#Printstories: Claudia and her sea creature T-shirt

#Printstories: Claudia and her sea creature T-shirt

Massimiliano Santolin Published on 3/29/2024

Never underestimate the power of the sea.

An immense, limitless power, the source of stirring stories and stunning seascapes.

And who better than an inhabitant of Sardinia – one of the world’s most beautiful and distinctive islands – to pass on these stories?

Tales of shimmering seascapes and sun-drenched beaches, of sinuous creatures emerging from and disappearing into the deep, of rugged coasts, steep cliffs and the salty scent of the sea.

The marine world has always been a source of stories, myths and legends passed down the generations.

But writing and publishing stories is not the only way to continue this tradition.

Claudia has struck upon a creative alternative: emblazoning a much-loved denizen of the deep on a T-shirt.

Now children (or just the young at heart) can take enchanting creatures like the monk seal with them wherever they go, spreading its legend beyond the shores of the island.

Because today’s frenetic world still needs to these hear stories to give meaning to its existence – and our own.

The monk seal makes us smile and reminds us of the beautiful creatures that call the sea home – and that deserve our respect.

Today we’re going to discover how, with Pixartprinting’s help, Claudia produced her printed creation inspired by her fascination with the deep blue sea and the innate strength of its hardy creatures.

Happy reading!

Who is Claudia? Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do, your dreams, aspirations and talents. A short but faithful portrait!

Hi! My name is Claudia Piras and I’m an illustrator. I live and work in Cala Gonone, on the east coast of Sardinia. I’ve got a great job that allows me to live on an island while at the same time travelling with my imagination. 

I’ve illustrated classic fairytales that have been rewritten to inspire readers in more than 30 countries (Fairytales Retold); I’ve also illustrated books on the 12 ancient religions and the myths they use to explain the origin of the world, as told by scholars at the University of Bochum; and I’ve done nursery rhymes and silent books for kids about the environment and solidarity (in collaboration with the People publishing house and its authors).

I’ve told the story of my island through images with my illustrations for the short stories of Grazia Deledda; I’ve drawn pictures for old tales populated by orcs, janas and other mythical creatures; and I’ve done the artwork for a guide to traditions and novels in the Sardinian language.

One of these is a book set right here, in Cala Gonone, which is what inspired me to create the T-shirt with seals that I printed with Pixartprinting: it’s called Tottoi.

Before telling us about your idea, can you explain to our readers what you produced using our printing technology?

Usually, my illustrations are created for books, but I’d really like to see what they’d look like on different things. With Pixartprinting, I’ve printed T-shirts, drawstring bags, posters and postcards.

Let’s rewind to the very beginning. Where did the idea for this project come from? Is there a particular story behind it?

OK, so I’m going to tell you about Tottoi. As I said before, I live in Cala Gonone, and it was here, in 1980, that Gianni Padoan wrote Tottoi: it’s a tale of friendship between a little boy called Tottoi and Zabaione, a monk seal pup.

In 2020, the book was practically impossible to get hold of. But it’s such a nice and topical story that Giuseppe Pisanu and his Editrice Thaphros publishing house have decided to publish a new edition illustrated by me.

This novel takes us back to the end of the seventies in Cala Gonone, when all that remained of the monk seal were memories and a few black and white postcards. But Tottoi discovers that a mother seal and her pup are hiding in the Bue Marino caves. With the help of his friends, he fights courageously to protect them from a gang of unscrupulous criminals.

At the time, it was thought that the Mediterranean monk seal would be extinct by the turn of the millennium. Fortunately, this didn’t happen, but this is more down to its tenacity than human efforts to save it. It remains an endangered species and we have to do more to protect it.

In recent years, the Gruppo Foca Monaca, various charities and research organisations have been running a massive campaign to monitor monk seals in the Mediterranean, and DNA analysis of water samples has detected its presence in areas where it hasn’t been seen for years.

The picture I drew for the T-shirts shows Zabaione swimming for the first time with his mum.

The seal is an animal that completely fascinates me. Out of the water, it’s a bit clumsy, it moves slowly across the sand, but in the water it’s fast, elegant and beautiful.

With this image in mind, I started drawing…

Once you had found the right idea, you had to set a goal. What did you hope to achieve? What was your objective?

Once I’d done the drawing of the seals, I had the idea of making T-shirts for children: a T-shirt like this was bound to pique their interest! 

I think it’s really important to raise environmental awareness from a young age, and I like to think that my small contribution provides an opportunity to reflect and discover that seals still swim in the Mediterranean… and maybe even fall in love with them!

How did you turn your project into reality? What were the design phases and how many were there? Tell us about the process that brought your idea to life and made it ready for printing.

Usually, I develop my artwork by starting with observation of the subject that I have in mind, so I looked for photos and videos to study the shape and movements of the seals in the water. I have a pad that I use to sketch ideas. I filled pages trying to get the sinuous and elegant shape right… it took a lot of scribbling before I got two sketches that I was happy with!

Once I’d got the composition, I created the colour image on the PC. I applied several layers of colour by cutting out and scanning a texture I’d made with watercolours. With its stalactites and stalagmites, I wanted the seabed to resemble the Bue Marino cave, which is so named because the monk seal (boe marinu in Sardinian) used to shelter there. These days, thousands of tourists flock to the site every year on the little boat from the port of Cala Gonone. Anyone who’s visited will recognise in my drawing the petroglyphs, ancient paintings carved at the entrance to these caves.

When I’d finished the drawing, I went to the Pixartprinting page and read the instructions on customising T-shirts. This guide made it really simple to create the right file.

How did you use print on demand to produce your work? Which materials did you choose and why?

I decided to customise white cotton T-shirts using digital printing. I preferred a white background to a colour one because it seemed more suitable for this type of illustration.

Your finished products have arrived! In your case, illustrated T-shirts with cute and colourful prints. How did you feel when you saw them ready wear?

The T-shirts came out really well: the colours are bright and I’m very happy with the rendering of the details. I was thrilled when I saw the photos of kids proudly wearing them! 

This is only the start! What other projects do you have planned for the future? Can you share them with us?

I’ve got loads of ideas… sticking with the marine theme, for example, I’d like to make a T-shirt with whales on.

What do you think? Let me know here 😉 www.instagram.com/claudiapiras.cla/ or shop my creations at Tudhu, a boutique that stocks some of my creations in store and online: www.tudhu.com/

If you want to find out more about the books that I’ve illustrated, check out my portfolio here https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/search?q=port