I’m dead chuffed to announce that, commencing next week, the inimitable Nancy Hiller will be a regular contributor the PWM Shop Blog.
She’ll be sharing techniques and tips from her more than 30 years of experience as a professional furniture maker and cabinetmaker – a journey on which she embarked (with several fascinating detours along the way) after dropping out of Cambridge and training as a furniture maker in the City & Guilds of London system.
Nancy now specializes in period-authentic furniture and interiors (much of it in the Arts & Crafts style) for residential, commercial and institutional clients. Her articles and work have been featured in numerous publications, including Popular Woodworking Magazine, Fine Woodworking, American Bungalow, Arts & Crafts Homes and Old House Journal, she’s written three books – “Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life” (2017), “A Home of Her Own” (2011) “The Hoosier Cabinet in Kitchen History” (2009) – and is working on another on the English Arts & Crafts tradition, which will be published by Popular Woodworking in 2018.
I “knew” Nancy long before I met her; I’d been following her work in various magazines and online for years (I’m a long-time subscriber to Arts & Crafts Homes and Old House Journal). In early 2015, I contacted her to see if she’d be interested in writing an article for PW, and she said yes. It’s the stunning Harris Lebus-inspired bookcase that was featured on our December 2015 cover.
I first met her in person when she brought that bookcase from her Bloomington, Ind., shop to our Cincinnati office that summer, and would accept almost no help in getting it from the back of her truck and set up in our studio. “Ah!,” I though. “A kindred spirit!” I fell in love with her immediately.
Nancy is hilarious and meticulous, and one of the best furniture makers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. She works hard to make everything as perfect as possible and will go to great lengths – both in her writing and her woodworking – to make it so. (But that doesn’t mean her work is period precious; she’s quick to use modern fasteners and techniques when it makes the most sense; read her bookcase article, for example, to discover how the carcase bottom is attached.)
Right now for example, in addition to working on the English A&C book, she’s writing an article for an upcoming issue. So two months ago, Nancy hauled that piece – a gorgeous sideboard – down for the photo shoot. The shot we took for the magazine article looked great to my eye – the wood looks appropriately rich against the claret wall, the golden art glass panels of the sidelights (made by Anne Ryan Miller) glow nicely against the background, and the custom hardware (by Adam Nahas) catches the light perfectly.
But Nancy wasn’t satisfied. So she contacted David Berman of Trustworth Studios to get some gorgeous Voysey-inspired wallpaper – something appropriate to the historical period of the sideboard design. She made wall panels, loaded the piece in her truck again along with said panels and drove to Cincinnati for another shoot. And it looks stunning – that one will likely end up on the book cover.
For more from Nancy, take a look at her gorgeous furniture in the gallery on her website, watch her “Turn-of-the-Century Baker’s Table” video, and read her books – and of course, check back here. She’ll be contributing weekly.
P.S. I’m by no means alone in finding “Making Things Work” a stellar, hilarious read. You can order it from us (among other purveyors of fine reading material) in the U.S. and Canada; in the U.K. Classic Hand Tools carries it (and ships throughout Europe); and Nancy just posted on her Instagram feed that soon, Lie-Nielsen Australia will have it available.