what’s in your toolbox: rhea thierstein

Rhea Thierstein is a magic maker. No really, she is. She creates exquisite fantasy worlds through her set designs and art direction. Not to mention that she can develop some deliciously imaginative props and costumes. She has the Midas touch. When she and Tim Walker get together, they redefine the term, “dream team.” Full disclosure: when she agreed to let me interview her, I might have  jumped up and down a little. Okay, a lot. Get ready for a wildly wonderful look into the creative life of Rhea Thierstein.

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

Rhea Thierstein: My basic kit consists of a glue gun, staple gun, scissors, ruler, lighter fluid, pins, smoke grenades (!), string, blue tac, spray paints, paints, leather punch, dye, selection of sticky tapes, glue, dry shampoo, scalpels, paintbrushes, pins, skewers, Goof Off, tweezers, split pins, fishing wire and my Leatherman.

You never know what might happen on a shoot and what you might need as every job is so different, so I take everything. I like to use old-school tools and materials, which you might find in an art class. My glue gun is one of my favourite items. You can make and stick anything with it!!

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

CLICK HERE for the rest of Rhea’s interview after the jump!

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

Rhea Thierstein: It’s mainly objects and photographs that I collect. I love old picture books and anything a little bit strange and quirky.

4. Design*Sponge: How do you keep yourself organized? Do you have an agenda book, and do you make to-do lists?

Rhea Thierstein: My life is a list! I make a lot of lists. Time-management wise, I work a lot to keep on top of things.

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

Photo Credit: Tim Walker

Rhea Thierstein: A magic wand.

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?

Photo Credit: Tim Walker

Rhea Thierstein: Don’t panic, and it’s amazing what you can do in a day! I think young artists should stay true to their style, be persistent and aim high.

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

Photo Credit: Tim Walker

Rhea Thierstein: I do a lot of research, and then if I have a block, I’m best on my own where I can really concentrate and normally an idea will pop into my head. So far so good.

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

Rhea Thierstein: There’s a lovely second-hand bookshop called Henry Pordes Books on Charing Cross road. They have beautiful, old, inspiring books. The vintage market in Camden Passage in Angel is also very inspiring. They have lots of small broken-watch mechanisms and weird odds and ends.

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

Photo Credit: Tim Walker

Rhea Thierstein: Tim Burton’s studio. I’d love to have a peek inside his sketchbooks.

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

Rhea Thierstein: At the moment, I’m listening to Queen in my studio, and if Queen isn’t playing, then I’ve got the best of the 80s and 90s on the radio! I like a bit of a flashback.

  1. Paulina J! says:

    All I have to say is WOW! She is young, beautiful and super talented. Definitely inspirational! I love what is in her toolbox!

  2. yasmin says:

    you’re right, she is, ultimately, a magician.

  3. Pip says:

    Love love this post. Its a bit of a tangent of some of the other design posts, but I love the world of strange details and objects. Very unique and intriguing!
    I too organize by lists upon lists, and then revised versions of those lists. There’s a great satisfaction in checking them off! :)

  4. Andrea says:

    Stunning and beautiful.

  5. Lilly says:

    So lovely! And she has a dream job!! xo

  6. Katie says:

    Thank you for this post! I was admiring Rhea’s work on Tim Walker’s shoot – was very intrigued and – voila!
    Inspirational and beautiful

  7. Emily says:

    She has the job I want, in hospitality design now, but ultimately want to break into her field, my dream job!

  8. Paula PM says:

    I covet her job….shame on me…..hurray for her!

  9. Michele says:

    Very inspirational. I love her studio.

  10. Amy M. says:

    I’m pretty much speechless at what she’s done in just a few years. Her insane ability to make it happen boggles the mind.

  11. karen says:

    Love this peek, it left me wanting more!

  12. Suzanne says:

    I love the range she has from funky to whimsy to decadent to mind blowing. Just having the confidence to step onto those sets is impressive.

  13. Liz says:

    This interview was fantastic, great job!

  14. Goli says:

    So talented! And she gets a million bonus points for liking Queen and Tim Burton =)

  15. Jess says:

    what’s in your toolbox is my oh so favorite part of design sponge! Your interview w/Rhea is so inspiring…thanks for sharing!

  16. oneredboot says:

    lovely dress in the first photo. any more info about it? designer? thanks!

  17. Joey says:

    Superficial, but yes would love to know where the dress is from! :)

  18. Sarah says:

    Think I might have to go get my glue gun out and put some Queen on! Love this interview!

  19. meagan says:

    oh wow….. amazing! Love the whats in your toolbox series!
    meagan, xo

  20. Susana says:

    Magic maker indeed! What a beautiful and surreal world she makes for the rest of us to enjoy

  21. Burcak says:

    I love all of them thank you again for I have found

  22. Jill says:

    This was a terrific post. I love the lavish photo shoots–are they published somewhere I could see more? Curious if the pictures on the walls in #6 and 9 are murals or projections? Brilliant! Where can I see more of her work?

    1. grace says:


      you can see more of rhea’s work on her website, there’s a link in the beginning of the post :)


  23. “Be true to your style”

    “Be persistent”

    “Aim high”

    Notes taken. THANKS for a great article!


  24. elena says:

    Amaaazinggggg! love her work, and love the interview, thank you for sharing.

  25. Holly Jones says:

    i love this post too and and the way it demonstrates beautiful work coming out of mish mash (i tend to work that way and sometimes i feel like my process should be more pristine). and gosh, her list of tools. i wonder what she uses dry shampoo for. i’m not even sure i know what that is.

  26. Eva Lindeman says:

    nice! but why is there a gun on the thursday list? ;-)

  27. Red Rooster says:

    A good opportunity to share helpful and interesting information about creatives, but the superhero question is a wasted one as far as offering any real insight.

    1. grace says:

      red rooster

      the superhero question gives you a chance to see a whimsical side of the person being interviewed. and more often than not it reveals something about their inner desires and hopes as a person and as an artist. i’m sorry if you didn’t feel that was the case with this interview, but i love that ginny mixes fun and more “important” questions together- though i feel both are important. every reader responds strongly to different parts of the interview. :)



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