Now in Rainbow Beach: Debra’s divine designs

Debra Gardiner and her creations - some in copper and silver and others moulded in resin from vintage buttons, even miniatures of  her daughter's art

Debra Gardiner and her creations – some in copper and silver and others moulded in resin from vintage buttons, even miniatures of her daughter’s art

Michelle Gilmore met Debra Gardiner at the Rainbow Beach Markets – and found a crafty soul whose eclectic jewellery drew her eye – and her wallet! It turns out her work is published in a national magazine and our new resident has already found a way to give back to the community.

Words by Victoria McGuin

But how did this creative find her way to Rainbow Beach?

“My husband, Michael, and I have been holidaying here for over 25 years and we always wanted to live here one day,” Debra told me.

”We bought a holiday house about 18 years ago, then two years ago we decided to take the plunge and make a complete life change.

“We left our home of 28 years in January 2015. I retired from my position as a teacher aide in Home Economics and Art at Mary MacKillop College, Nundah and Michael retired from being a registered builder.”

Debra has always been involved in creative pursuits and supplied shops in Brisbane with handcrafted items such as hand-painted silk scarves, cushions, bags and cloth dolls.

“In 2004 I decided to design patterns under my Wattlebee Designs label, as I found I didn’t have as much spare time.”

Patterns for her cloth dolls, quilts and bags are still available through her distributor – Pattern Press in Tasmania.

Debra continued, “I love the process of designing as much as making the item. I have also developed a lovely relationship with Australian Homespun Magazine and each year I contribute a project.” The latest one will feature in the January 2016 edition.

“Saying yes to this project however made me realise how much Rainbow needed a convenient local fabric and sewing essentials supplier. I was so used to the convenience of a big city and found I had to be super organised.”

Debra now offers fat quarter bundles, needles, quilting equipment and other materials to locals and information can be found on the Wattlebee Facebook page.

All Debra and Michael’s children have continued the creative gene. Their three sons like working with their hands and their daughter Holly completed her fine arts degree this year.

“Her paintings, mainly quirky portraits and pattern, feature in some of my jewellery work. I print them to size and set them in resin. She runs a custom cake design business ‘Cake or Death’ between work and study.”

Since coming to Rainbow Debra has developed her jewellery work, using copper, sterling silver, and mixed media such as resin and old vintage china.

“I find I’m always learning, and to a certain degree self-taught. I enjoy making resin components by taking moulds of interesting shapes and reproducing them.”

Now settled at Rainbow Beach, Debra believes an important part of finding your feet in a new community is the people you meet.

“Helping in the Rainbow Beach State School Kitchen Garden has been a wonderful experience. I’ve learnt so much about growing vegetables and setting up a viable garden design as well as being in such a warm and caring environment.

“I enjoy seeing the students’ excitement as they visit the garden and “check out” the new additions. Anything involving shovel work or a watering can is usually a hit with the kids and they do love to help.”

Debra has also set up a Facebook Page to share garden news with the wider community – Rainbow Beach State School Kitchen Garden.

“I found the lovely ladies that work out of Top Shops. I’m looking forward to being a part of this group and whatever the future holds there. For now, I’ll also attend the Rainbow Beach and Cooloola Cove Markets.”

Debra let the Community News know a little more about her number one fan through all of this. “None of my work would be possible without Michael. He encourages me, collects materials and tools from Brisbane; builds props, sets up stalls.

“I couldn’t do it without him, and I think he deserves a mention,” she smiled.

To find out more visit: or call Debra on 0422 676 777.

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