Social Enterprise: AMMA Natural Textiles | Sri Lanka

AMMA Natural Textiles, is a social enterprise championing the tradition of hand weaving in Nuwara Eliya, a tea estate region in Sri Lanka. AMMA was founded by Josie Mackenzie who was curious to explore the role natural dyes play in the Sri Lankan textile industry and how, when used in combination with handloom could contribute to providing livelihood creation for women living rurally.

This innovative business empowers marginalised women by employing them to make handwoven zero waste garments and accessories. AMMA’s current Kickstarter Campaign is raising money through maker made rewards so that they can continue to keep their workshop doors open and their artisans employed on full salaries.

Society’s current obsession with cheap trends and its insatiable need for more has sadly led to a decrease in the handloom industry in Sri Lanka’s hill country. By resisting the immediate allure of today’s fast fashion obsession and by reconnecting heritage and originality into every stitch, the social enterprise is incorporating a wonderful tradition and creativity  within a workshop.

AMMA avoids the trap of cheap trends, meaning its team of artisans can practice the same unique technique while being employed for the job, season after season. It’s very important  that AMMA pays fair wages to its artisans, as well as creating more transparency in its supply chain so that the customers AMMA caters for understand what they are paying for.

Upon arriving in Sri Lanka Josie, “was curious to explore the role natural dyes play in the Sri Lankan textile industry and how, when used in combination with handloom could contribute to providing livelihood creation for women living rurally.”

Sri Lanka’s handloom industry is centuries old. A range of designs, colours, craftsmanship and patterns are handed down from generation to generation. Traditionally, Sri Lanka’s weavers have been divided into two groups of indigenious weaving communities: the Thalagune community and migrants. The industry has been influenced by immigrants with a different aesthetic, however in traditional Sri Lankan weaving, the patterns and colours tend to be quite restrained. Most handloom designs depict nature inspired forms and patterns.

Unfortunately, the handloom industry has been pushed into the margins of Sri Lanka. In discussions of growth in the textile sector, handloom rarely finds a place. Fast fashion’s use of synthetic yarn in place of natural fibre has played an instrumental role in the diminishing of this national art.

AMMAs team of mothers and daughters are committed to revitalising traditional weaving techniques and design as a tool for women’s empowerment and ethical business. From dyeing to drying to the sensitive setup of the handloom; each process is done with a nurturing heart to ensure people and the environment are above profit. AMMA hopes to restore the handloom industry and be a part of the community who have a vision to make the industry self-reliant once again in Sri Lanka.

Drawing inspiration from traditional Sri Lankan techniques and materials, AMMA incorporates the ancient skill of weaving into every garment curated. The workshop is loud with the clatter of looms as the artisans work to meet orders. Warp threads run parallel and are held in tension while the shuttle is used to wind weft threads under and over them. The weavers delicately manipulate the sley to press the weave together. The fibres are then dyed using food waste and plants and transformed into soft pastel colours. Once boiled, the fabric is soaked overnight. It’s a tough job which requires patience, resilience and a skilled hand, but the team remain faithful to continuing Sri Lanka’s rich legacy of weaving.

Mary is 69 years old and AMMA’s master weaver. Prior to working for AMMA she taught weaving in the local district weaving centres. Now, she is an inspirational weaving teacher to AMMA’s younger employees. Under her attentive guidance and masterful gaze the AMMA team gracefully create all their Kickstarter rewards, which carry the heartbeat of everything AMMA is about: exquisite natural colour and beautiful craftsmanship. Each scarf is a hand-crafted good revealing the human handprint that is faithful in every step of AMMA’s creative production processes.

The team work intimately with each of the AMMA weavers ensuring every part of the business’ production process collaborates with the creativity of the handloom. The stories of the workers are embedded into every pick and their love for the craft lives on in each garment.

To support AMMA and keep their weaving work alive, see their rewards on Kickstarter here and support Sri Lankan artisans in their love for the handloom.

Kickstarter link:
Website: Amma Sri Lanka link
Instagram: @amma_srilanka

Text and images: with thanks to Amma Sri Lanka

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