When we stumbled upon Sonya Elizabeth Idank’s work on Id-Dar Maltija, it took us less than a minute to decide that we’d like to showcase her furniture restorations on House.mt. Sonya and her husband Tony combine their skills in painting and carpentry to create one-of-a-kind furniture pieces, and the response to their creations has been instant and international.
For Sonya, upcycling and painting furniture is how she decided to distract herself from and cope with the pain of losing her daughter Sarah, who sadly passed away at a young age last December. After Sonya’s first furniture project was met with widespread appreciation, she decided to keep going, and soon enough, she was joined by her husband Tony, a skilled carpenter, who helped her restore and transform more furniture pieces. For the parents, painting and upcycling furniture started as a method through the madness of grieving a daughter; now, with over 48 furniture pieces restored, it’s a fulltime job and a new source of joy.
For this article, we corresponded with Sonya, who walks us through her creations, her history and her next steps.
House.mt: Can you tell us a little bit about your history, Sonya?
“I was born in England, a military brat. My dad is British and my mum Maltese from Rabat where she still lives today. I moved to Malta when I was almost a teenager but did not like Malta, culture shock. I guess I never got over it because I left Malta as soon as I found a way out. Moved to Houston, TX. I was a stay at home mum to 4 until my husband and I got divorced. Then, I met the love of my life Tony and we are both creative artists.”
House.mt: Did you both work in carpentry and painting back when you met?
“Actually, no [Tony and I] both went to Culinary school and are chefs by trade. We had a food truck at one point that was a success and sold it at the right time. We worked on the road in construction. I work project controls and Tony is a pipefitter.
House.mt: When did you decide to move back to Malta?
“Tony loves Malta and every time we visited he’d tell me he wants to stay there and was always bugging me to move to Malta. I always said no because my kiddos and grandkids are here [in Texas]. Well my daughter now lives in Vincenza with her husband and their 5 daughters there. My son is off doing his thing so I hardly ever see him and that left Sarah my middle child who was attached to my hip. We were an item and I could not fathom moving to Malta as appealing as it sounded and leaving my sweet Sarah behind.”
“Last December 30th, a mother’s worst nightmare came true.” Sonya continues, “My sweet babydoll and my best friend Sarah was killed. She was 27 and left behind 2 very young children.
In my grief I shut down and could not even function, I mean even going to the store I would break down and leave my groceries and come home.
“It was the defining moment to move back to Malta. Everything here [Texas] around me is a memory of Sarah. I just want to be back with my family on the rock. I had bought a china cabinet while Sarah was still alive with the intention of painting it. I finally did and then I painted another and in 2 months I had over 48 pieces of furniture painted and sold. I also got to paint her cello, which she loved to play; it was hard to do so, but therapeutic too. All this during Covid-19. I work with acrylic, chalk, epoxy, stains, decoupage and transfers among many things. I am creative and always have been and this has been amazing to cope and find new life.”
House.mt: How did it feel to have such a positive response to your work, here in Malta?
“Malta is our final destination, and we have literally sold everything to make the move. I applied for my Maltese passport as I still have my British passport and am waiting on that to come through. I post regularly on Facebook and a Maltese friend of mine suggested I post on id-Dar Maltija. I had no idea I would get the response I got. One morning I woke up to 237 private messages from Maltese men and women asking me to work on their stuff. I literally spent all day answering messages.”
House.mt: How is your move to Malta going?
“I had already started checking into the paints etc that I use here in the USA to find in Europe along with the epoxy we use. Nothing close to it so we have been in the throws of getting the product to Europe. The problem we have ran into is a typical cash flow problem. What started out as a hobby turned into a full-time job and since Sarah died we have been buried in funeral, attorney and private investigator bills that have put a huge dent into our savings account.”
House.mt: Are you taking orders and commissions?
Yes, but one will need to wait a bit as I have about a 3 months backlog of orders for Maltese people, and requests include cabinets to counters to units. I cannot wait to move back in Malta but for now we are still here in Houston TX “doing our thang here” as we say in Texas. There are plenty of challenges ahead, but I am genuinely excited about moving to Malta and carrying on our work over there. My husband is a carpenter and my partner in crime. We work out well together, and that’s a great source of happiness.”