Debra Fallowfield - Contemporary Jeweller

by Insiders Dunedin

Recently moving back to Dunedin, Contemporary Jeweller Debra Fallowfield was born and bred here and raised on the Taieri. After leaving school, she trained and worked for Hughes Lithographics. At age 19, she saw Dunedin as a depressing city.  There was not a lot of work available so decided to leave, her destination was Sydney. Whilst there she spent a year at a part time design course and it was here that she really embraced the creation of jewellery. 

Debra at the time was working in the print industry, but thought about going to Art school to pursue a qualification. However, after spending a bit of time with some well known contemporary jewellers understood that a lot of the craft is self taught. 

After becoming pregnant with her now 16 year old son, she returned to New Zealand and started out making jewellery in her dad's garage in Mosgiel. Being a single parent, she realised she had to make some money. As she puts it, "I could not fart around being a poor artist, so I got right into it". 

Debra finally ended up in Christchurch where she bought a house and established a clientele base. She sold a lot of Jewellery off-shore with majority of people finding her through word-of-mouth. At this time, she was doing a lot of wedding rings and a little bit of exhibition work. 

After everything that happened in Christchurch in relation to the earthquakes, a visit to Dunedin last year sparked interest in moving back to where her family is. Visiting Dunedin in the middle of winter and seeing the clouds rise of the mountains from the octagon, she realised that she really liked this place. Finding a house out at Port that they liked sealed the deal and the decision was made to move back. 

The Jewellery Debra creates does not take your traditional collection model. She describes her work as "bespoke". Basically, she makes to order. Despite this, she still works in themes. She has an Erosion collection and an Elemental range that is simple. The Erosion series has a lot of holes and a lot of pot marks that set the standard. 

Debra describes her process to be very organic and very hand-made, employing many of the old-school techniques. There is a lot of sanding and hand polishing. No laser work, or bulk casting. Everything that is made starts from scratch. She does use casting, but most are for one-off items. 

To define further what Debra does she explains, "I sit between the fight of fine jewellery like a manufacturing jeweller and what you classify as a really, really contemporary jeweller that just does exhibition, or a fashion jeweller that does seasonal ranges". 

When asked about her creative process, she explains custom work can be a little bit different because you really have to read into what the customer wants. It can have limitations and always will. Debra states, "its about learning to say no I'm not going to do that because it is not my design aesthetic, stay true to what you do". A learning process, Debra describes a lot of artists need to learn, as it is not good to take on things that your not comfortable with. It is better to collaborate with others you know work in that space and will be comfortable in doing so. 

Debra believes winter is a great time to focus on the creative side. Usually, you are not as busy and can take a bit of a break which is necessary to focus on the things you want to do. She has a number of books that she will jot down ideas and sketch them out. However, Debra does admit she does not sketch as much as she would like to as she is always busy with custom work. The creative process for her now usually entails getting straight into the gems and metals. As she mentioned earlier it is hard to find time to sketch, so a lot of her ideation is rough and quick. 

Inspiration is drawn from anything like a shadow. Debra is really into industrial stuff like old buildings. At the moment, she is really excited about a whole heap of roman coins she has recently acquired. She believes they could be genuine, but is really looking forward to creating jewellery that takes an old pirate treasure theme. 

Currently, Debra has jewellery stocked in about 12 stores around New Zealand. She also stocks some jewellery in a store in Melbourne and Sydney. The online web presence is a big part of her success. She sells a lot of items online with her website and is incredibly active on social media that is reflected in the large following she has. Looking forward Debra is hoping to collaborate with a few others around the city. A big aspect that she has really enjoyed moving back to Dunedin. She tells us that she has made more creative contacts in the art world down here than ever before. Something she believes can be attributed to the openness of people in the city compared to other places she has lived in that can be quite closed. 

Next year Debra is looking forward to getting involved in the fashion industry Dunedin has. She is excited to try be involved in next years ID Fashion week and she has enjoyed working with some local labels recently. 

Debra hopes to open a small retail space for the summer and has her fingers crossed everything will pan out. A space she is looking to create that will stand out from the street. Something her husband will play a big part in being a builder / shop fitter. 

Be sure to watch this space as she moves forward in pursuing a retail space. However, Debra is always open to the public and is a very approachable person. Her door is always open to meet new clients and you can find her amazing jewellery online, or search out her stockists throughout the country.

Check out Debra's website -

Follow her on facebook -

Or drop her a line on - +64 3 472 7221  or +64 27 201 4835

Post submitted by Joshua Jeffery


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