My great-grandfather – was an entrepreneur who came to Japan after trying his hand on the South Australian goldfields as a singer.

In Japan, he started the first English language newspaper. As a journalist he wrote books about life in Japan for Europeans and the non-Japanese in those early days.

He noted that it was a bit of a cowboy town, and compared it to the Wild West. His books fully describe life in Japan in the 1800s.


My Mother – Sylvia Halpern (nee Black) – was born in Kobe, Japan in 1918. She was second generation Anglo – Japanese.

My mother was one of 5 sisters, and she went to boarding school in China



As a teenager she traveled on the Trans-Siberian railway to England where she attended secondary school.

In her early 20s she came to Australia and ended up in Melbourne.

She lived in St Kilda and enjoyed the company of the European Jews living there.

She loved the prints they had on their walls – Picasso, Miro, Roualt, Braques etc – and the music they listened to – modern, jazz and classical. It opened her eyes.


Sylvia met and fell in love with Stazek (Stanislav, Stacha, Stan) Halpern. They married and had a child, Jaqueline (Jaki) in 1946.

They borrowed money from Sylvia’s sister to buy a house in Surf Avenue, Black Rock (Beaumaris).

Silvia had been attending RMIT learning about pottery.

She came home and then taught Stazek everything she had learnt at school every day.

Stazek was a painter, sculptor and potter.

They were part of the Boyd group.

My mother would tell me how she and Stazek would put their push-bikes on the train to Ringwood and cycle out to Warrandyte where they would camp in an old canvas tent they had.

They met Danila Vasillieff, Klytie Pate, and the other artists living there.

My father – Artek(Artur, Art) Halpern – was a Polish Jew. He was born in Lvov (as was Stazek). Lvov is sometimes in Poland and sometimes in Russia. There were 4 brothers in the Halpern family.

In Lvov the family had a silver plating business. Their factory was an impressive 3 story building.

Artek went to university in Czechoslovakia where he obtained a degree in mechanical engineering.

When the Nazis came into Poland the 4 brothers left for safer countries.

Artek went into the army. His father had already died and his mother did not want to leave. She committed suicide by taking a cyanide capsule.

Artek came to Australia after the war. His 3 brothers were already here.


Artek and Sylvia met. Sylvia left Stazek, and married Artek.

Artek and Sylvia lived in Murrumbeena and bought a piece of land in Warrandyte, 2 blocks away from Inge (sculptor) and Graham (printmaker) King in their Robin Boyd house.

Artek built a house on the land and Sylvia, Jaki (12 years old) and Deborah (1 year old) came to live in Warrandyte.

Warrandyte – on the Yarra – at that time, was quite a long way from the city.

Over the hill, though still not too close, was the artist’s colony of Montsalvat in Eltham, and their own, quite distinct community of artists.

Further down the Yarra was the Reid’s Heide. In the hinterland was Dunmoochin with Clifton Pugh. Upstream was the Bend of Isles, where Neil Douglas has his studio.

Warrandyte was peopled by painters, potters, sculptors, writers, stonemasons, gardeners, intellectuals, architects, film-makers.

Sylvia and Artek joined forces with Reg Preston and Phyl Dunn (both potters), Gus McLaren (cartoonist, potter, chef), Charles Wilton (potter), Elsa Ardern (potter), and John Hipwell (architect, composer) and Betty Hipwell.

They created a humble enterprise which they called Potters Cottage.

John and Betty Hipwell had a small wattle and daub miners hut called Moonlight Cottage on their property. The property was cleaned up and painted and set-up with pottery and paintings from the group. Wine and cheese was served and Potters Cottage was born. The little cottage became such a success that very soon it was a destination.

And soon after that the group outgrew the little cottage and bought several acres – Zock’s Farm – on the outskirts of Warrandyte.

Pottery and devonshire teas in a unique, creative place made Potters Cottage really special.

As time went on the potters added a restaurant and a school, a native plant nursery, space for extra shops and a chapel. It was a very lively place and the potters were involved on all levels. Making and selling pottery, cooking and serving food, and teaching pottery.

Growing up in beautiful Warrandyte, being part of this interesting, creative, entrepreneurial group of people and their children and their friends, was pivotal in showing me what it’s like to live a creative, self-directed life.

As a kid I made things out of clay and put them in to Potters Cottage for sale. Mostly they sold! All the kids of the potters did that.

Growing up in Warrandyte was very wild and free. Swimming in the river after school, spending all day floating down the river on lilos and building bush huts. Riding horses, and double dinking bikes home from school. We were safe, and looked out for each other; we just had to be home by dark.


When I left school (after dropping out from Journalism at RMIT, and a BA at Latrobe University) I built a mudbrick house with my boyfriend, Macgregor Knox (son of Alistair Knox, mudbrick house designer and builder) on a bush block in St Andrews, 20 minutes north of Warrandyte.

