When Giovanni Strohmenger and his wife, artist Lily Bobek moved to Bainbridge Island in 2021, they knew they’d found a special place to call home. Discovering Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN) and becoming part of their community has only solidified Giovanni’s love for this magical place and the people that live here.
Giovanni was born and raised in Milano, Italy and has travelled and worked extensively in Europe and the US. After leaving his family home in Milano, Giovanni worked in the culinary industry as a kitchen manager for a luxury resort in Switzerland, he was a restaurant owner in the south of France, and as a personal chef in San Francisco. While living in the Bay Area, he and Lily created a fine jewelry business before retiring in Northern California. Deciding to make the move to the Pacific Northwest would be life changing, and becoming imbedded in the BARN community has been one of Giovanni’s greatest joys.
Prior to moving to Bainbridge, a neighbor with relatives on the island had told Giovanni and Lily about many of the island’s attributes, so he was aware of BARN before setting foot here, but it wasn’t until he was taking a kayak safety class in Port Gamble that his interest in woodworking took roots. One of his classmates was a BARN member and had a beautiful wooden kayak. “I conveyed to him, what I thought was a wishful thinking…my interest in building one,” Giovanni recalls, “His reply was ‘easy come to BARN kayak building class’. And that is what I did!”
Giovanni has always enjoyed working with his hands and over the years has built frames for his wife Lily’s artwork and has done all sorts of handyman repairs around the home, but he never really felt it could be defined as woodworking. He began by registering for classes at BARN to learn about basic woodworking tools, such as joiners, planers, table saws, band saws, routers, lathes, and hand tools.
“BARN is a great place to learn through classes and by working during the ‘Open Studio’ hours where I had a chance to learn from other members by asking advice or through volunteering in community projects,” Giovanni explained. “Once I got more familiar with tools, designing and planning I decided to build a few things for my home.” Over the past two years, he’s gained the skills to build two kayaks and is currently working on a skin-on-frame canoe.
However, he noted, there’s so much more to learn and he’ll continue to hone his skills through classes and workshops. BARN’s woodworking courses are vast and varied—in addition to learning the basics about tools and safety, and of course building small boats, they offer classes in cabinet making, furniture making, woodturning, wood finishing/refinishing, and they’ll even teach you how to make or repair a violin. If you’d like to learn more about what BARN offers on all thing’s woodworking, click here.
It’s not just about learning to work with wood though, “I really enjoy being part of things and BARN is a great place to get involved in so many different ways, as a student I got to know teachers and other students,” Giovanni told me. While participating in the Open Studio, he’s able to observe and learn from other members’ projects. He’s also become a Safety Monitor and assisted in teaching some of the classes alongside other instructors. “I find it to be a very rewarding experience seeing people acquire skills and building beautiful objects out of wood.”
BARN offers studios and classes in Electronic and Technical Arts, Fiber Arts, Glass Arts, Jewelry and Fine Metals, Kitchen Arts, Media Arts, Metal Fabrication, Print and Book Arts, Writers’ Studio, and of course Woodworking and Small Boatbuilding. Click here to learn more about the various studios and classes.
Giovanni hasn’t limited his participation to woodworking though. As he said, “being Italian, food is never far from my mind.” As a child, he loved cooking with his parents and extended family, and they spent countless hours on weekends and holidays preparing traditional Italian meals, which of course inspired him to pursue a career in the culinary industry, its also inspired him to teach classes in the Kitchen Arts studio. He currently teaches ravioli making classes, where pasta fresca is rolled into thin sheets, filled, topped with tomato sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano and shared with your classmates alongside a glass of wine.
“I love the kitchen at BARN, what it offers to members and the general public. Just like in the wood shop I get to meet and know many wonderful people and share experiences with them,” he said. Going forward, he plans to teach more classes rooted in the traditional Italian foods he learned to make as a child. To learn more about the Kitchen Arts classes, click here.
“Ahh, Giovanni! What an inspiration he is to us all! I finally managed to get into one of his upcoming ravioli classes, in April, and I can’t wait,” said Carolyn Goodwin, Marketing Director at BARN. She also shared some of the upcoming events at BARN with me.
“As always, there’s a lot going on at BARN,” she said. “Registration for our Summer Youth Program opens on March 22nd, always an exciting event.” They also have their new monthly Poetry Open Mic, which is offered in partnership with AHB, COBI, BCF, and Bloedel, and held every 3rd Thursday from 7pm-8:30pm.
BARN’s yearly Spring Sampler event is coming up on April 30th, which gives the public a chance to explore and see demonstrations at all 10 BARN studios. “And there are lots of new classes that we’ve never offered before as we attract instructors from around the region and country,” Carolyn added. “In addition to Giovanni’s ravioli class, we’ve got a class in making shoji screens in the woodshop, a culinary foundations series, a class on using BARN’s new embroidery machine, making a personal ringtone for your phone, playwriting, and many more.”
In parting, Giovanni shared that in the two years since moving to Bainbridge, he loves all that the island has to offer, and especially treasures BARN “as the one single place that has given me the chance to be part of the wonderful community of this island in a way that feels rewarding, constructive, and creative.”
As Carolyn noted above, there’s always something going on at BARN, and the best way to stay up to date is to subscribe to their newsletter: BARN – Subscribe to our newsletters (wildapricot.org)
*Photo and image credits: Giovanni Strohmenger and Carolyn Goodwin/BARN
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