Joseph Debono – Painter & Sculptor

I am a painter / sculptor working in many mediums and crafts since the early 1960s. My Primary craft is working in Pewter, a metal alloy, with which I create statuettes/ figurines and hand paint them. Best known are the chessmen sets depicting The Great Siege of Malta 1565 AD and the figurines showing the costumes and armour of the Knights of St. John and Maltese costumes, and the Diplomatic Gifts given to Heads of State by our Heads of State, all made at our Studio in Mgarr. Christine (my wife) and I collaborate in the design and making of most of the works. Chris and I work in many different mediums, apart from the pewter work, like clay, plaster, wood, resin and cold cast metals, and even leather. Making Props for Films requires the ability to use whatever suits the best for the effect. Scenery painting on set and props painting for films like Helen of Troy, Troy, Agora, etc. is part of our repertoire, including Special props for the Stars. The latest films were The Dovekeepers and The Grand Duke of Corsica.

My first recollection is at 4 years old digging up clay from behind our house in Hamrun, and modelling with it. So I have always been a sculptor, at Grammer school in London I was commissioned to paint a mural for the Art room, and also designing and painting the scenery and costumes for the school play, so when I got into Films in my old age it was like going full circle. As to the pewter, it started with me designing and making a chess set for myself, an extension of my hobby wargaming, and love of history and costumes. It was at Art college and a friend wanted to buy it, so I thought well I can always make another one, so it started, I have been making them ever since. Then from being a hobby it expanded to being my work and included other figurines and sculpture. When we moved to Malta in mid 70’s with two children to support finding work was going to be difficult, so we decided to make figurines specifically targeted at tourists in Malta, using Malta’s rich history as the basis of our works, starting with the Great Siege 1565, and putting them in selected shops, and galleries, first on Sale or Return, then Cash on Delivery. In time we were noticed by the Diplomatic Corps, and were commissioned to make gifts to be given to Heads of State in different countries by our Heads of State. I have made portrait heads in C.C. Bronze as well as Props for Films.

We design and make collectors pieces, sculpture and paintings to order.

We sell to collectors from all over the world, tourists in Malta, and used to sell in shops and galleries. Now people come to us to commission work from our studio in Mgarr. The portraits in C.C. Bronze for example, or special statues, or Props.

I don’t have a favourite as such but the diorama stands out as one of the works where the effect of water and the composition of the three samurai is particularly pleasing. but each individual piece has it’s own merits. No two pieces are the same as they are all hand made ultimately.

Currently I’m working on making two special chess sets for my children one each, of the Great Siege set. I would also like to actually have an example of each of the statues/figurines which we have sold and no longer have in the studio.

From the beginning I have loved History and Costume, so Japanese beautiful Armour and Costume was my first inspiration to create the first Chess set. The historical attempted invasions of Japan, in the 12th Century, by Kublai Khan’s overwhelming forces and the subsequent defeats made for a perfect subject as a game of Chess. Then Malta’s own Great Seige 1565 when the Knights of St. John withstood the attempted invasion of Malta by overwhelming forces of the Ottoman Empire, sent by Sulieman the Magnificent, and their subsequent defeat, it is depicted in the form of accurately sculpted and painted chess pieces, even to portraits in miniature of the Commanders as King pieces, it tells the story.! The third thematic set is of the American War of Independence with accurately portrayed uniforms of the regiments and Commanders involved. The main inspiration is to tell a story I think, in solid form, or express an opinion. All of my pieces make a comment, or statement. especially the Diplomatic gifts.

If I were not a painter/sculptor I think I would be a storyteller, in film, or an actor. As in fact I have done that too as an extra / actor in many films.

I’m happiest when I know that we and my children are settled , happy, not in need … and sitting by the sea, or looking at the wonders of sea, or snorkeling.

My favourite colour is red… from peaceful pink to passionate red.
Dark chocolate, playing strategy games on the computer…
We don’t really exhibit as such and don’t go in for workshops, usually too busy.

In 1979 we bought a dilapidated farmhouse so I had to learn how to do all the electrical wiring, plumbing and building of some walls, plastering and painting, tiling, installing doors and windows, and even furniture to go in it. Only where heavy machinery was needed did we get “a man in” and still making changes or upgrading the house. Work never stops.

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Monique Chambers
Monique Chambers

Monique started indulge in 2011 and has since created Indulge Me GIFT and Indulge Me FOOD and volume 1 of The Artists Directory - Malta. A marketing professional by trade, Monique's passion is to promote local talent and Malta in general. Free time is her biggest indulgence, when she can tinker in her craft room or the kitchen, or be selfish with a book, the sofa and good glass of wine (of course, wearing something beautiful and with freshly coiffed hair!)

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