We had the good fortune of connecting with Michela Degiorgio and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michela, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Recognising my priorities in life has definitely been the key here. In the past I measured success by my output, whereas now I measure success against my quality of life and the quality of people I surround myself with. To me, success means being able to spend time with my family and friends, and doing things that are meaningful to me. While I try not to let work play a major part in my definition of success, I still feel it is an important part of what I do and who I am as a person, so job satisfaction is also quite important.
I feel I strike a right balance when I feel that I’m giving my all on the things which I choose to focus on, rather than trying to fit everything into the week. Given that I have a full-time job (on a 4 day week, which is great), I do some freelance design on the side, and I also have a passion for pottery, I try to be selective in the freelance work I take on. At this point in my career, I feel comfortable declining certain jobs and only working on those which I believe will be most fun and most impactful. The people I work with are also important to me – if I feel I cannot build a good relationship with the person or team taking me on then I tend to pass and wait for the next opportunity to come around.
With pottery my approach is totally different. I have in the past tried to create for clients but I soon learnt that in this case, I prefer to create for me and experiment and once I am satisfied and the piece is complete put it on my studio shelves and whoever likes it can make it theirs. This is obviously much less pressure to reach deadlines and allows much more room for learning.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In my career the first and most valuable lesson I learned was that you can be the most talented, fastest designer out there but if nobody wants to work with you, you’re effectively useless. I always approach a project with that mindset – making sure everybody involved is aware that their ideas are heard and whenever possible, taken on board. It’s hard in the sense that lots of people like to have an opinion but it’s my job as the creative to remind them why they trusted me with the project.
What I think makes my work distinctive is my love for bold colour and type. When I design, it’s not a case of reinventing the wheel – I take inspiration from so, so many talented creatives who we have the fortune of discovering on various social platforms and I deconstruct, reconstruct and put my stamp on things.
When I’m working on my clay pieces, my main inspiration is the form. I let the vessel or structure direct what the colour or final product should look like.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Malta is a tiny island – the whole country is pretty much the size of a small city. Best time of year to visit is definitely Spring or early Summer before beaches and cafes are over crowded. I would suggest being based in Valletta, the capital. Valletta was built by the Knights of St John in the latter part of the sixteenth century and is bursting with culture, art and good coffee spots. It is also very easy to get round the island from Valletta, by boat or bus.
Two days in Valletta is more than enough to get the best it has to offer, I suggest starting the morning in one of Valletta’s many outdoor cafes and enjoy basking in the sun. You cannot miss St. John’s Cathedral, which boasts numerous works of art, including a vaulted ceiling painted by Mattia Preti and Caravaggio’s famous ‘Beheading of St John’. In my opinion, Valletta is even more beautiful at night, buzzing with many quaint wine bars and some of the best restaurants the island has to offer. From Valletta you can catch a number of different ferries which will shuttle you to various other parts of the island, or Gozo (our sister island).
If you love to shop on holiday you have to visit Sliema, also reachable by boat and bus from Valletta, which is home to a number of great gelaterias, beaches and coffee shops. You must also visit Balluta which is literally a 20 minute walk from the center of Sliema, and one of my personal favourite spots. Of course if you’re visiting Malta, you can’t skip Mdina, a small Medieval city which is steeped and offers some of the best views on the island.
If you’ve still got time, you should definitely visit Gozo which I think is one of the prettiest parts of the Mediterranean. As the small sister of an already tiny Malta, Gozo has retained its character as a sleepy place, reminiscent of life as it was some years ago, so it’s a must for anyone looking for a relaxing holiday. Within Gozo’s 67km2, you’ll be able to swim in some of the Med’s most pristine waters, eat proper food and enjoy local hospitality – what’s not to love?
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I owe my success to lots of people around me, I’ll try to keep this as short as possible. My parents recognised my interest in art at a young age and really pushed and nurtured the talent in both me and my sister. They never talked us into different or “safer” paths. As early as 9 I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer – back then with the idea of designing album covers for Britney Spears. As I grew older – the idea of bringing brands to life excited me.
I attended the one arts college we had in Malta back then, MCAST – I have nothing but fond memories of this college and would recommend it in a heartbeat. One lecturer who I cannot not mention is an illustrator who I still look up to now, Moira Zahra. She really pushed me to work with different people rather than my 3 friends who I always stuck to. To take in what they have to offer and, more importantly, not to shy away from showing what I have to offer. She also really pushed for furthering our studies, I went on to complete a Masters at UAL’s Chelsea College of Arts in Design Communication.
I was lucky in my first job in an agency to be placed with a mentor who also had the gift of teaching – Chris Dalli. In my first year of work I learnt more about the industry than I could have ever hoped for. I think it’s very easy to be a talented designer and show what you can do but to recognise and nurture peoples’ talents is a special gift and I was lucky to find that both in college and in my early career.
My husband, Beppe, really pushed for me to invest more in my freelance work. Being able to give this more attention I was able to take on longer, more exciting projects which gave me more recognition. I got to choose projects because they excited me rather than because they paid well. It wasn’t long before I started working with brands both locally and internationally. I am lucky to have found a life partner who not only supports me but believes in me.
Pottery had been an interest of mine for very long! Two-ish years ago I attended a pottery course over the Summer and was instantly hooked! Rosella Schembri at Space for Clay is a wonderful teacher and friend! No idea is too crazy or too risky – she is 100% supportive and willing to help us try achieve our end goal to no limit. All I know of the medium I know thanks to her, and my obsessive video watching!
I now share a studio with my sister – Tina Mifsud who is a full time painter and is my biggest critic and I hers. I am her biggest fan and she is mine! I love our tiny space in the middle of Sliema, a seaside town in our sunny island. Passers-by pop in to see what we’re up to, purchase our work or just chat about art, it really feels worthwhile – very gratifying.