A graphic designer has come up with a creative way of dealing with her fear of flying by turning air sickness bags into works of art.
Daniela Attard draws imaginary scenes onto the paper bags given away by Air Malta in case passengers feel ill on the plane.
The illustrator, better known as Iella, has been creating the unusual artworks for the past 14 years and they have even been featured in her exhibitions, retailing at €75 each.
Using a simple pencil, she only realised there was a market for her art when a flight attendant spotted her drawing mid-flight and asked her how much they cost.
“I told her something like €20 but this was many years ago so my only thought was, ‘Brilliant, I can buy a drink’,” she recalled. “I did not expect it at all”.
Iella says the work helps focus her mind away from her fears.
“I think I am going to die on this flight so let’s make a good time out of it,” she says, adding that she also hates being bored.
“I think I must have done around 50 or 60 barf bags because I always do it when I fly Air Malta.” The national airline is the “only one which has nice paper stock,” she says.
She exhibited the sick bags in her first art exhibit in 2020, titled What is Home?, which explores themes of long-distance relationships, living as a Maltese immigrant in London and her travels back and forth.
“It made sense to use the barf bags because I make them on planes. They kind of represent my journey between home and my other home,” she says.
In the show, Iella used 12 sickness bags that travelled with the exhibition at all three of its legs: first in London, then Malta and, finally, Australia where she said goodbye to the exhibition and the quirky drawings, donating some to friends and selling others.
“It was one of the most iconic moments of my life… I was like, yeah, I’ve made it.”
Iella said she believes in “accessible art” as she strives to create art that is not only emotive and curated but also affordable.
“When I draw on the bags, it tends to be very spur of the moment… it’s a different kind of barf, a mental vomit drawn onto the bag,” Iella says.
“The things I tend to draw on the bags are surreal and unusual… they are kind of like allegories and manifestations.”
In the top left corner of each drawing, Iella notes the flight number, immortalising the journey within the artwork, that she recently shared to a wider audience on Reddit.
Currently working with Warner Bros as a graphic designer, Iella has worked on international properties and brands such as Adventure Time, The Powerpuff Girls, Doc Martins and has even designed toys for McDonald’s.
Until April 29, Iella’s work is being displayed at Christine x Curated in Sliema and features portraits, nudes and life drawings from the past 15 years. But no sickness bags will be displayed during the exhibit.