/toolbox of any designer/artist/craftsperson, whose would it be, and why?

Kiel Mead:

Dead: Benjamin Franklin — Would love to see all the things he was working on and writing about.

Alive: Roy McMakin — I am sure he has an extensive tool selection that he knows exactly what to do with.

10. Design*Sponge: If you could make a master mix-tape of music that is inspiring you at the moment, what would it be?

Kiel Mead: NPR, ESPN Radio, Magic Marker Karate Company, $keletons, Big Boi, M83, Carabou, David Byrne

  1. Robin says:

    George is beautiful…

  2. Susana says:

    absolutely wonderful how such rough looking tools can make such good looking art

  3. Ryan Green says:

    My fiance proposed to me with one of Kiel’s gold love knot rings! I love it so much.

  4. Jess says:

    Everyone should have a dog in their toolbox! I certainly do- Minnie, the daschund is always by my side as I work.

  5. i eye iye says:

    i like that you are finally profiling a man, esp one with a girl dog named george.

    1. grace says:

      i eye iye

      we’re working on including more men in this feature, though we try not to steer things based in gender, but rather people who create work we’re more interested in at the moment. we have several male designers in the works, but we have to wait for their answers to come in before we can run them.

      we profiled cedric smith a while back, and amazing designer from georgia you may be interested in:



  6. Courtney says:

    I’m kind of obsessed withhis giraffe necklace. I love seeing artists who make their own way and aren’t afraid of doing something new

  7. Nothing makes a space more homey and comfortable than a sweet looking dog sleeping on a desk.

  8. Michelle says:

    Great interview as always. I wonder, where is that desk from?

  9. meagan says:

    adore the work bench dog. i need one!
    meagan. row house nest

  10. Chase says:

    The Mets! Really? This site just got too gay for me.

    1. amya says:

      Chase – You made me laugh for a solid minute. Amy :)

  11. Molly says:

    Looks great, wtg Kiel! Even more studio joy with AmDC is happening at the Museum of Arts and Design this week. Their members will create new work in the Open Studios, and present the finished pieces to the public on April 21st.

    Of course I’m excited; nothing like the raw, in-studio perspective. Keep the Toolbox open!

  12. That’s some great advice. I like the idea of going out to do something new when you’re stuck in a rut!

  13. I am so enticed by Kiel’s aesthetic, particularly in his jewelry–the confidence of line, the ‘blunt’ execution of somewhat ironic yet simple concepts, the very designy-ness of the pieces which somehow retain an organic feel even in their very “material-ness”, their metal-ness…all very interesting to this aspiring jewelry maker! Thanks for the profile!

  14. Lucia says:

    im in love with you already! marry me!, i love what you do!

  15. Pirates says:

    All the lists are mind blowing.

  16. dominique says:

    Grace, picking up on the comment about how those tools do such work, it would be lovely to see a picture of the artist’s hands at work in each one of these fantastic profiles; I love this feature. Thank you!

  17. i eye iye says:


    Thank you for the information! I do enjoy reading ALL of your profiles – it is just refreshing to see a male (not asking for more, just happy to see one). I get excited when I see the variety of humans is all. If you look at everyone else’s little note about when I am in my studio… Kiel’s is written on a post-it in a black marker in what I think is typical male handwriting- I love that! I like to observe the little differences between people and when it is a man and woman- it is fun to see the differences – especially in a design world where women dominate (which is a good thing, a grand thing actually). I do love that so many women are creative and amazing & love how your site highlights their work. Thank you for showing us the magic!


  18. yvette says:

    He’s a bona fide Ryan Gosling cutie. Mmmmm.

  19. Beth says:

    Not only is Kiel talented, but he is super nice! I have had the pleasure of chatting with him at several banal trade shows. I’m glad to see him on here!


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.