Jack of all trades and master of most JON CALLEJA talks to DAVID GRECH URPANI about the secret to juggling between fashion, design, music and parenthood. As he embarks on a new project, InsiterOnline visits a creative polymath who has recently found his way back to campus.
Better known as Sterlino, he speaks of one of his more recent feats – attracting mammoth clothing company Nike to one of his designs, which will be released under their brand this autumn. However, his story of creative work goes further back, boasting a long history of creative exploration spanning across all media.
The brain behind many of Malta’s sights and sounds – from glamorously simple designs sported by the likes Charles & Ron, to owning his own urban clothing brand Fat Gold and No Good and the sounds of the DJ Duo Mathematikal, Jon Calleja has had his fair share of contributions to the island’s aesthetics and branding.
The busy life of foreign clients and a multitude of specific requests does not come without its comic reliefs: “I had some commissions from India to create weird Bollywood posters like ‘Phata Poster Nikla Hero’”, he shares as he cringes momentarily, “trying to make that phrase interesting – twice as I had to redo it due to the client’s inability to spell – was quite the challenge.”
Having recently also become a father, you would think that Jon, more widely known by his alias Sterlino, is getting ready to tone it down a notch. This seems to be far from the case, however, as he’s just embarked on a new project in the form of a resolution for 2014.
Every day this year, he plans on posting an image a day of his hand drawn illustrations via his page Hello Jon. Already well into the third month, Jon’s project, aptly named 365 Days of Work / Play, keeps churning out stunning visual pieces, and is set to keep going strong all the way to January 2015.
“I fell in love with that shoe. I ended up creating my own t-shirts at an early age, using normal paint you could buy from an ironmonger”, he reminisces, Jon’s earliest inspirations were as spontaneous as his projects nowadays. He traces back his love for fashion and design to the moment that he first laid his eyes on the Nike Air Max 1 in the late 1980s.
Fast forward to 2000, and a 19-year-old Jon was just getting enrolled for a course in graphic design at the Targa Gap Art & Design (today’s MCAST).
“It was very limiting back then, so although I did learn quite a lot, you could say that some things ended up being self-taught,” he admits. This combination of education and experience culminated when he moved to London for two years to freelance at various design agencies. “Life in London is so different – I sometimes used to get inspired by people waiting in the London underground while commuting!”
Despite his staggeringly long and impressive portfolio, 33-year old Sterlino still believes there’s more to learn from life, and this year, he’s back to University following a Fine Arts degree in Digital Art. Although hectic at times, he says this is a perfect opportunity for him to rediscover things from a completely different point of view. However, Campus Life isn’t the only thing he’s returning to this year.
“It’s great to be back in the music scene,” he smiles, looking glad that we’ve moved on to his other passion. With the new addition to the family, Jon had needed a bit of a break from the scene. “Family always comes first. I’m blessed to have a wife who encourages me to do whatever makes me happy though, and this year felt ripe for a comeback.”
All things considered, Jon has the makings of the perfect dad. “Our house is littered with instruments, so I’m hoping that he picks up one of them and starts exploring the world of music. He’s already banging on this toy drum,” he beams, already very proud of one-year-old Jack. While he would obviously love it if his son followed in his footsteps, Jon quickly adds that he would never allow himself to force Jack to do anything that he doesn’t want to do.
Jon’s year sounds busy enough if you had to leave it at that, but so far we’re only looking at the tip of the iceberg. Also being the designing powerhouse behind FM, Money and Skipper magazines, multiple deadlines become quickly become a daily thing. How does he manage to keep up with so many different things and still produce such great results?
“I don’t know…black magic?”, he laughs nervously,“Seriously though, I try to make time for everything in life. If it’s something you love, you will undoubtedly make time for it.”
He goes on to recount all the nights he spent awake finishing a track or a piece of work. “Life is too short to not do whatever you love. Sleep when you’re dead,” he finishes off, already standing up, probably thinking of the dozen other things he needs to get done by the day’s end.
Photo by Nicky Scicluna