The idea that marriage lasts forever is an idea that we all wish could be true. However, with the levels of divorce in the UK rising, we have to face the facts that to be married forever is something bestowed on only the very lucky. Despite this, many women class their rings (engagement and wedding) as their most treasured items and in fact, the stories behind these pieces of jewellery turn out to be some of the most interesting Behind the Seams stories to date.
Oonagh O’Hagan, a lecturer at Central Saint Martins and a freelance designer, is a woman surrounded by style and elegance, but one thing that remains a treasured item is her wedding ring. Custom designed by Carol Wiseman, the ring has formed a constant reminder of Oonagh’s love for her husband and has come to symbolise the traditional symbol of marriage. This wedding ring is no ordinary ring however, it works alongside the engagement band which is a thin black band, tattooed around Oonagh’s ring finger. The wedding ring is a very broad traditional gold wedding band but with a’porthole’ lens made of crystal so you can see through to the tattoo-a little like the window on a spirit level. “Curiously people regularly ask if I regret the tattoo.” Said Oonagh. “It’s strange that there is more concern over the permanence of a tattoo as opposed to the permanence of marriage!!!”
The rings conjure up a plethora of happy memories each time they catch Oonagh’s eye. There is the time that the actual tattoo was inked onto the ring finger, the choosing of the wedding band and the wedding day itself. It is not encouraged to get your face or hands tattooed in the UK and you can imagine the reluctance of the tattoo artist when asked to do so. Despite this, after a tireless search Oonagh and her husband tracked down a tattoo artist who was married and understood the importance of marriage. Hands trembling, the tattoo artist worked away on producing the most perfect engagement ring ever, after all, there was no going back after the ring was in place. He even asked his wife to stand with her hands flat to make sure he got the placement of the band spot on. Getting the wedding ring fitted is a pivotal part of any bride to be’s journey into marriage, so much so that Oonagh and her husband chose to share the moment together, choosing wedding bands for each other. Although a simple process, Oonagh will never be able to forget her husband’s comment when he tried on his ring and told her that it felt “a little too tight and was nervous that it wouldn’t come off.” This now infamous comment, which was met with the response that it should never be coming off, forms a key part of the ring’s heritage.
As well as being a loving and devoted wife, Oonagh spends her time at Central Saint Martins organising the fashion and textiles course and teaching the current students. This is always interspersed with individual projects carried out by Oonagh. These could involve anything from working on her own designs, researching for television programmes and selling her ideas for new books and products. It is a very fun and diverse life.
When we asked Oonagh what advice she would give her 18 year old self, she gave us the advice that “Life will feel very confusing but nobody really knows what they are doing so don’t worry about it, just enjoy life.”
With this in mind, the whole world appears more accessible and the importance of heritage appears more prominent. The importance of knowing the history behind something (say a wedding ring) that forms such a large part of your life gives you the confidence and courage to take on any challenges life throws at you.