One of the reasons that Venice is such an enchanting city is that visitors have the privilege of walking through medieval streets that have remained almost unchanged for hundreds of years. A stroll from the Rialto Bridge, down the white polished stone steps towards the fish market reveals historic houses, ancient squares and dark, shady corners. The Church of San Girolamo, said to be the oldest in Venice, is here. This church said farewell to the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries as they headed off to the ‘Holy Land’ to fight for Christendom…..
RIALTO – One of my favourite meanders through Venice starts at Rialto and continues through the narrow back streets and alleys towards Accademia. After about ten minutes I come to the parish known as San Polo, and here I always pop into my favourite paper shop. It’s a small corner shop, where Paolo Pelosin, master paper-maker, has been creating and colouring paper by hand for more than thirty years. It is a treasure trove of notebooks and pencils, exquisite paper holders, and hand-made journals, work pads and jotters. Paolo’s creations are each works of art in their own right. Each item is handmade and so each piece is unique. I recently had a lot of fun setting up a photo shoot for Paolo’s production. I used a 1970s nautical map of the Venetian Lagoon as a backdrop and I’m really quite pleased with the results. The matching notebook and pencil sets are every writer’s dream.
VENICE – In early July I was back in Venice after four months of lockdown in London. I was nervous to be back in Venice and anxious to discover the impact of global events on this exceptional city and it’s resolute inhabitants. First I needed to get my glasses fixed at the optician, so off I went to Rialto to the traditional ‘Ottica Vascelleri‘ which has been in business since 1960. The shop was open, the charming optician was helpful and all seemed to be quite normal. After ten minutes my glasses were fixed and I knew exactly where to go mushroom foraging in the mountains, this coming September. This is the reality of Venice – Venetian people are kind and generous, they love to take a moment to chat and joke and help.
NEXT – I proceeded slightly tentatively towards Paolo’s stationery shop concerned that perhaps the shop would be closed or worse still empty. Silly me – I need not have been concerned. The shop was open. Paolo was working behind the desk as usual. The shop was filled to the brim with fabulous stock, colourful, abundant and cascading with joy. After the usual greetings I asked Paolo about lockdown in Italy. He lives just a few minutes from his shop in the historic heart of Venice. He explained to me that he’d used lockdown as a time to create new items of stock and to make large numbers of existing ‘best seller’ items. The result was a shop filled with the most gorgeous hand made notebooks, cards, pencils (the pencils are fabulous) hand-painted wrapping paper, trinkets, and files of all types.
WASTE PAPER BASKETS – a combination of words I never thought I’d start a sentence with – ever! Here at ‘Il Pavone’ I’ve just been proved wrong. Paolo makes the most stunning waste paper baskets. They are made of sturdy cardboard covered in his unique hand-coloured paper. The bins are hinged, so each corner is webbed with a woven fabric that enables the bin to be folded flat for postage and packing. The bottom of the bin comes out and the bin then folds twice and can be packed into a standard A4 envelope – well actually very slightly bigger than A4 – but not much. The bins are beautiful, hand-made and enhance any office environment. Just looking at the bin puts me in a good mood. I find them most aesthetically pleasing. However, a word of warning. You must not get them wet, a casual damp teabag thrown unthinkingly into your ‘work of art’ bin will at the very least stain it and at worst create a soggy damp imperfection in the base. The moral here is that a beautiful bin has to be treated with respect and consideration.
VENICE is filled with small businesses, often just one person in a shop or workshop, making and creating exquisite handmade goods. These artisans create the fabric of this unique city. It is their skill and determination that keeps the city of Venice so special and so quintessentially Venetian. As I stroll through the streets of Venice I often take photographs, here are a selection from my recent jaunt from Rialto to Accademia. I used no filter or enhancement technique, you really don’t have to in this amazing city anchored in the heart of the Venetian Lagoon.
This city of Venice, which is neither land nor sea, instead it is a dynamic, watery paradise, where the waves come and go, tides rise and fall, water laps on the white stone steps that edge the lagoon and the artisans keep on working, working, working. That’s what I can resilience.
- Paolo Pelosin’s stationery shop is called ‘Il Pavone‘ which means The Peacock. Address is: Campiello dei Meloni, San Polo 1478, Venezia 30125 – Tel: 041 522 4296 – drop in next time you are in Venice.
- Paolo’s Facebook page is: Il Pavone Legatoria Artigianale @ilpavonelegatoriavenezia although like all good artisans he’s rarely on social media. He much prefers making the paper, note books and fabulous stationery items that decorate his shop.
- Don’t take my word for it – next time you are in Venice pay him a visit. Thank you!
A LAST NOTE………….
*** Another artisan who constantly impresses me is Gianni Basso – Stampatore Tradizionale a Venezia. You can read more about him here: Venice – a traditional printer at work
- 4th August, 2020
- 20th August, 2020
- 13th August 2021