| Jun 19, 2019

Ihor Gawdan likes to “keep busy.”

To that end, the former Nortel employee has built his own home, which is heavily influenced by the works of J.R.R. Tolkein.

He loves working with wood and has taken several course in things like joinery and other construction techniques.

A few years ago, he decided to take up quilting with his wife and took courses.

The two of them made a quilt together and he made another “for my daughter”.

But somewhere along the line, he discovered that he “didn’t like sewing in straight lines.”

After a trip to Africa, he came back with some new fabrics and things started to change. He started to incorporate non-traditional quilting squares within the traditional quilting format.

“I saw a quilt hanging on a parapet and started collecting African fabrics,” he said. “I was attracted by the vibrancy of the colours.”

After a trip to Australia, which included a trek across the Outback, the ‘straight lines’ totally disappeared.

“I came back with about $500 worth of aboriginal fabrics and decided I’d better do something with them,” he said.

The result was an 8’x8’ masterpiece depicting his experiences Down Under, that ended up winning a Viewer’s Choice nod.

“Australia Sonoline” is a collage of images ranging from the Sydney Opera House to Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) and all sorts of modern and traditional inclusions that just sort of flow together in an organic flux that moves the viewer’s eye all around his textured canvas. You literally have to keep reminding yourself that this is a quilt.

His latest work promises to be his masterpiece, a 4’x8’ exploration of evolution inspired by one of his son’s songs — Beneficial Symbiosis. The lyrics are stitched into bottom of the piece.

It’s a visual journey that begins with the creation of the Earth, through periods of volcanism, the beginnings of life, the advent of mammals and finally including the colonization of Mars, with a myriad of images and concepts in between.

He’s entered it in the Colour with a U show put on by the Studio Art Quilt Associates in March and April of 2020 in Kitchener.

The piece itself may be a metaphor for Gawdan’s philosophy and is certainly a product of his methodology and the way he likes to work.

“I don’t spend hours on a computer designing a quilt,” he said. “This one started out as a little sketch on paper.

“As I go on, I look at the colours, the flow of the material.

“At some point, I may say to myself, ‘I have to go out and buy some more green.’”

He said these last two quilts have taken about “five or six months, working four or five hours in the morning.

“I usually go to bed early and get up around 3 a.m.”

Gawdan refers to his quilting as a hobby, and says that’s what it will stay.

“I’ve never wanted my hobbies to become a job,” he said. “But as we get older, we need to keep the brain moving.

“Quilting is like woodworking without the splinters.”

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