Maximilian Saliba is a designer, illustrator and screen printer based on Gozo. You know him through his limited edition prints of coastal towers around Gozo and 'Eye See a Star', a screen print tribute to David Bowie.
Through his studio Island of Print, he collaborates with local artists, fashion designers and independent brands sharing the love for hand-pulled silkscreen printing. He organises workshops and talks nurturing creative talent and popularising the craft of screen printing on the islands.
We sat down with Max to talk about his practice, creative process, workflow and workspace.
Tell us about your background and how you started your creative journey.
Max: From a young age, I was always surrounded by creative people in my family whose influence spurred my own passion, which led me to become involved in arts and design.
I've learned so much from my grandparents to get to where I am right now. However, I am a self-taught artist and creator, so my knowledge is the result of study, trial, and error. After ten years on this path, I decided to study design formally and acquired a degree in graphic design and interactive media.
Why do you love screen printing so much?
Max: Screen printing is misunderstood as a simple act of putting ink onto a medium through a screen that can’t be further from the truth. I love screen printing because you can manipulate colour, and effects. It allows experimentation through which you can achieve different results depending on your technique, how you mix the ink, how much pressure you apply, which direction, and designing the print itself. Screen printing is a craft; I love it because you can make it an art.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Max: Finding the connection between small and subliminal features and aspects of life, the natural, social, cultural, and historical environment we live in, then presenting these ideas and emotions, turning them from the abstract and indescribable by using subtle modern, minimal design and art applied on various mediums both in the digital and physical domains.
Would you say you have a typical audience or customer for your work?
Max: Screen printing is my secret weapon, a skill that sets me apart in a market where it's not very common. Here in Malta and Gozo, having the ability to screen print on almost any flat surface or texture has become a game-changer for clients with unique needs. When faced with awkward textures, surfaces, or materials that seem impossible to print on using other methods, my screen printing expertise comes to the rescue. It's a niche skill that has opened doors to new possibilities and unique projects that I relish taking on.
How important is having an online presence to showcase and promote your work? How does it work for you?
Max: Digital tools have been instrumental in helping me make new contacts and connections, allowing me to grow my network and expand my reach. You cannot avoid today, it is not just essential but required, any digital platform or social media website can both be your showcase and used for promotion or even the medium of the art itself.
What’s the most memorable milestone of your creative journey?
Max: Not a specific milestone in particular, but many spread over years of work and practice, slowly acquiring confidence in my skills and recognition for what I do both in terms of design, printmaking, and other artisanal skills which are fundamental to me as a creator.
What do you do or where do you go when you need a creative boost?
Max: We are lucky to live on these islands, you don’t have to look far for inspiration, whether it’s simply looking outside the window, appreciating our natural and urban habitat to all the art, history, and culture that is part of life and a feature of living here in Malta.
Can you walk me through your design process?
Max: As a creator and artist, I feel like you cannot describe the process since it is not a fixed pattern or method. The process varies in method and time frame, an idea that might take me an afternoon or a few days to apply is simply the end of a long process and inspiration going back years.
What are the principles that shape your practice?
Max: Similar to “Return to the workshop", the Bauhaus ideal, returning to artisanal crafts and skills and applying them in a contemporary world where art, form, and function are not exclusive. That you can make art made for the senses, to be looked at, heard, and appreciated, but it can also be something worn and used.
What would you say to someone who is intimidated by trying a new creative discipline?
Max: You have to start small and have a learning mindset, you can’t know without trying. By taking things step by step and remaining curious, we can unlock our full potential and achieve things we never thought possible.
Workspace & Workflow
Tell us about your workspace - where do you do your creating and what tools do you use regularly?
Max: My workspace spans a few rooms from my office, where I have my computer workstation and where I can work on day-to-day tasks, most design work, and host client meetings too. My printmaking room is reserved for that medium since it requires its own space and a large established setup of various tools and equipment, then to my general workshop in another room which I used for anything, from prep work/ink mixing for the screen printing process to everything else.
What do you like most about your workspace?
Max: I like the fact that my workspace is all surrounded by my childhood books.
What kind of music do you listen to while working?
Max: I’m always playing music depending on my mood or otherwise, the kind varies as much as my artistic mediums, anything which fits and compliments what I am creating at the moment.
Do you have any exciting things in progress that you’d like to share?
Max: I am working on various projects at the moment, also with some other artistic collaborators which hopefully should be revealed in the upcoming months, while I can't reveal too much just yet, stay tuned for upcoming surprises and announcements.
What are some of your goals for the future?
Max: To continue to expand my skill set while applying it to newer, larger, different projects beyond my previous cache.
Who are some creatives whose work you particularly admire?
Max: So many, but I especially love the works by Andy Warhol, Eva Stalinski, and Malika Favre.
I’ve always had a soft spot for line drawings, so locally, I am a fan of the unique line shading by ‘Jade Zammit’ and also the line drawings by ‘Inka,’ which bring out all architectural detail to life with her simple yet intricate lines, as well as Ed Dingli, a unique artist whose work separates him from the crowd.
And a special mention to my friend and collaborator Jimmy Grima, who I have long admired, learned from, and now work with.