Each piece of jewellery Debra makes is created entirely by hand, from start to finish. She uses traditional techniques such as forging, wax carving, piercing, soldering and fusing. This makes each of her works one of a kind, like a bespoke fingerprint. These days her work is sought after worldwide and favoured by celebrities such as Tilda Swinton (the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), Andrew Adamson (the director of Shrek ), New Zealand sports players and many others. Her work has been featured in publications including Black, Urbis, Lino, MINDFOOD, Viva and Sunday.
Debra loved art subjects at school and always knew she would end up in that industry. After finishing college, she went to Sydney and completed a part-time TAFE jewellery course one night a week. However, she credits most of her knowledge to her own practice and experimentation in her dad’s garage back in Christchurch.
Eventually, her work started to gain recognition when galleries became interested in buying her jewellery. Having always worked for herself, it is a huge accomplishment to be mortgage-free and financially stable, she says, particularly while doing something she loves. Working for yourself isn’t always glorious though; it can involve a lot of late nights and hard work. Long hours, even double-time work, is often the case in your own business, as you aren’t paid hourly.
Her work is available worldwide through her website www.debrafallowfield.com. Debra says she is not selling an item, she is selling an experience that has great value and is also very humbling and emotional for her.
The best part of her job is the ability to call the shots, experiment and play with her work as if was a hobby. The most difficult part of handmade jewellery is how physically demanding it can be, especially when working with hard metals. One necklace can take approximately 30 hours, so the work can become tedious.
To be a jeweller Debra says you should be resilient and patient, as a lot can go wrong. It’s also a harsh industry: if someone doesn’t like your work they won’t buy it. A jeweller should be thick-skinned and competitive to be successful.
Debra’s advice to any aspiring jeweller reading this is: “Don’t give up, especially if you love it – just give it a go”. Debra believes study is unnecessary if you truly have a passion for jewellery-making – after all, she learnt pretty much all she knows by teaching herself.