Isn’t it just great when you meet someone for the first time, and you just hit it off straight away. That’s how I felt when I met Debbie from Jabbawocky Crafts at the Wymondham Garden Centre Autumn Fair, back in October last year. Such a down to earth lady, funny, and very modest about her lovely, handmade pendants. When she started telling me the amount of hours, and stages it took to complete one piece, I was totally blown away (not literally obviously). Anyway to cut a long story short, we swapped details, as I knew then I really wanted to sell her pendants in my gift boxes. What can I say, when you know, you know right!

…..So some weeks later I finally organise a catch up with Debbie, to find out a bit more about the lady behind the jewellery. A bit like a second date, but without all the sweaty nerves.

I find it fascinating how people start up their businesses. For Debbie, it all started when she was trying to help her daughter raise some money for a gadget that she wanted, and put a couple of jewellery pieces on a stall, and watched them all sell. Light bulb moment- perhaps this was something that people wanted to buy?

So there Debbie is at the Barclays Bank Small Business Day, show casing her pieces alongside other local businesses. And who should she meet there? None other than Jason Harvey. Who is this Jason Harvey I hear some of you wonder? Well it turns out he does wood turning in Wymondham, and is pretty good at it.

After showing him one of her shapes, he soon agreed that if she could design them, then he could make them for her. He knows what can be achieved with the wood, and Debbie knows exactly what she wants. A woman who knows her own mind! Unheard of!  5 years later and they’re still going strong. As Humphrey Bogart said “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

Everything that Debbie uses in her jewellery has a little story behind it. Does she like bling? No. But she does love her colour. So where did her love of colour come from? “My gran growing up had this big 1970s ash tray of full of all these bright colours. I was just fascinated by this Millefiori, so get that in there somehow”. I actually had to Google Millefiori beads after we met, as I’d never heard of them (but don’t tell Debbie).  Apparently they are a very colourful glass beads which come in many different shapes and sizes. Wikipedia helped me out here with its definition. “Millefiori is a glasswork technique which produces distinctive decorative patterns on glassware. The term millefiori is a combination of the Italian words “mille” (thousand) and “fiori” (flowers)”.

Now you know! Debbie also loves copper tones, so she wants to get that into her jewellery somewhere. It’s not just about colour for Debbie. As she explains “So in my mind I’m making little pictures, that’s what I’m trying to do. Just tiny little statement pictures. So they aren’t just something blue or something green, I’m trying to make a little scene somehow”.

It’s fascinating to find out where Debbie’s inspiration comes from. Many of her pieces reflect her childhood history, in which her dad (a huge history buff), played a major influence. Legends from around Norfolk such as Queen Boudicca (who was married to the leader of the Iceni Tribe of East Anglia), and the Green Man (a historic symbol depicting nature personified as a man) all play a part in her pieces.

So how long do you think it takes Debbie to complete one piece? Go on, have a guess. I’ll tell you what. Let’s explore all the different steps she takes to complete the Tree of Life, and then have a guess.

Steps Involved:

  1. Debbie will decide if it’s going to be on a wood or metal base. What size will it be, and what type of wood does she want to use.
  2. Speak to Jason and see what type of wood he can source. Debbie tries to get it as local as possible, and wants a sustainable source wood. Having it certified means that she knows exactly where everything is from. Some of her more exotic woods such as Purple Heart comes from Central and South America, Zebrano wood from Central Africa, and Olive Wood all the way from the Holy Land. So just around the corner then!
  3. Decide if it’s going to be enamelled in the base or acrylic pourings. It’s going to be turned one day, then treated and sealed, which involves a lot of drying times.
  4. Next step is the painting, which also has a long drying time.
  5. All the charms have to be designed and cut out.
  6. Apply a little bit of resin, which has to be jeweller’s grade- with a least chemical footprint as possible. It’s all labelled as BPA (Bisphenol-A) free.
  7. All of Debbie’s pieces are hand polished, which takes her about 45 minutes per piece. This takes a lot of effort but the end result is totally worth it. Plus she can’t put laquor on them, as it would react with your skin, and wouldn’t be jewellery grade. It must be a jewellery grade seal, so it’s all hypoallergenic. She mixes a little bit of bees wax with a bit of hypoallergenic oil so she knows exactly what’s gone in there, which is really important. As Debbie says “It’s got to be really tactile, have no sharp edges when you run your hands around it… it’s all in the finish”.
  8. All these pieces are made in small batches (only 10-15 at a time). Otherwise the quality will be affected, and people really notice the finish.
  9. The final bit are the chords- Debbie offers both leather or cloth, as not everyone wants leather. Plus 2 types of gift pouch- plain grey or a really colourful one.

So if Debbie starts the whole process on Monday, it will take her until Saturday to complete one piece. So who guessed right then? When Debbie told me about it, I couldn’t believe the amount of effort and care that she puts into a single piece. That’s takes a lot of dedication, and determination. But as you can see for yourself, her final product is stunning.

Debbie’s jewellery is moving and changing all the time. Each piece is bespoke- a variation on a theme that someone has requested, or an idea that just pops into her head. Who knows what will be coming next! Watch this space.