ginny branch stellingwhat's in your toolbox

what’s in your toolbox: kiel mead

by Ginny

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

Suggested For You


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

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Grace,

    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!


  • 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!