Roberta Di Flaviano and Alessandro Catena first visited Mirabilia in January 2018. We immediately noticed that their eyes were shining with a special light: here follows their story, intertwined with ours.
Roberta – I was born in Castelnuovo, Abruzzo. I moved to Bologna to attend university more than 10 years ago. After graduating, I looked for a job in the field of education and early childhood, and I’m currently working in a nursery school at the Villaggio del Fanciullo, in Bologna.
My passion for picture books and graphic novels bloomed about 5 years ago, thanks to my work with children.
I often browse illustrated books to find some material for my workshops. But I also do it because I love them: my home overflows with books, I love watching, handling and purchasing them!
Around a year ago, I read a newspaper article announcing the birth of Mirabilia (and this name intrigued me!). So I was looking forward to the opening.
I first entered the bookshop in January, with a friend of mine, and it was totally awesome: Mirabilia is a nurturing place in every way. I love its polyvalent nature: it hosts exhibitions and events, allowing you to meet authors in person, which I found extremely exciting. Also, it was a surprise to me to find out that this bookshop belonged to #logosedizioni, one of my favourite publishing houses!
Alessandro – I come from Aprilia, near Latina. I am Roberta’s partner.
I am into comic books since I was a child; and I went from reading comics to drawing almost for fun. It was just a game at the beginning and, over the years, it became a proper job. Now I am a portraitist and a collector of illustrated books.
It was Roberta who introduced me to Mirabilia. One day she sent me a photo of one of your ‘wunder’ books, full of skulls and skeletons… and my first thought was “this place is likely to become my second home!”.
R – For my workshops with children, I always choose books that I find impressive. Most of them are illustrated books, with or without words.
First of all, I try to play with the outside of books: the cover, colours, title and size. Then I read the whole story, and when I’ve finished, we examine the book, I answer to the children’s questions, we read again some passages, and I ask them what emotions they have felt while watching the pictures. The best thing is to work with a group of 7-8 children (preferably not toddlers) and ask them to tell the story after browsing the book together.
Among the books I found at Mirabilia, I had a great time working with Seguimi! by Roger Olmos: children love crazy stories!
A – I’m always seeking inspiration for my portraits, and I feel especially attracted by odd, unconventional images: for example, I found a rare photo of Robert De Niro in a book of yours that I received as a gift, Steve Schapiro. Taxi Driver by Taschen, and decided to reproduce it. After choosing the photo, I usually work in black and white, sometimes adding colours to highlight a single detail to the face to catch attention.
I promote my work on social networks, that allow me to easily find customers in Italy and abroad.
Unfortunately, my town isn’t really into art: social media help me reaching an audience beyond my small provincial town.
Aprilia is not a cultural hub: it doesn’t offer many chances to young artists like me. For example, we haven’t any bookshops/galleries such as Mirabilia; but luckily there is a comic book store, which was an essential landmark for me, having been a geek collector for most of my life!
Furthermore, this town isn’t tattoo-friendly at all: in some shops they frown at costumers with lots of showy tattoos like me!
Despite all this, I have never considered moving to a big city, such as Rome (where I lived for a while): it’s too big, too chaotic… I couldn’t give up the peacefulness of a town like Aprilia!
I have been drawing all my lifetime and I think I have developed a personal, recognisable style, which is kind of semi-realistic. Moreover, I spent 6-7 years working in a tattoo parlour, where I also displayed my first works (back then, only comics), and many customers got impressed and bought them.
R – I am really bewitched by what stands beyond images, and it was Alessandro who made me discover this ‘beyond’. I’m talking of a sort of pleasure in browsing dreamlike books that allow me to reflect upon myself: it’s just like a therapy! Indeed, in my library I have some books in particular that I use as drugs to ‘cure’ certain psychological conditions: it’s all about touching them, looking at the cover, opening and browsing them, lingering on some details. I have found many of these therapeutic books at Mirabilia!
A – I felt immediately attracted by the most upsetting books in Mirabilia, because I feel a deep fascination for skulls, skeletons, monsters, and more scary stuff... probably because I’ve always been a fanatic of horror movies!
Alessandro – Where I come from, there is an old factory for beverage supply. It is abandoned now, but when I was a child my dad, who was a lorry driver, used to bring me there with his lorry. This place is engraved in my memory: passing by this factory makes me travel back in time, and it is very striking to see it abandoned.
Roberta – My ‘wunder’ place is in Roseto degli Abruzzi, where I attended high school. We had to move to a convent where we would spend a whole school-year: the school occupied only a part of it and the rest couldn’t be visited. The whole place was mysterious and secret to me: from time to time we were able to distinguish the silhouettes of the nuns, but they were so evanescent they almost looked unreal… maybe they weren’t there at all!