Quilters Hope to Link Patchwork of Views

February 17, 2007

Author: Rich Barlow

Source: The Boston Globe


History recalls no instance of a quilting bee having changed the world. But might one nudge humanity, slightly, toward its better nature?

Hoping against hope that the answer might be yes, 30 men and women hunched over tables piled with colorful fabrics in a stately room at Harvard Divinity School last Sunday. The quilters, some of whom had done such work before, earnestly scissored their way through cloth and glued swatch upon swatch to make self-portraits. Some of their designs will adorn a quilt bound for a vortex of religious and ethnic animosity, the West Bank city of Ramallah, where it will hang in a Quaker meeting house.

"The whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict does make me very sad," said Vinny Dorio, a carpenter from Roslindale whose self-portrait included a tear. "Even a little thing like this, just to make this quilt [for] Ramallah, which someone sees and says, 'We have to stop this.' You never know."

His wife, Elizabeth Quinlan, depicted her head with orange fabric atop it, representing fire. A spiritual symbol, the flame represented the burning hope for peace, she said. Considered an element in primitive times, fire also captured her own spirituality, which is in nature. "I grew up with a lot of different faiths, and I rejected a lot of them," she says. "And I'm still kind of searching."

The idea of resurrecting a ritual of neighborliness as an instrument for modern-day peacemaking sprouted in the mind of divinity student Emily Ronald last summer, when Israel's war against Hezbollah terrorists advertised once more the Middle East's pathology of violence. "I felt very far away from the conflict," Ronald said. "As I felt powerless to act, I felt powerless to speak."