In the centre of Venice, in the quiet Fondamenta dei Preti, just round the corner from the more trafficked campo Santa Maria Formosa, there is a small shop specialized in leather goods. It opened about a year ago and there you will find lovely Shanti Ganesha.
Below our short interview.
1) Shanti, please share with us a little something about yourself.
As my name may suggest, I'm half Italian and half Indian. I was born in Venice but lived in India until I was ten years old, then my family moved back to Venice, so I attended middle high and high school here in the lagoon. I opted for art school and had chosen painting, but the truth is that through that media I felt naked, exposed, in some way uncomfortable. So once I finished school, I took my backpack and started traveling. I lived abroad for many years, New Zealand, Australia and the UK. My first destination, though, was India, where I attended some ceramic and bamboo workshops. My first approach with leather happened in 2013 in Italy, in the city of Trieste. I loved the material and kept at it, I am entirely (or almost) self-taught and learned through a lot of practice. Leather remained my passion and hobby for a long time, I was producing objects mainly for my friends and myself. Because I was traveling, I only carried with me a few working tools and participated in small markets whenever I had the occasion. It was only with the pandemic that I decided to turn this hobby into a profession. I did some online sales and sold at some markets and seeing that people were appreciating and things were going well, I took the courage to open my own shop. The pandemic also coincided with me becoming a little bit less of a nomad and deciding to put roots in the lagoon. Fortunately, people from all over the world visit Venice, so I like to say that now it is the world that comes to me, and that my creations travel everywhere.
2) What made you choose leather as your material?
Its intuitiveness and malleability. Leather is dynamic, it's the sort of material that allows you to do all kind of things, from clothes to bags up to shelves! What is funny is that I was never into clothes or dressing up, so never would I have thought of finding myself working in the fashion industry! It was a former professor who made me notice this during a Venice Fashion week event, when she saw me she smiled and told me "Oh my gosh, you...in the fashion world!".
Anyway, my approach remains unconventional, as what I produce is slow fashion, although I have to admit that I am not fond of this word, so trendy now and too often misused. I prefer to say that I am a sustainable brand, aware of each passage of the production chain.
The leather I use is from the CONSORZIO VERA PELLE ITALIANA CONCIATA AL VEGETALE (Italian Real Vegetable-Tanned Leather Union), located in Tuscany. It is a union that groups together small producers of leather, which undergoes quality tests to meet the highest European standards every year.
85% of the production scraps are recycled, and throughout the world, only 10% of the total leather production is vegetable-tanned. Most of the industrial production is chrome-tanned, thus cheaper and less environment-friendly. On the contrary, vegetable-tanned leather uses natural tannins from leaves, tree barks, and other natural elements. This sort of leather acquires beauty with time, the more one uses it, the better it gets. What makes it even more special to my eyes is that each piece is different, as it may carry natural signs, like the sting of an insect for example.
I produce everything by hand, I only have one electrical tool, which I use to engrave my logo. But the rest, cutting, finishes, hems, every detail...well, it's handmade.
Most of my sale is direct, meaning I produce and sell my products inside my shop, although I must say I do online sales and ship abroad too.
3) What are the objects you enjoy producing the most?
Bags!!!! Definitely my biggest passion! I wanted to break the traditional design rules and I treat leather as if it were a sculpture. I like to play and make origami with it. I also patented two designs: the CRISALIDE (chrysalis), an organic shape, a cocoon, and SPIGOLO (edge), which is a tetrahedron.
Other designs I have created are the PANETTONE, which recalls an origami. When you close the bag it gives you the shape of a flowers, then there is the small geometrical POCHETTE, followed by the shoulder-strap bag entirely intertwined and with no stitching and BAULETTO, inspired by the old workers tool bags.
Anyway, all my designs are continuously evolving and changing. Designing bags is a part of me and I can get inspiration at any random moment, from something I see when walking, a natural form or an event.
4) What can people find in your shop?
A lot of things! Bags, plant-holders, belts, braces, glasses-cases, bottle holders, keychains and more. In addition to the pieces I have in my shop, I also take commissions and do some small reparations. My favorite commissioned works are always bags, the person tells me his/her needs and I design a prototype. We then choose the leather together and I create a fully customized piece.
5) When did you open and are you liking it here?
I opened in July 2022 and absolutely love this Fondamenta. It is central but quiet, I don't have an ongoing and noisy flow of people passing in front of me, so I can enjoy the view of the canal, I have also gotten to know all the gondoliers, so there is a lot of Ciao going on during the day, which gives me a nice sense of home and coziness. Luckily, those who pass by are usually relaxed and nice and I have met some really nice people.
6) Are you happy of the choice of staying here to live?
This is an interesting topic... I escaped from Venice when I was 19, then whenever I returned I couldn't stay for longer than 2 or 3 months. It was the pandemic that made me rediscover this city and fall in love with her again. Venice was so beautiful, so empty, so quiet. I will treasure memories of those days forever. I also met my partner... and this helped make the step!
The answer is yes, I am happy about my choice. I am an active person, in the sense that I don't like to sit and complain and do nothing, so I tried in my own way to contribute to improving some of the aspects that were and are bothering me. I opened my own shop and offer quality handmade products and I also participate in a lot of activities aimed at helping new young artisan emerge.
I like to collaborate with like-minded people, we must support one another, we all have different styles but share the same passion! One of my recent projects was with Daniela Lombardo of Patience. We created a series of bags that combined leather and fabric, and with the offcuts we made scarves.
7) To a foreign visitor, how would you suggest to experience the city?
I would first underline how important it is to respect Venice and its people, to look for authentic things, from objects to food to relations. Only what is real and authentic adds value and can lead to a reciprocal growth and exchange, we travel to learn and the only way to create meaningful memories is to approach the realities we encounter with openness, kindness and sincere curiosity.
Those who visit Venice should be curious to learn about its beauties as well as what it can actually mean to live here, in a so unique city with its very own peculiarities and problems, environmental and social. When we travel we can contribute to making positive changes with our choices, so I would suggest to make heart-felt and conscious ones!
8) MERACU is the name of your brand. Does it have a story?
It's a game. The word meracu in Telugu (a south Indian language) means lightning, while curame is the Venetian word for leather, and also the word meraki in Greek means doing something creative putting a piece of yourself in what you do... so, I can say that my logo and brand name represent me.
I want to thank Shanti for having me and taking the time to share her story with me. Of course, I cannot but recommend passing by and visiting her shop, a small world for lovers of design and sustainable fashion made in Venice.
MERACU - Shanti Ganesha
Address: Santa Maria Formosa, Castello 5842, 3122 VE Venice