The Omega Peace Quilt is an annual seasonal community project led by fabric artist Helema Kadir. The results are always unique, beautiful, and meaningful. Each quilt is an original piece of fabric art and community folk craft with a coloful message of peace stitched into each square.
Since the project’s inception in 2005, more than 500 Omega seasonal community members have participated in classes facilitated by fabric artist Kadir, giving birth to the series of quilts that adorn Omega's Dining Hall and the Omega Center for Sustainable Living. When Omega staff cocreate quilts, Kadir explains, it is a community-building experience. They sit together as their ancestors sat together, share stories and laughter, and express their fears and desires, all while creating works of art with their own hands, guided by their own imagination.
Each year, Kadir chooses a theme related to peace, one that is loose enough to allow myriad interpretations and also allows the creative imagination of the Omega community to flower.
Once she has chosen the theme, she facilitates ongoing classes from April through September, guiding Omega seasonal community to create the necessary number of squares before the quilt is assembled in October. Each quilting class includes a mix of dialogue (about the year's theme and the craft of quilting), laughter, creativity, imagination, and sometimes music and ritual.
The quilting class draws a wide variety of seasonal community members, from those with art and sewing experience to those who have never created anything before. The beauty of the finished quilt is due, in part, to the power of a collective vision.
The finished Omega Peace Quilts have been featured in magazines and were part of the show Power to the Peaceful: Peace Quilts From Around the World at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College.
The Art of Quilting at Omega
“Every culture has some form of quilting,” Kadir says. “It's been a way for women to come together and be creative, to get away from the monotony of everyday housework, a way for women to share and bond. They took old clothing from their families and recycled it into the quilts, creating a fabric that had its own story. The Omega Art Hut, where we create the quilts, is a sacred space for staff and service corps members, and quilting is a great way for us to get to know each other.”
Kadir explains that there also are many men who quilt at Omega, and she fondly remembers one class filled with men diligently designing their own quilt squares. Each man was in a different decade of his life, ranging from 20 to 60.
Kadir's personal history with quilting began in 1997, when she went to a fabric store with some family members. She noticed a couple of quilts hanging on display and the beautiful array of colored fabric on the shelves. She remarked in passing that she would like to make a quilt. Her family members laughed and commented that she always starts projects and never finishes them.
Inspired to show her family that she would follow through on this project, Kadir chose 27 pieces of fabric, cut out 500 squares by hand over the course of two days, and sewed the whole quilt together in less than a week.
Omega Peace Quilts take considerably longer than a week to put together, but the results are worth the wait. The next time you are at Omega, take time during your meals to observe the quilts displayed in the Dining Hall, and share a moment of peace with the Omega seasonal community who created these beautiful works of art.
© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies