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SUMMER / FALL 2019      © 2020 812 Magazine

Nancy Hiller, furniture maker

This Bloomington woodworker knows how to bring out the best in a home.

Out of a barn red shop behind her yellow Bloomington house, Nancy Hiller, 53, cuts, saws, sands and operates NR Hiller Design, Inc. Hiller shares her secrets of the trade for 812.

Do meaningful work.

After my training in furniture-making in London, my first boss told me I wouldn't make him any money if I used the traditional handwork techniques I had been taught. I learned from him that a business must be efficient. But in my view, work should also be satisfying. I do my best to strike a balance between these.

Challenge stereotypes.

Since I lived in England for 16 years, my accent is a sponge, and I also wear work boots a lot. People tend to assume that I have no education. There's still an assumption that people who work in the trade aren't intelligent. But I've learned so much from carpenters, plumbers and the people who work at hardware stores. I've found that there are intelligent people everywhere.

Stuff goes wrong.

If woodworkers tell you they've never messed up a piece of furniture, they're telling you an untruth. In the material world, things are bound to go wrong. I once rebuilt an elaborate cabinet after finding that my measurement of the space was off by just one inch. When in doubt, double and triple check.

Home can be a companion.

I fell in love with a 1925 bungalow in Bloomington during my late 30s. My then-boyfriend and I split the mortgage and, while searching for a job, I began fixing up the house. The boyfriend and I didn't stay together and I no longer live there, but I discovered that working to improve my home gave me the same sense of belonging that I had previously gained in a relationship.