The Italian Artisan
If you are unaware of the definition of an artisan, let us refresh your memory…
An artisan is a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand. In antique Italy, there was no such thing as an “artist.”
There was only the artisan. The artisan was once the most highly demanded worker sought by royalty and political and religious leaders.
Now, people all over the world revere the works of the Italian artisans. More importantly, a prestigious artisan trade was passed from father to son or mother to daughter for centuries. Any delicate knowledge and tedious skill was learned in apprenticeship, not in a classroom. Even today, if you could watch an Italian stone worker, deep into his process, you could actually see a nation’s history coursing through the veins of his hands.
From both sides of his family, Giovanni Taormina descends from this truly Italian Legacy. Aside from the two mentioned below, there are stone and tile artisans strewn across his family tree and across America and Italy.
Salvatore Mistretta (“Nonno Toto”), Giovanni’s maternal grandfather, lived well into his eighties. Up to the day of his passing, he still cranked up his 50-year old tractor each morning to head across the mountainside of northern Sicily to where he and his son were building a luscious seaside campground. Salvatore, alone, maintained his own small farm of chickens, rabbits, multiple gardens, and fruit tree orchards. He could be seen on his land daily, tilling in the dirt, harvesting olives or lemons, building stone retaining walls for ornamental gardens, or crafting a stone monument, within which would sit a statue of a saint, a place for visitors to stop for a moment of prayer. In his younger years, Salvatore spread his artisan trade throughout the area. Still today you can admire the various terrazzas and decorative stone walls that adorn seaside villas and restaurants.
It was always a joy and a pleasure to watch this man create anything with his hands—even assemble a Sicilian egg omelet (“frittata”), carefully prepare fresh eggplant for grilling over an open fire, or skillfully process the carob beans for making his renowned homemade “Carruba” liquore.
Years of practice, patience, and perfection rolled through his fingertips!
Giovanni’s father, Gavino, is also a man of gift and skill. In the small sea town of St. Elia, Sicily, you might persuade Gavino to put aside his humility long enough to point out the numerous homes, garden walls, roofs, fireplaces, stone kitchens, pizza ovens, and wrought iron balconies he has constructed over the years.
He is a man in constant motion, with sharp mind, a big heart, quick wit, and hands that are never idle! There is almost nothing beyond his ability to repair or build! The locals continually call him out of retirement for projects here and there.
Gavino gratefully accepts, as long as he still has some time left over to take his boat out to fish in the sea or play with his grandchildren!
At age 13, Giovanni began working alongside both his father and his grandfather. When Giovanni was older, Gavino insisted his son complete his certification as a dental technician, but Giovanni was never really interested in continuing a career working inside a dental lab or further book study. Succumbed by the inevitable, Gavino began in earnest, teaching Giovanni his own trade.
The Taormina and Mistretta families are not solely stone and tile artisans. They are also carpenters, welders, horticulturists, horsemen, seamen, hunters, plumbers, electricians, and not to mention, excellent cooks! Giovanni’s skill and knowledge in all of these areas runs deep, and his passion is strong. Early on, he learned to put his heart into his efforts as well, and treats his work like creations of art. His is not the modern, free-spirited form of art, but the classical, mathematical kind where symmetry and asymmetry are calculated, and where angles and linear planes are perfected so that the viewer’s eye can gaze freely, effortlessly across space. Giovanni’s eyes want only to see perfection in line, color, and texture, and he (along with his team of trained craftsmen) strives for this level of satisfaction in every project.
A Bit More on Giovanni’s Professional Experience
Giovanni’s work experience includes projects in northern Italy (Rome, Milan and Lago Maggiore) as well as in America (10 years in the greater Milwaukee area, a large private estate project in Ohio, and more recently in the greater Boulder County region of Colorado.) Always an independent contractor, he has worked with large stone and tile companies such as Crossville Studios, Lexco Tile and The Tile Shop, and in Italy, Gruppo Ceramico Cantoia. Overseas, Giovanni was also involved in elite and honorary projects such as cathedral restoration and at Augusta Westland airforce base. Locally, Giovanni regularly engages in projects for the area’s finest interior designers and building companies.
Giovanni combines his ancient skill with modern technology and tools, for a product of utmost craftsmanship and quality. Any other craftsman associated with Italian Legacy Stone & Tile, is trained in a rigorous apprenticeship, like an extended master-class, to ensure that person is perfecting the skills and knowledge necessary to uphold the high standard of quality that is the mission of the company. Wherever in the world he might be, Giovanni’s reputation spreads like wildfire, due not only to his skill as an artisan, but for his pleasant personality, professionalism, fun-loving sense of humor, dependability, and maybe even because he regularly sings Sinatra or Boccelli tunes while he works!
Should you call upon Giovanni Taormina and his team for a residential or commercial project of any scale, you will be more than satisfied by the experience in its entirety!