Show & Tell. Debra Powell Artist

Here at KINA we have adored the artist Debra Powells' creations for years. She makes the most amazing wall masks, puppets, figurines and ceramic jewellery. We just love her work so much we all have a few pieces in our own home! 

Last month one of the KINA angels headed off into the sunset and met up with Debra in her studio in the hills of Te Pahu. Some photos were taken, some questions were asked and tea was sipped - such a lovely day! Read on, take a peak and get to know Debra Powell a little bit more.  

(most of the works in these photographs can be found at KINA - give us a call or pop in the shop)




How long have you been creating? Has it always been in this medium?

In 1989, I got my first proper job, as a painter of fine china figurines – I’ve been mucking about with clay and paint ever since.


Who taught you or how did you learn your craft?

Several years later I studied for a diploma in craft and design (majoring in ceramics). I worked with potting ‘royalty’ such as Moira Elliot, Peter Lange and Raewyn Atkinson. Of course I was too young and naïve at that time to know my excellent good luck.


If you weren’t creating your art works what would you be doing?

Writing a book! I have a PhD in criminal legal history and some time in the near future I’ll be hanging up my potter’s apron and putting my academic brown cardi back on. I have more research to do in my field of homicide studies, and that pesky book to write. Before long it’ll start tapping me on the shoulder and asking me why I haven’t started it yet.


Have you passed your techniques onto others?

I used to when my kids were young. When they went to kindergarten, I’d spend a morning a week making stuff with clay with their kindy class. When they got to primary school, I’d go there too (once or twice a year). I also took a regular art class with a home school group, and on occasion worked with adults at a local Community House. I’m convinced the days have less hours in them now though – I can’t imagine finding the time for group clay squishing sessions any more (tiny bit sad really).


Is there a specific piece you have created that is dearest to you heart? If so, why?

No, not really. I’m not in the least bit sentimental about my own work. I always figured it would take about ten years practice before I made anything truly worthwhile. Actually, it took me closer to twenty years. So, it’s only recently that I’ve started to see the things that I make as “good”. It may be that that special piece is just around the corner!


If you could plan your perfect day what would it consist of from start to finish?

It would look something like a day that me and my Jim spent in the South of France a couple of years back. It would involve a Mediterranean beach, ukuleles and some squirrels (and I might also squeeze in a visit to a patisserie and a big fat pain au chocolate or three, ‘cos its my fantasy so I jolly well can).



What is your favourite meal and who would prepare it for you?

Big Jim’s famous fried breakfast (served in bed because that’s where it tastes best).


If you were to be an animal which one would you be?

That would have to be the Californian quail. Under my studio is a family of them. They spend their day pootling about in good-natured chatter (with their silly hat feathers always making them look overdressed for the occasion). But, any sign of stress or danger throws them into paroxysms of blind panic (just for a moment mind). Instead of just flying out of harms way, they go into a kind of speed-pootle around in useless circles – pointlessly ridiculous and ridiculously pointless.  Bless their hearts, I totally relate.