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Store Manager turned Marbling Aficionado with Il Papiro

Posted on3 Years ago
Store Manager turned Marbling Aficionado with Il Papiro


Maria Gentile

Tell us a little about yourself.

In 2002, my childhood friend Romina Beltrame had her ‘Italian dream’ come true by opening a little paper shop in Degraves Street called Il Papiro. In 2004 Romina invited me to share her Florentine vision by offering me a position as Store Manager and since that day it has been one of the most inspiring journeys. Within 12 months of working in the store, Romina sent me to our Il Papiro workshop in Italy to observe and learn how our products are made by hand. I vividly recall feeling a strong sense of pride knowing that I was now part of a family of artisans whose commitment is in preserving the Florentine traditions of bookbinding, marbling and design. It was on this trip that I met Claudio, Master Marbler for Il Papiro who trained and guided me in the century’s old technique of hand marbled paper. I was honoured to have this rare opportunity and mesmerised by the mystery of creating unique pieces of art. Fast forward to 2017, Romina recognised that by walking into our store, our clients were yearning for another piece of Florence and what better way than to share my passion through Hand Marbled Paper Workshops! Excited about this new initiative, I wanted to create a unique experience that our clients wouldn’t forget by embracing and celebrating our Italian heritage through marbling, history, music and Prosecco. This is when I created my first Hand Marbled Paper Workshop - fittingly called ‘Marble e Aperitivo’ and due to it’s popularity I also offered 2 new workshops, ‘Marble e Pasticcini’ and ‘Marble e Mangia’.

What inspires your Italian Connection?

At the age of 7 years, I embarked on my first family holiday to Italy during the hot summer, spending 3 months in my parent’s hometown of Campania and Abruzzo. Unlike most tourists, our days were filled with family gatherings, food, wine, nature and the occasional obligatory visit to the patron Saint. My fondest memory is climbing my uncles Cherry trees at dusk and sitting on a thin branch eating warm sweet Cherries followed by chasing glow-fires in the evening. By the end of the trip, my Italian was 100% fluent and English was a long-lost memory!

My parents transported all their customs and values to Melbourne ensuring we never lost our Italian connection. I was raised in a self-sufficient home, relying on the land and continuing the traditions of a vegetable garden, homemade foods such as pasta and other slow cooked dishes, yearly production of pasta sauce, wine and salumi and my Father’s occasional hunting weekends.

What is your favourite Italian moment or place?

No matter the region of Italy, my most memorable moments will always be with the ITALIANS I encounter and befriend. Through their curiosity and warm hospitality, I have been fortunate to experience a piece of their Italian life and passion. These unforgettable moments will forever change how I appreciate Italy’s treasures such as uninterrupted sunsets, negronis in ancient piazzas, climbing soaring mountains with sweeping views, the romance of conversation and recognizing the beauty in all that life has to offer.

First Il Papiro Memory

In 2002, I was invited by my friend Romina to the grand opening of her Florentine paper store in Degraves Street Melbourne. Approaching the small laneway, I could see a film projection on the wall featuring ‘Room with a view’ and a red carpet leading to a traditional wooden shop front. The laneway was filled with family, friends and flowing prosecco admiring the Tuscan details such as the terracotta pot filled with geraniums, mosaic porch and a yellow awning revealing the new store as IL PAPIRO. I vividly recall stepping inside inhaling the scent of leather, paper and cypress pine surrounded by book shelves filled with old world bound journals, stationery, ink pens and wax seals. I was instantly transported to 16th century Florence and forever ingrained as my first memory of IL PAPIRO – Grazie mille Romina.

Your favourite Il Papiro Product?

One of my first memories with Il Papiro was learning about hand marbled paper. At the time I was completely fascinated by the history and significance it played for the bookbinders of centuries ago. This has influenced my little obsession of our blue gold hand marbled papers and over the years have acquired a beautiful collection of objects such as leather bound journals with hand marbled end-papers and personalised with my name gold embossed. Now I have the privilege to continue the tradition by proudly sharing the secrets of a craft that was at one time, only available to a small number of trained artisans. What I most enjoy about the art of paper marbling is that it allows beginners to create an original masterpiece without a set skill – all you need is a whole lot of curiosity! Part of the intrigue is learning how unrelated materials such as paint floating on water behave with perfect harmony to create a unique piece of art.

"...all you need is a whole lot of curiosity!"

Share Something you love

One of my greatest loves is slow travel and my emotional attachment to Italy has always drawn me to visit for months at a time. Over the years I have travelled from the north to south without feeling like a tourist and I believe that living amongst the locals is the only way to experience authentic Italian culture. I would normally begin my day at the bar next door for an espresso and cornetto while eaves dropping on the local gossip, followed by a stroll through the winding corridors of the town taking in the rich history. Conversations are encouraged with the Italians, and I’m not one to decline an invitation. Afternoon chats turn into a sunset aperitivo, and as time escapes, you suddenly find yourself in a trattoria sipping on regional vino and devouring another dish of pasta – la bella vita.

" most memorable moments will always be with the ITALIANS I encounter and befriend."


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