what's in your toolbox

What’s In Your Toolbox: Atiya Jones

by Annie Werbler

Living and sometimes working out of her Bed-Stuy brownstone apartment, artist Atiya Jones finds herself “influenced by all that stuff she thought she wasn’t paying attention to in biology and chemistry class.” Creating organic-seeming yet orderly patterns in so many aesthetic mediums, Atiya makes her mark “on surfaces from tabletops, paper, construction panels, glass, and textiles.” Her drawings feel like soft mazes, taking cues from the intricate veining structures of leaves and plants’ biological processes. “I’m attracted to the idea of making scientifically-informed work,” Atiya says.

She is currently completing a well-documented artist residency at The Yards in Rochester, NY and is anticipating another with Have Company in Grand Rapids, MI in March. Atiya has been tracking her creative progress since childhood, and refers to her journals and “old love notes” for frequent inspiration. She’ll soon be returning home to boyfriend Matthew and his own contribution to her process in Brooklyn: “I’m so lucky to have an in-house DJ to spin while I draw!” —Annie

Photography by Caitlyn Barrick


What’s in your toolbox?

Microns, nib pens, acrylic ink, Prismacolor & Molotow markers, Sumi watercolors, linoleum printing supplies, Aquarelle paper, Wacom tablet, flatbed scanner, sage, wood, glass panels, my DeWalt drill, jigsaw, and a mitre box.


Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”

…like I’m FINALLY, ACTUALLY doing what I’m supposed to be doing with my time and energy.


What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

Caroline Paquita’s zines, vintage science books, the artist compilation books Over and Over and Hand Job: A Catalog of Type by Mike Perry, The Book of Hindu Imagery by Eva Rudy Jansen and Wendy Xu’s You Are Not Dead. I try to keep a few books going at once — poetry, artist books, and essay compilations really lend themselves to keeping up a rotation. I’ve kept a journal since I was 7; I often flip through those, in addition to old love notes.


How do you keep yourself organized?

Most of what I own is on display, and when clutter starts to drive me mad, I compartmentalize to assess the problems. What can be put away? Do I need to find a new or larger vessel to accommodate my tools? Am I using that right now? Most organizational problems can be solved through two avenues: Finding proper storage or a trash can.


If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?

I’d have the power to remember everyone I’ve met in my life. Even the less-than-pleasant folks, because that would be advantageous, too. People always enjoy being remembered, and I enjoy making people feel good.


What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?

I’ll spare you all the details of the precursory meltdown, but the advice was simple: Make something.

As a creator of digital art, crafts, papergoods, clothing, DIY furniture, homegoods, poetry, photography, blahblahblah, my mind can be all over the place and it gets really easy to be discouraged by being/feeling like a Jack-of-all-Trades-Master-of-None. When I find myself wanting for “greatness,” I have to remember that art is a practice, and greatness/growth is achieved by just that. When you think you suck, make something. When you think you’re at the top of your game, make something. It’s always beneficial.


How do you combat creative blocks?

I go outside. As a native Brooklynite, I’ve watched our borough change so very much and it’s an experience to just observe the social atmosphere — newcomers and old-timers. When I’m stressed, I look at the backs of leaves. I’m absolutely fascinated by the biological systems of plants (not to say that I know a lot about it, ha). And I keep my hands moving as much as possible. You never know what will become of a doodle.


Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?

Lately, I’ve been delving into science textbooks, and researching any questions that come to mind. Image searching biological systems and functions has been a great resource for inspiration — think “types of cellular diffusion,” “symport vs. anti-port,” and “passive transport.” I’m attracted to the idea of making scientifically-informed work.


If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?

Yayoi Kusama. Hands down. I’ve always been attracted to the insanity of her work, her ability to surrender to her mind and how she illustrates her personal stories so clearly through an abstract medium. Step into one of her Infinity Mirror Rooms and you will understand that she can make you feel like magic.


What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?

My current studio / life playlist is comprised of:

  • Air Waves – Parting Glances
  • Bogan Via – Wait Up
  • Chicano Batman – Cycles of Existential Rhyme
  • Devendra Banhart – Mala
  • Isaiah Rashad- Cilvia Demo
  • Gothic Tropic – Awesome Problems EP
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
  • Beirut – No No No
  • Megapuss – Surfing
  • Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down
  • Arthur Verocai – Arthur Verocai




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  • Lovely interview! I didn’t know Atiya and her work before and am glad that I do now! So thanks for that! And thank you Atiya for this awesome playlist! ;)

  • Since she was born, my sister has been a flower that is constantly in bloom. She’s been making art for as long as I’ve known her. Atiya’s creativity, intellect, and passion for life, beauty and exploration, make her an artistic force not to be reckoned with. Continue living your truth out loud, sis. I’m immensely proud of you.

  • Atiya gifted me with a piece of hers the last time we hung out. It’s up in my kitchen and I look at it every day- organic, undulating curves but rough and ropey, too. I love it. So happy to see her here on DS. Hope your residency is going well, A! xoxo

  • It is so thrilling to see Atiya receiving this opportunity and attention she so richly deserves! Nothing is more precious to an artist than the time and a stimulating place in which to create! Carpe Diem, dear one!!!

  • Lovely work and even lovelier person! And her advice is real, true and spot on-thank you Atiya and Design Sponge!

  • I know I’ve read this article on my sister before. …but reading now in the quiet without interruptions it’s …no she’s amazing. I love you more and appreciate your lifework in a different light.. Thank you for sharing you. … Your pieces are currently living in my bathroom and living room. …. And the best place ever my heart