As part of my occasional series on artisan shops in Spello I have spoken to people who farm the produce, design the clothes and even hunt the truffles that they sell. For me, it is the people who interest me most, although I am never averse to a little purchase given the opportunity. Il Vario is located on Via Garibaldi. It sells a variety of things (the shop’s name means “varied”), but largely handbags and ceramics.
The owner is Marcello Paneri, a well-known character in his smart shoes and stylish clothes. Marcello has had his shop in Spello for 16 years and branched out 2 years ago with another in nearby Foligno. Marcello speaks little English and his quick-fire Italian is difficult for me to follow at times, but we (almost) managed to understand each other using the normal pointing and nodding translation tools!
Marcello collaborates with a potter to design and produce ceramics which use the work of the famous Austrian artist Gustav Klimt as inspiration. Many of the pieces are big and bold and their high glaze shines in the sunlight….
Handbags were quirkily displayed in frames or draped with well-matched accessories.
The handbags are made in Umbria using the softest leather with handcrafted stitching. These bags aren’t cheap, but the clean lines, quality and timeless styles will ensure that buyers are still filling them with absolute essentials for years to come.
Jewellery reminded me of the sea with its rocks and shells…..
….and brightly coloured, swimming fish caught in nets….
Some of the bags were decorated with tapestry designs; we asked where these were made.
“Come” motioned Marcello, and we obediently followed him, destination and purpose unknown. He led us down a side street which opened out into the small Carlo Carretto piazza, and through a double door into a light-filled space with displays of tapestries created by Mauro Ottaviani, who had by now joined us, summoned by Marcello.
Mauro’s ancient Singer sewing machine was a source of great pride, although its sewing days were long gone. His intricate picture of a favela was my favourite….
….and this detail of a colourful seaside town also caught my eye….
Mauro has been creating his works since 1985, showing flowers, human figures, townscapes and geometric designs. A large tapestry of Spello took 3 years to make; the intricate work makes this understandable.
Mauro invited us (nodding and pointing) to his workshop, and we were fortunate to see him at work on his latest design, his deft fingers flying over the fabric….
Who would have thought that a chat with Marcello would result in an opportunity to see one of Spello’s craftsmen at work? Only a chilled glass of prosecco could complete our lovely afternoon, and so it was that we spent the early evening in the gardens of the Bar Bonci. Now that’s another story….