inspired by Dora Damage

18 Aug

I have just finished reading one of my all-time favourite books: The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling.


A-mazing. I hated it for ending – I wanted to live with Dora Damage for the rest of my life!

Mrs Damage is the wife of a Victorian bookbinder who becomes too ill to work. When Dora takes over the business she enters a murky and seedy world, binding books that she’d rather not have to look at.

One of the novel’s most fascinating themes is the relationship between the world of commercial and public work, and the work of the home – the skills of a domestic life. When the Damages are too poor to afford leather to bind their books, they use the silks from Dora’s dresses instead, which are carefully embroidered by Dora. Domestic crafts, traditionally the domain of the woman, are used to save the family business.

The book has me thinking a lot more about the history of the crafts I engage in, and the potential they have carried, past and present, as much more than ways to pass the time. They might be a method of self-expression when writing is inaccessible… a way to store and encode the secrets of the heart when privacy is scarce… a way to make a living…  For every person that engages with these crafts or has engaged with them in the past, there is a different story.

I really would love to know more about the history of different crafts. If you have any books, websites, exhibitions in mind – please do let me know! I’m hoping to write quite a bit about this in the coming weeks. In fact, I may well turn September into my Craft History month.


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