The women reviving traditional crafts
In a time of mass production, we meet three women keeping old-fashioned trades alive
Marysa de Veer, 53, Sussex
Holding the ancient text in my hand, I imagine the original binder who set its pages in their leather cover, embossed the edges and created a book so special that over 100 years later its owner is still taking care to preserve it for the future. My job is to restore the book, with an eye on conservation, to ensure my work is understood by a binder in a century’s time.
Growing up, I was always into crafts like painting and weaving. But when I left school in 1986 I took up a secretarial role at an advertising agency. It was well-paid, but by the
age of 23 I felt unfulfilled.
So my husband Thomas suggested I look into local
craft courses. After finding one on bookbinding run by an amazing bookbinder called Maureen Duke, I quit my job and signed up.
I completed the course in 1989, then worked for two months at Windsor Castle, where I restored the Queen Mother’s vicar’s bible and even received an invitation to meet the Queen Mother during a Sunday matins service. Afterwards, I continued to train – knocking on the doors of other binders and learning as I went. Then in 1993, aged 28, I set up my own business, Otter Bookbinding in Ottershaw. Now, as well as binding,
I run monthly classes.
My projects range from restoration – replacing cloth joints, or adding new leather under old – to family bibles, photo albums and memoirs. In an era in which you can upload and print whatever you wish, my job may seems old-fashioned. But how many people can say centuries from now their work will still be appreciated? What I offer is a more tactile, personal experience – something altogether more precious.
'My work will still be appreciated centuries from now'
For more information, visit otterbookbinding.com