The tradition of weaving tie dye dates back somewhere between the 5th and 7th century in India. The famous Ajanta Caves from this time period in South India depict wall paintings that appear to feature Ikats. Due to the demand created by the Nizam Rulers of the region, and their trade of these textiles, rural villages in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh have developed the craft particularly well depending almost exclusively on the craft for their livelihood.
Each weaving village is a sustainable ecosystem with separate homes specializing in an element of production. As children chase each other through the quiet streets, mothers prepare designs on the front porch, grandfathers enjoy the shade, and fathers dye yarn out back. However, one generation is missing in the village. Young to middle-aged adults have almost all emigrated from the village to pursue jobs in the city, as the tradition of weaving continues to fade.
Most families are 5th or 6th generation weavers, but the tradition is quickly disappearing. The vast majority of “20-somethings” have been forced to leave their families to pursue work in the cities due to the steep decline in demand and pay for handloom weavers. Furthermore, most weavers work under a master weaver-who owns the loom and the land, requiring intensive hours for very little pay (as low as $50/month). Faced with poverty, weavers are forced to withdraw loans from their master weaver, despite interest rates of up to 40%. Weavers become bound to their looms in a constant effort to pay off their debt. Tragically, this has resulted in high degree of depression and suicide in rural Andhra Pradesh.
The use of EST WST ikat supports fair wage opportunities for weavers in Andhra Pradesh. In our collective, weavers are paid a monthly salary and offered profit sharing opportunities based on time as opposed to quantity woven.