A tribute to Ilya Oratovsky: “For the last 40 years I have loved handmade pottery and other tools and objects that are elegant combinations of function and beauty. Our world would be a colder place if we didn't have anything made by hand.
I think that handmade pottery and furniture, hand knit sweaters, quilting and hand weaving have different vibrations than machine made objects. For me, there is a warm glow from these objects, almost like the glow from healthy skin. Other people see or sense this too.
I was honoured by the Alberta Craft Council this winter to be nominated for a lifetime achievement award. I would like to recommend someone who, at 80 years of age, truly is a lifetime craftsman and deserves much more recognition. The hand weaver Ilya Oratovsky is often overlooked because his craftsmanship is so good that people mistake his work for machine weaving. Antonia and I visited Ilya and his wife Maria, who is also a weaver, at their home. We saw in his simple workshop, the looms and warping mill that he built himself. These are not the beautiful looms that are pieces of furniture, but functional tools for a man who knows exactly what he needs. Ilya and Maria were trained in the Ukraine and he designs and weaves beautiful wool, and wool and alpaca blankets. Japan is a country that has had a long tradition of handcrafts and a respect for the craftspeople that make them. If Ilya were Japanese he would be respected and nationally recognized for his skill and dedication to his craft, and his blankets would cost much more than they do here.
If handmade objects are the warm skin of our interactions with life, Ilya is one of the people who can keep us warm in two ways.”
[This tribute nomination was written by one of our other artists, Sam Uhlick, of Uhlick Pottery & Tile, Ardrossan, Alberta]
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