The ocean breeze fuels a chorus of tinkling wind chimes that surround Debbe Chapman's booth at Huntington Beach Pier Plaza Art-A-Faire, where the local artist has been creating, displaying and selling her jewelry every Friday for the past nine years. Her Pretty Things Jewelry collection sparkles in the late afternoon sunlight, drawing in locals and passersby to peruse her lovely array of necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings and personalized silver and copper pieces.
"I really love the ocean, and I try to stay close to it," she tells us. "I'm tickled pink that I'm facing this way," says the Orange County native, who was recently upgraded to a booth facing the water. "While I sit here all day, I am able to make custom pieces for people on the spot."
Debbe started out simply, first working with pearl and silver. In addition to her popular personalized engravings, her signature pieces feature curved silver and heart components that she purchases from the Karen Hill Tribe people in Thailand. She learned by trial and error, having taken one class and reading books on the craft. Debbe travels to more than 20 shows annually to showcase her work.
"I pretty much just make what I'd wear myself, what I like," she says. "I get inspired by color combinations of what I see out in the world." When she's not selling or making jewelry, she's coming up with new designs. Says Debbe, "It kind of explodes after you see all the beautiful things you can make."
Establishing her "creative niche was the hardest part," says the self-taught artist, who credits much of her success to the support of her husband of 42 years, John. Both her husband and her youngest son help her set up and tear down the booth every Friday. "It's a family affair," Debbe notes, explaining that John travels with her twice a year to the precious gem shows where she purchases the components to make her jewelry. Her son, a graphic designer and computer programmer, helps with her printing and signage.
A furniture maker with an artistic flair, John encourages his wife's creativity by urging her to buy all of the pieces she likes. "He knows what I can make with them; he's a really good source of support," Debbe says.
After spending 12 years as a nanny, Debbe founded her line of handmade jewelry with her husband in 2004. But the couple has been coming down to the pier together since their teenage years, when 15-year-old Debbe would visit HB to watch her brother and his friends surf. "My older brother used to take me down here on the weekends when we were younger," says Debbe. "We would drive all the way down here from Downey." That's how she met a then 18-year-old John.
"It was different back then," she reminisces. "Huntington Beach was a laid-back surfer town. It was cute, and Main Street had tons of cute little shops. Being down here brings back so many memories...it was a different life."
Her work captures that sense of a small beach town and high school sweethearts in love. As the couple closes shop at the end of the day, you can see why this woman loves her craft. She gets to be by the beach, work with her family and create beautiful jewelry.
"It's a creative process, it's been fun," Debbe says. "It's the best thing I've ever done in my lifetime so far."