Bill Neville has been cutting, carving, smoothing and displaying wood for more than 35 years. Now, he’s ready to try something new.
The work of the local wood craftsman is on display at the Ackland Museum Store, but the show is one of Neville’s lasts, as he prepares to embark on a completely new journey in life.
‘Leaving the Table’
Time: until March 30
Location: Ackland Museum Store, 100 East Franklin St.
The exhibition, called “Leaving the Table,” has a literal meaning for Neville, who is going on a quasi-retirement to travel in Europe with his wife.
“More than just being a show of beautiful crafts, there’s a person and a whole motivation behind this,” said Alice Southwick, manager at the Ackland Museum Store.
“He’s at a point in his life where he has been doing it a long time, and he’s seeking his next moment of inspiration.”
Neville said the show is a sort of goodbye to his years of woodcrafting in the Chapel Hill area. He works in a cooperative shop with 11 other artists.
“This show is kind of me getting ready to leave and trying to use stuff that’s left over that’s beautiful, that I think you can make stuff out of,” Neville said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The show has two series of photographs acknowledging Neville’s journey through wood.
“Work takes practice. Becoming fascicled, becoming really good at something, takes a lot of it,” he said.
“That was the statement with the photographs. It wasn’t about showing all the work I’ve done, it was about doing the work.”
Neville attributed much of the beauty in his work to his medium — wood.
“People come to you and say they need a table, or a chest — that’s easy. It’s easy to take beautiful material and apply it to a function and have people think it’s beautiful,” he said. “You can’t do any better than the tree.”
Melinda Rittenhouse, assistant store manager for the Ackland Museum Store, said she admires Neville’s dedication and that hands-on disposition made him an easy person to work with.
“He has a lot of passion for the material and medium for what he’s doing, and I think that shows through,” she said.
“I think that is what people can take away — as far as being surrounded by beautiful work, craftsmanship, people will take away the passion he has. Even if wood isn’t their thing, it’s very inspiring,” Rittenhouse added.
The store’s opening reception was to take place on Friday as part of the 2nd Friday Artwalk, but was canceled due to severe winter weather conditions. The store has not announced if they plan to reschedule, but Bill Neville’s exhibition will continue through the end of March.
Southwick said “Leaving the Table” also represents a chance for Neville to reflect on his career and his body of work.
“He’s literally pushing himself back. He wants to stop and look at things in a different way,” she said
Neville said while the show is a culmination of much of his work, it doesn’t mean he’ll stop crafting wood.
He’s currently getting his affairs in order so he can begin his journey in Europe.
“I’m surprised at how hard it is to unplug — you go and you go and you go, and you’re living and working. You just want to unplug it, and do something different.”
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