Spinsters (map of virtue)

Spiensters means ‘women’s visit’ in Staphorst dialect. Initially, it means ‘spinsters’: young women who came together to spin in the evening to socialize. Single women, married women didn’t have time. Over the years it has come to mean ‘visiting women’.

‘Spinsters (map of virtue)’ is my contribution for Melk & Bloed on invitation by Suze May Sho. A project in printed matter.

The newspaper Melk & Bloed by Suze May Sho is a heritage & modern art project for the Overijssel theater festival ‘Kunsten op Straat’. Melk & Bloed (Milk & Blood) is a white/ red folk art pattern on fabric. In 2011 Suze May Sho asked twelve artists / writers for a contribution of 60 x 84 cm, double-sided. Twelve contributions are printed on the front and back of twelve sheets, folded together to form the Melk & Bloed newspaper, which was distributed in style to the visitors of the festival.

Spiensters (plattegrond van de deugd) / Spinsters (map of virtue), 60 x 84 cm, 2011 | front


I bought an old traditional folk art hat that was common in the region where the festival took place.

traditional dot work on fabric by traditional woman

I was intrigued by the photo of Hendrikje Hooikammer showing her hat in a beautiful way: she bows to show the top of her hat. At the same time, the photo makes me nervous because the bow shows (her) virtue. Beautiful and suffocating at the same time. It was exiting because I did an earlier project named the Commitments in which I photographed heads from above.

To repeat the pose I took the photo of Hendrikje Hooikammer again in traditional clothing with a woman from Staphorst. The idea was to feel the real friction between the beauty of the headgear and the bending attitude of the woman that radiates virtue.

left: Hendrikje Hooikammer, 1944 – right: same pose anonymous, 2011

By taking the hat apart I started to unfold the virtue. The headgear under which a woman had to wrap herself, most of the hair hidden, her thoughts enclosed in fabric.

Taking off this headgear ‘going into civilian’ must have been a tough mental decision because it also meant a break with the women’s community. The women kept the social order under strict control through their visits. In this hat I replaced the dot in the traditional dot work pattern with the head with traditional headgear photographed from above, creating a closed women’s system of whispering and monitoring. An invisible force becomes visible. Woman are also perpetrators of the oppressive social order and maintain the system instead of breaking the pattern.

left: the traditional children’s hat | right: the map of the parts of the hat
Spiensters (plattegrond van de deugd) / Spinsters (map of virtue), 60 x 84 cm, 2011 | front

The design on paper can be cut out and taped together to make a paper cap. In stead of the traditional hat, one can make a totally different piece of headgear.

backside: Spiensters (plattegrond van de deugd) / Spinsters (map of virtue), 60 x 84 cm, 2011
test with little paper cap and real size model, 2011