Brooch: Blair Smith.There are engagement rings, wedding rings, toasters and parties galore when couples get together. But when you separate you suddenly have half the property, half the friends, distressed children (not true in my case fortunately) as well as a broken heart and ten million forms and paperwork changes to deal with. After being in a relationship for nearly 16 years, it is surprising how much lives become intertwined and pulling apart all the tendrils, emotional and practical, can be fraught. But worth the effort in some cases, including mine.
When the cracks could no longer be ignored and we were travelling in New Zealand earlier this year, I purchased a piece of jewellery, the choice of which must have come from the knowing and truthful part of me, as my conscious mind was still stuck firmly in the sand of a relationship that we'd long grown out of. The work is by Blair Smith, renowned designer-maker who I'd worked with at Shed Workspace, Dunedin.
I chose the piece simply because I liked the composition and the strange poetry of its lines and construction. Laboriously handsawn from his own-made ingot it reminded me of Blair's attitude- never afraid of hard work. Heavy metal old-school industrial approach to construction fuses with a graphical intelligence switching between 2d and 3d forms. Like Blair, a bit rough around the edges but strong and true. Some tiny air holes revealed in the centre of the ingot where he'd sawn. Bold tool marks from the saw, file and pliers. Decorative scratched surface that is more about an aesthetic than construction. A strong springy pin and catch. Silver very bright and tarnish proof, though stamped 925 (925 parts silver to 1000 parts) - I believe Blair makes up his own alloys containing a much higher percentage of silver. That's how they do things in New Zealand.
Try as I might though, I could not find the pun he usually hides in his work that so often seduces the wrecker part of me. Al I knew was that I had a powerful emotional and visual response to the piece that just kept growing.
I still spent ages choosing between it and a few other shortlisted brooches and earrings as I listened to the conflicting voices of heart and mind. When I told David McLeod of Shed of my final selection, he told me something quite surprising. The piece actually says "9/10". Now that I know this it is hard not to see it. A reference to the old adage "Possession is 9/10s of the law" Blair apparently made it after going through a similar chain of events that I was to begin 3 weeks later when Wayne and I made the decision to separate. Suddenly I loved the piece even more although it unsettled me greatly and I tried to shrug off the strange set of emotions that were assailing me at the time.
Now the piece is cherished completely and along with David McLeod's unlit, dead and really dead matchsticks, the perfect jewellery to wear on settlement day- tomorrow.
It is not surprising that the separation of possessions should be one of the areas where many separating couples come unstuck and one of the areas we had to steer through carefully. Maybe because we are taught not to feel things directly but through objects, these become much more significant than the particles they are made up of. Or maybe we need these objects to help us to feel properly - in our unenlightened state they help us to work through our issues as we get to some truth or in some cases a story that pleases and bolsters the mind and can unleash all sorts of destruction and chaos.
Separation is a life passage that so many people have gone through before but also a transition that some discontented people spend a lifetime avoiding so I am grateful that I was able to get to where I am now. Sometimes it feels like a personal failure, society seems geared to keeping unhappy couples together for all sorts of reasons but mostly I feel proud of both of us and positive about my present and future.