Turning Tillett Fabrics into TAR

Text: Periscope / Videography: Ports Bishop / Video Editing: Haruko Fujimoto / Facilitator: Ryu Takahashi / Music: Axinite "Stay Here"

"taste is personal and like love has infinite variety
our fabrics have taste and we make them ourselves with love

newtonian darwinian einsteinien
time space continuum

we specially design spatial surfaces

clothes clothe people with cloth, we cut our cloth for clothes
for the seven ages and several sexes
from all the states including Texas
unshaven sages and elegant sveltes

giving a present to a being or being presented with a gift
means our matching accessories matchless unnecessaries
superb suburban or urbane urban
designers of interiors
posters of posteriors
landscapers of exteriors
use our draperies and upholsteries"

This is how Doris and Leslie Tillett envisioned their business back in the 1950's (Seth Tillett, their son commented, "I think they had a cocktail there.") Whatever their intention was, Tillett Fabrics became known as a luxurious textile maker that provided hand-crafted fabrics to the wealthy in the 1960's and 1970's. The Kennedy White House was a customer, and later they even made fabrics for Caroline Kennedy's wedding. "The fabrics my family made were very expensive.  They were only available to people who were wealthy. My parents used to say, ‘If you want to know the price, you are in the wrong store," Tillett said.

Even after Mr. Tillett passed, Mrs. Tillett, also known as D.D., kept the business going.  Before she passed away in 2008 at the age of 91, she taught Nicole Rauscher, who had married and moved to New York with her son Seth, her specialized techniques of creating fabrics.  After Mrs. Tillett died, her son who previously had no intention of going into his parents' business, joined Rauscher in dealing with the customers Mrs. Tillett left behind, and soon enough they started developing their own designs by both inserting their perspectives and revisiting the old archive.  "It is a very tactile, process-orientated thing. You can't copy what someone else does with it. You can't really execute it the way they executed it. So by just doing it, we discovered ways to make fabrics that are unique to us. "

Rauscher who came from a dance and choreography background and Tillett who came from a theater background had a history of collaborating on fabrics (not by printing, but by sewing) from the 2003 show they did together titled "Semite!" that was inspired by the changing perceptions towards Muslims after 9/11.
"We are not interested in making curtains and couch fabrics for wealthy people and are more interested in blending our real backgrounds, which are political work, the theater and the art world, making things that are more fitting for the time we are in," Tillett said.
Rauscher added, "What we share with our parents is our love for making things by hand. We share appreciation for craftsmanship.  We want to continue what our parents were doing, but are trying to find our way in there."

So while they are trying to find an identity for a brand they almost accidentally started by inheriting the old business, they are at the same time discovering ways of  expressing themselves.  They experiment with more unorthodox methods of creating fabrics including using potato sacks to make patterns and turning wine spills into a sea urchin motif.  The fabrics created under the name of Tillett and Rauscher Inc., or TAR remain somewhat underrated commercially, but has already made it into the permanent collection of Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.


Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum


Team Periscope is traveling in


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