DEBRA FALLOWFIELD describes her work as “perfectly imperfect” and that’s just the way she likes it.
Inspired by nature and her extensive travels, the talented jeweller has honed her craft over the past 25 years to create stunning handmade pieces that are more like wearable art.
“Landscapes, rock formations, the ebb and flow of rivers, erosion – these are the type of things I’m inspired by,” Debra says. “I’ve never really followed trends.”
A creative at heart, Debra has always had an artistic flair and excelled as an outstanding art student in high school.
“I’ve always been pretty arty. I think I could draw before I could walk,” she quips.
“Even at the age of 12 I was making polymer clay jewellery to sell at the local flea markets.”
However, Debra’s path to become a jeweller has not been a traditional one, but rather an organic journey that has evolved from a hobby that started in her dad’s garage to a successful full-time profession.
And although she hasn’t had any formal training as such, apart from a short jewellery course, Debra says it has taken years of continual learning and trial and error to arrive where she is today.
A successful and internationally renowned jeweller in her home country of New Zealand, Debra and her husband Dean are recent arrivals to the Noosa Hinterland, only crossing the ditch in January this year.
The duo has set up a shop at their hidden gem of a home, where Debra works to create exquisite pieces, each one crafted entirely by hand, pushing the boundaries between contemporary and fine jewellery.
“For me, the journey in creating a piece is just as important as the final result. I enjoy the process and find beauty in the slightly imperfect nature of crafting by hand,” Debra says.
“I’m not big on perfect symmetry, I prefer things to be more organic and have a flow.”
Debra’s signature pieces include bold, heavyweight wedding or commitment bands in gold, often set with diamonds or rainbow-hued sapphires, distinctive engagement rings, and anything else that is a little out of the ordinary – but still wearable.
“My jewellery was once described as having a sexy, sensual feel to it. It’s very smooth and feminine with a slightly grunty edge. It feels good to wear, it’s solid and very well finished,” Debra says.
And while she has seen many jewellery trends come and go over the years, one thing that has remained constant is her commitment to creating every bespoke piece by hand.
“I made the choice very early on not to use computer-aided design (CAD). When my customers come to me, they expect something that is not a cookie-cutter approach,” Debra says.
“Handmade means you are there from design to completion. It’s about the journey rather than the destination.
“With CAD, your margins are very small, there is a homogenisation, and the end result is quite cold compared to something that is made by hand.
“I would be one of a handful of jewellers in the country who choose not to use it. It’s just not us.”
Although custom pieces are her signature, Debra also enjoys remodelling work and helping her customers through the process of bringing something old and special back to life.
“It can be quite challenging because you are dealing with a lot of emotion in the old pieces,” Debra says.
“Sometimes the editing part of remodelling is more important. You have to be able to say, ‘we are going to use this but not that, because it’s not going to work’.”
But according to Debra, the rewards far outweigh the challenges. “It’s very rewarding when they pick it up. I have had hugs and tears from customers.”
Debra can lay claim to fame for adorning some pretty high-profile customers too.
“I tend to attract clients who want something away from the mainstream and something with a little bit of them in there as well,” she says.
“When I lived in Christchurch, I had Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton drop in. She was filming The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and was just cruising through the Arts Centre market one day, where I had a stall. She ended up coming back to my house, sat at my kitchen table and bought jewellery to take back to Scotland,” Deb laughs.
Her jewellery also adorns the wife of rocker Jon Bon Jovi and some Australian soap opera stars.
“I have made wedding rings for several All Blacks team members too,” she says.
You can view Debra’s work at debrafallowfield.com