I'd like to invite you to the background of this story in order to understand the full concept of Her Story – The Collections – Skogsrå (Skogsrå = A certain forest nymph in the Swedish mythology).
For the curious, let’s begin from the beginning.
Part 1 – The medieval laws:
25 years ago I read the Swedish author Alice Lyttkens’ book Svensk Kvinna (Swedish Woman 1941). In her book, Lyttkens describes a situation approximately 1000 years earlier when Sweden had regional instead of national laws. She writes about what would happen to a woman when she was accused of adultery. Apart from a variety of atrocious and brutal actions, the only garment she owned, due to poverty, was torn in the back and through the hole showed her bare back. The woman was then sent away from her village in this state so that everyone else could see what she was accused of and not allow her into their village.
Part 2 – The forest nymph:
Skogsrået (definite article) is a Swedish forest nymph and a myth.
She is portrayed as having a beautiful front, usually with long flowing hair, but when she turned around, her back would be hollow or sometimes you could see a tree trunk inside of her. Sometimes she is portrayed with a tail.
Part 3 – The hypothesis:
In the book Svensk Kvinna (Swedish Woman 1941), Alice Lyttkens presented an alternative perspective on the myth about Skogsrået, a hypothesis.
What if the woman accused of adultery and punished by having her only garment torn in the back, was the same woman as Skogsrået?
Alice Lyttkens dropped a theory and then moved on. No other text or thought.
Part 4 – My own thought process in parts:
a) What if the woman punished had been I) forced to adultery, II) enjoying herself and her sexuality or III) subjected to rumor?
b) Where was she supposed to go after having been rejected from her village and marked by her torn dress?
c) What if this was really what happened and the woods were actually full of women punished and simply had to survive on their own?
d) The myth about Skogsrået is portrayed with a hollow back. If you see a person from afar with a torn dress with bare skin underneath, maybe you sense a cavity or can imagine that the back is hollow.
e) Who are the people who have witnessed that they have seen the forest nymph? According to the archives, predominantly men working alone in the woods.
f) How does a myth begin in general? My own subjective thought: Very often fear.
How does a myth about women tend to begin?
My own subjective thoughts: Fear of women. Fear of women’s sexuality. Fear of women’s independence.
Part 5 – The process:
I had the desire to create a coat while playing with the idea of both women in this project (the suspected/accused and the myth). A collection of coats that would embrace the woman accused, punished and rejected and a collection of coats embodying all attributes given to the myth about Skogsrået, but with choices always present. A collection of coats for women where extra ordinary secrets are hidden in the back of the coat. A play with zipped openings in the back and even a tail so that this will give the experience of power, history, fun, beauty and perhaps even the sense of restoration for the woman wearing the garment.
And… for each sold coat there is the empowering of another woman. Read here:
A circular movement.
A sustainable movement.
To read more about my other work, please visit www.maudsart.se