I learnt from the Knox family that anyone can build a house. It was an awesome thing to find out at 19 years old. Very empowering!

To make some money I started to make pots to sell at the St Andrews market. Shane Pugh (son of Clifton) had started the market for the local community.

My mother had a show scheduled at Potters Cottage in 1978 and she invited me to join her.

For the exhibition I gave myself the challenge of making work unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was a huge risk. It could go really badly!

I combined rubber gorillas in ballet tutus, superman dolls, ceramic buildings, poetry stamped on the sides. Small worlds each with their own story.

The show was a great success.

After that I took every opportunity to play.

I was a “Flaming Star” – a duet with Toni Edwards. I was a yodelling, whip-cracking cowgirl.

We performed at the Flying Trapeze Cabaret Cafe in Brunswick Street Fitzroy, and then at the Last Laugh, Smith Street, Collingwood.

Even though I loved performing I didn’t like the lifestyle.


After I retired from the showbiz life I returned to the studio.

I entered every show, every competition, said yes to everything!

I applied to the Australia Council for a professional development grant to make life-sized ceramic furniture.

I was awarded the grant – I had asked for $1,600.

When the Meat Market Craft Centre began in North Melbourne I held the first solo exhibition there in the Blackwood Street Gallery.

I learnt about making the show, publicizing a show, setting up a show. The opening, manning the exhibition and selling the work.

It was hard work and I resolved never to do that again!

I made the ceramic furniture – the Chest of Drawers was acquired by the Shepparton Art Museum to join their collection of Australian Ceramics.

Ken Scarlett, the director of the Gryphon Gallery, Melbourne State College, bought “Stemmed Creature” for the Victorian State Craft Collection, and offered me a show with Pamela Irving at the Gryphon Gallery.

Works were bought for the Ballarat Art gallery and the Geelong Art Gallery.

After that show, Christine Abrahams offered me a show of paintings at her gallery in Richmond.

I made the paintings and also “snuck” in a few large ceramic sculptures. “Long Tall Sally” was bought by the NGV, and “Person with Pink Torso” was bought by the ANG. Of course I was thrilled!

In 1985, I applied for and was awarded a travel grant from the Australia Council. I travelled to Europe where I studied Outsider Artists and art.

I spent 9 months in Italy, Holland, France and Spain.

And while I was travelling, a letter came to me from Geoffrey Edwards, Curator of Sculpture and Glass at the NGV, asking if I’d be interested in making a sculpture for the South Moat on St Kilda Road of the National Gallery of Victoria.

I thought they’d made a mistake! I was very surprised. And I wasn’t sure if I had what was required to fulfill such an opportunity.

I came home, still unsure. My friend, Charles Green, recommended a course – called the Forum at that time – as a way to consider all possibilities. Which would then allow me to choose powerfully either way.

I considered that I could say “no”, and to let another more experienced person have the opportunity. I would then return to my already successful life.

Then I considered saying “yes”. If I said yes I would have to go where I had never been before.
The opportunity was to profoundly impact the experience of people passing by the NGV building and their experience of art, and of people visiting the NGV and their experience of the work inside. Children visiting would be impacted by whatever I provided for them.

I considered that the sculpture would have to blow people’s minds!

It would have to be engaging, inviting, accessible, approachable, inspiring, and be able to be interpreted by different people in different ways.

It would be a guardian piece for the gallery and for the City of Melbourne.

A guardian angel. “Angel”.

And I would have to give 100% and to not know what that would look like.

So I said “YES”. And 3 years of straight-up learning curve began.

Work began in 1987 in a shed in the customs area on the Melbourne docks – before Docklands was created.

In 1989 Angel was installed in the moat on a misty Sunday morning. It took 6 weeks to complete the installation of the work in the moat.

At the Spoleto Festival the work was unveiled – ie. the lights were turned on.


Some of my works below:

2012 – “Mali” City of Melbourne

2014 – “Queen of the Shire”, Gateway Sculpture, Shire of Nillumbik, Victoria.

2019 – “Dove”, Luther College, Croydon, Victoria.

2020 – “Earth Mother”, National Palace Museum – Taiwan

2021 “The Four Graces”, M5 Urban Design, Cultural Capital, Sydney


2023 Deborah Halpern @QDOS Gallery, Lorne, Victoria
Big Brother Big Sister, Art Dinner, Art Centre, Melbourne
Pat Cronin Foundation, Art Exhibition, Montsalvat, Victoria
2019 “Alice”, Central Goldfields Art Gallery, Maryborough, Victoria.
2018 “Deborah Halpern at the Dunolly Courthouse”, Dunolly, Victoria.
2017 “Hug a Tree, