Dian Rice prepares gift of welcome for Olympians

A popular adage among quilters says that whoever has the most fabric when they die wins. This may be something of a humorous exaggeration, but it does illustrate Dian Rice's point that being prepared is important because you never know when you're going to be called upon to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime project, such as making a quilt as part of the Olympic Games.

A receptionist in the Department of Athletics and Recreation, Rice has created one of 397 quilts as part of the Georgia Quilt Project, which is being supported by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympics Games (ACOG) and the Atlanta History Center. All the quilters are from Georgia, and four of them (including Rice) are Emory staff members.

Each nation participating in the Olympics will receive two quilts: one for the nation's flag bearer and one for the Olympic committee. Rice's quilt, whose design features pineapples (the international symbol of hospitality), will go to the Cuban Olympic Committee. Other Emory-made quilts and their recipients include: Ulla Marzec, Emory Hospital, Sweden Olympic Committee; Mary Lou Mojonnier, Department of Medicine, Lao People's Democratic Republic flag bearer; and Radine Robinson, law school, Nigeria Olympic Committee.

The quilts will be presented to the respective recipients at various times during the games. In the meantime, all the Olympic quilts are on display at the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead as part of an exhibition titled "The Olympic Games Quilts: Georgia's Welcome to the World," which opened Jan. 20 and runs through May 12. A book containing color photographs of all the quilts is available at the Atlanta History Center for $19.96. Information on the exhibition is available by calling 814-4000.

Welcoming the world

After moving to Atlanta from Connecticut in 1989, Rice joined the Athletics and Recreation staff and soon began quilting after taking an Evening at Emory quilting course. "When I first started quilting, it was just something that ladies did," Rice said. "Now it seems to be more accepted as an art form." That elevated status is not the only reason that quilts were selected as Olympic gifts, Rice believes. "There's something about a quilt that's very warm and comforting and personal," she said. "The process of quilting itself is very relaxing, and I'm much happier when I'm making something. There's something in me that wants to create."

The quilts that Rice and her cohorts made are afghan sized, about 4 feet by 9 feet. She initially became involved in the project as a result of her membership in the Yellow Daisy Quilting Guild, one of many quilting guilds throughout the state. She said the quilters were given a great deal of latitude in conceptualizing their quilt designs.

"I was just so tickled to have at least a little tiny part in the Olympics," said Rice, who worked on her quilt about 10 hours a week for six months. "That means a lot to me. I went to the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, and it was so special. When people began to talk about the Olympics coming here, I got really excited because I knew what it was going to be like. The world is coming to our doorstep, and it would be silly not to get involved. I get so annoyed when people say, `Oh, I'm leaving town. I don't want to have anything to do with it.'"

Rice already has tickets for six Olympic events, and her sisters from Connecticut and New Hampshire are coming to attend the events with her.

Avid Anglophile

In addition to her love of quilting and needlepoint, Rice also is a member of the English Speaking Union, a group of self-described Anglophiles who meet at St. Philip's Cathedral every month for lectures and other types of programs concerning England. Speakers have included an English opera singer, a baron who owns a castle in Ireland and a detective from Scotland Yard.

"I've been to England six times," Rice said. "My grandmother immigrated when she was 7, so I have lots of cousins there I keep in touch with and stay with when I go."

Rice also is a Courtesy Scholar at Emory with 130 hours toward graduation under her belt. "I'm an English major and I've finished all of my major coursework," she said. "I just have a couple of distribution requirements left before I graduate, which should be in the next couple of years."

Her degree will have to take a back seat to the Olympics this summer, however, because Rice isn't about to miss a minute of the world coming to her own back yard.

--Dan Treadaway