There is something painful about having to discard work you have carefully done and start over.
We spoke with her about her craft, her diverse career path, and about the impact of her studies at IU.
Can you say a little about yourself, your background, your training as a furniture maker, and your studies at IU? I was living in England, where my mother took my sister and me to live in 1971.
With more than 30 years professional experience as a designer-builder, Nancy R.
Hiller, BA’93, MA’96, has run her own custom furniture and cabinetry business in Bloomington, Ind., since the mid-1990s.
My mind was bursting at how relevant everything I learned was to my everyday life.
Even in religious studies, every class was informed by other disciplines: history, sociology, anthropology, literature, psychology, and of course philosophy.What I loved about the Department of Religious Studies at IUB was the excellent instruction and the humanities-based perspective on religion, both as a fundamental human expression and in terms of particular modes of religious thought and expression.The very first course I took, “Religion, Medicine and Suffering in the West,” which was taught by Robert Orsi, completely blew my mind. The English system—at least, in the 1970s—focused in depth on a limited range of subjects.After graduating, I took a job with a cabinetmaker.I learned invaluable lessons about the realities of making furniture and cabinetry for a living, as distinct from a hobby.It was a harsh education, revealing just how much of daily work in the field is repetitious. I realized that I would not be able to put so many of the fine skills I had learned in my training into practice.On top of this, I was introduced to the phenomenon of clients who change their mind after the job has started.My big chance at escaping that line of work was my return to college at the age of 30.By then I had returned to the States and was living near Bloomington, Ind.My work as a designer is hugely enriched by what I learned about history and culture in the religious studies department.On top of this, precisely because there is so much hand- and machine-work and so much repetitive work in my daily life, I have a lot of time to think.