The word “ikat” comes from a Malay word meaning to tie or to bind—fitting since the process binds communities of families together in addition to binding silk threads.
The Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan is well known for its silk ikat. Although the patterns have become extremely popular through mass-produced printed fabrics in recent years, authentic ikat textiles are woven through a multistep process involving the collaboration of many artisans. A single yard of genuine ikat can take up to a month to create!
“The artisans take pride in the fact that their ikat is woven, not printed,” Lark says. “They will tell you that the quality of each length of ikat is interdependent on the relationships within the community of artists. Each must do their part well.”
Through a longstanding tradition, individual Uzbek families focus on the mastery of only one step of the process. One family grows the plants for the silk worms. Another harvests the silk and spins the yarn. Yet another grows the fruits and vegetables for the dye. Another family binds and rebinds the silk threads, dyeing each segment a different rich color. The final family is responsible for weaving the yarns into a vibrant pattern.
Lark began buying finished products like purses and scarves from the Uzbek artists, but she now collaborates with the artisans to create original apparel designed for the modern wardrobe.