Hillary was inspired to start woodworking as a way to salvage wood that was being discarded during renovation work. She has always been enamored with historic buildings, and that passion led her to Charleston to pursue a Masters Degree in Historic Preservation. She has worked nearly a decade in the preservation field, which has served as an inspiration for many of her woodworking projects.
Since the majority of the wood used to build the city of Charleston was Southern Yellow Pine, Hillary began looking to lumber yards and tree removal to expand her body of work to include other woods, like walnut, cherry, oak magnolia, mulberry and dogwood. The wood she uses would have ended up in the landfill had she not acquired it. Though Hillary enjoys working with different wood species, she is always particularly excited to work with materials that come from a historic building because it allows her to combine her two passions into a single project.
Each piece of lumber that is brought into Hillary’s shop is carefully examined to determine its best use. She wastes as little wood as possible, using the scraps from larger projects to make small items such as Christmas ornaments. Once the determination of how a board will be used has been made, it is broken down into “blanks” for carving or turning on the lathe. Hillary tracks the source and the type of wood used for each piece, so that the information can be shared with the purchaser.
“A critical goal of my work is focused on allowing the wood to tell its story. I don’t want to remove the history of the wood when I turn it into a new object. If it was from a building, are there nail holes? Did the lumber yard leave rough milling marks on their cut-offs? Has an insect bored into the tree recently cut down? If so, I want to leave a mark of that history. The new object being formed has its own story, too. When carving, I prefer to use hand tools whenever possible, and I do not try to erase all signs of the tools that shaped the wood. Since the majority of the items I make are indeed tools themselves, I know their visual stories will continue to grow through use.”