The fabulous world of Bomboland!

Journey-interview into the illustrations by Elisa Cerri and Maurizio Santucci, a.k.a. Bomboland

Elena Pardini

In a warm and welcoming home studio overlooking Lucca’s rooftops I meet with Bomboland’s Elisa Cerri and Maurizio Santucci. Between paper cut-outs, 3D works similar to imaginative landscapes and illustrated books, they tell me their story, a story that began four years ago and that continues, ceaselessly, with tight work schedules.

It is in this very same home studio in a small piazza of the city’s historic center that can be reached only on foot, that the two artists - partners in life as well as in work - invent, draw, build and touch up works that are also appreciated overseas and can be found on the pages of publications like the Washington Post or Wired, or become advert campaigns for colossals like La Scala, Eni, Nokia, Mini BMW, BNL. They have just received a request for an internship from a girl from Rotterdam, willing to move to Lucca on a moment’s notice and work at the “Bombo”, as everyone calls them.

With flair and detail, they create extraordinary works, appreciated worldwide, but they do not seem to be fully aware of this, or at least they do not flaunt their success.

How was Bomboland born?

Maurizio: Personally, I have always had a passion for drawing and the desire, as well as the need, to represent. I loved and still love sitting at a table, losing myself in a white sheet and giving life to all sorts of figures and creations. After working for several agencies, in 2006 I decided to go it alone and draw. At the beginning it wasn’t easy, but then the illustrations started to circulate on the Internet and Bomboland was born.

Elisa: I worked in communications agencies, too, mainly as a graphic artist. In the meantime, Maurizio’s requests for work were multiplying and he kept asking me to join him, until in 2008 we created a true studio, comprised of the two of us that turned out to be an all-natural professional evolution. The same project vision, given by the fact that we went to the same school (the Isia of Florence, editor’s note) and that we share everything as a couple, certainly facilitated us, together with the desire to work autonomously: all elements that spurred us to pursue the choice we made.

Where does your name come from?

Maurizio: From the Italian word for “bumble bee”, an insect well known for being hard working, industrious, active, always ready to get down to work.

How did you acquire notoriety on an international level?

Maurizio: At the start, when the studio was not yet consolidated, I had a blog where I continually posted my comic strips and my illustrations that were gaining lots of visibility with a specialized audience of cartoonists, illustrators and art directors, famous and not-so-famous. It was the period of boom of the “blog phenomenon” where it was possible to intercept characters that were otherwise unreachable. An Argentinean magazine discovered me on the web, requested a work from me, and shortly, others followed. We were among the first to use paper and to make it our stylistic and recognizable signature.

Why did you choose paper?

Maurizio: For the need to work a craft-designed object and escape the two-dimensionality of illustrations as we commonly intend them. So I can say that basically it was the quest for a language that led us to refine the technique of collage, finding in paper the ideal means to express ourselves.

Elisa: We have always had confidence with paper; experimenting with it was natural. It has the potential to be worked in very large formats as well as in very small pieces, to be turned into a 3D object, too, always creating a bit of awe in our audience. It also guides us, in a sense, towards a synthesis of forms and a type of composition that have become our style and our language.

Which currents have influenced your work?

Maurizio: We began with the world of 1990s comic strips and superheroes, and then became attracted also by children’s books, by authors like Munari above all.

How are Bomboland’s illustrations born?

Elisa: The drawing stems from the hands of Maurizio on paper, in black and white. In the second phase, we move on to the vectorial, tracing every shape so that it can be cut out and re-assembled. At that point, I come into the picture, turning his sketch into a 3D paper object, cutting out piece by piece and carefully re-assembling it all. Finally, when the bas-relief is finished, we photograph it and look at it through digital, until it becomes an illustration.

I think that the work of the illustrator is above all an individual work. We probably succeed in doing it together because we know each other so well. We have developed complimentary skills with the same imprint and the same vision.

As children, what did you want to “be when you grew up”? Maurizio: Exactly what I am now, maybe with more sustainable schedules.

Elisa: I didn’t have anything exactly in mind, but I was naturally inclined towards visual communication.

What do you do with the “original” paper objects at the basis of your illustrations?

Elisa: We leave them strewn around the house or we take them to exhibitions.

Why do you work above all abroad and less in Italy?

Maurizio: We have never lived in large cities and we have never pursued a very social life, mainly by choice, although these are foundational elements in our work. In Italy, our style is not easily labeled: we make illustrations that look like they are for kids, but they use such particular techniques that make them too complex for children’s books. So we cannot be easily classified, while abroad our work is appreciated more because it is sui generis, besides the fact that the market is, of course, bigger.

Anticipations on upcoming works?

Elisa: Besides the works commissioned to us, we would like to resume a project for an illustrated book that we have been thinking about for a lifetime and start animating our illustrations. *

Follow Bomboland on www.bomboland.com

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