We went to high school there and I began my college studies at Cambridge University. I specialized in classical languages for my A-Level exams—roughly equivalent to the last two years of high school in the U.
S.—and went to Cambridge to study Hebrew and Aramaic.
She later worked in the carpentry shop of the Imperial War Museum at Duxford Airbase, north of London, before returning to the U. Back in the States, she worked for several custom furniture companies before opening NR Hiller Design, Inc. She has taught cabinetmaking, furniture, and finishing courses at the Kelly Mehler School of Woodworking in Berea, Ky., and Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Ind.
Inspired by architecture and furnishings from the late-19th through the mid-20th century, her work has been published in (IU Press, 2013).
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.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.It’s soul-destroying to be rejected repeatedly, so I just went back to doing what I knew how to do: building things. I set up a crude shop in my basement and just started trying to get local people to hire me.It was a crazy way to start a business, but I desperately needed some income.I threw myself wholeheartedly into my studies and did very well but wondered what I would ever do with that degree.Contributing to my sense of being out of place was my awareness that so many of my fellow undergraduates came from very privileged families and seemed to regard their university experience as an opportunity to party. Shortly after that I signed up for the City & Guilds furniture training at the nearest vocational college because I wanted to build things and really had no idea how to do so properly.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.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.