Our customers have many stories to tell.
Each has felt the satisfaction of holding their creations in their own hands after often long and tortuous creation processes. A journey that is always unique and personal.
Today we tell the story of the incredible calendar that stars the Lamentino: a good-natured and self-deprecating aquatic mammal that is the brainchild of illustrator Roberta Ragona. The story behind the Lamentino and how it became a business venture really surprised us – we’re sure it will amaze you too.
Ready to dive in with the Lamentino?
Hi Roberta! Briefly describe yourself for us: who are you and what do you get up to in life? What are your dreams, aspirations and talents? A short but faithful portrait!
Hi! My name is Roberta Ragona, but it’s easier to find me online as Tostoini. I’m an illustrator, I live in Milan but was born in Cagliari. My work varies a lot: from books and digital products for kids to publishing, advertising and communication. I’m an anthropologist who draws, with a soft spot for weird animals.
Before telling us how your idea was born, can you explain to our readers what you produced using our printing presses?
The projects I’ve printed with you are my own work: Pixartprinting is somewhat of a long-standing partner for my experiments. I like to explore aspects of illustration that interest me, or add a more personal touch to the pictures that I do for my clients, where my style is used to best express their voice. I’ve created various products with you, from postcards to stickers to notepads and T-shirts, but my most elaborate project to date is the 2019 Lamentino calendar.
Let’s rewind to the very beginning. When was the idea for the Lamentino calendar born? Was it by chance? Tell us a bit about how you came up with the concept.
The Lamentino is a totem animal for these hard times. The difference between a manatee [the Italian for manatee is “lamantino”] and a Lamentino is that one is an aquatic mammal that lives in warm, shallow water; the other is the spokesperson for the feeling you get when everyday life makes it clear that no, today’s not your day either. In 2018, I did a Lamentino illustration every month on Patreon, which culminated in “A Year of Disappointment”, a calendar entirely dedicated to the Lamentino. The initial Lamentino illustrations in 2015 were in Italian, but I switched to English because I had the feeling that the Lamentino expressed a universal state of mind.
Once you had found the right idea, you had to set a goal. What did you want to achieve with your idea?What was the ultimate objective?
Honestly? In this case I wanted to create something that would let me draw lots and lots of marine mammals and hone my layout skills. I also wanted to give people who bought it something funny, witty, upbeat and empathetic to look at for a year. With this in mind, what then happened gave me great satisfaction: from seeing the Lamentino calendar hanging from the wall in an Antarctic research station to finding it recommended by Italian online newspaper il Post alongside calendars from The New Yorker and Sarah’s Scribbles.
We know the idea behind the project and its goal. Now it’s time to produce it. How did you do it? 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.
The illustration phase was quite easy: I’d already produced one picture a month every month, which meant that over half the material was ready. In October, I launched the idea of a calendar to get pre-orders and an idea of the size of the print run. Between October and the end of November, I worked on the missing illustrations, redid some of the images from previous months to give greater internal coherence to everything, and laid out the calendar. I really wanted to send everything before the hectic weeks in the run up to Christmas when the post is busiest. But the thing that surprised me was that after selling out the first print run and doing another reprint, people continued buying it throughout January and February, so the lifecycle of a calendar is a bit longer than I would have expected.
Time to go to press! How did you use print on demand to produce your design? Which materials did you choose? And why did you choose these materials and this printing technique?
The choice of print on demand stems from drawing digitally, with short print runs but a certain attention to detail. One of the reasons I chose Pixartprinting is the range of papers, particularly papers that are recycled or have a low environmental impact. In the calendar’s case, the format came naturally from the format of the pictures.
This is where printed products come into their own! How did it feel to hold the Lamentino calendars in your own hands, ready to accompany us on a year of adventure and misadventure?
It was amazing! When you work digitally, the moment of printing is always important. When I started out as an illustrator, I was tenser: I worried whether I’d nailed the colours, the choice of paper, the image composition. Now I’ve got a fair few years’ experience under my belt, and the feeling is more one of satisfaction at seeing something that once only existed in your head in physical form, ready to become part of everyday life.
What other projects do you have planned for the future? Can you share them with us?
I’m working on various projects for other customers that will be released in the coming months, but in the past few weeks, I’ve started working on a picture book, a project I’m doing as both illustrator and author. In the meantime, I’ve no plans to stop my experiments in all sorts of areas: recently, I’ve really got into patterns and surface design, so I think that the next projects I’ll produce with Pixartprinting will have something to do with this!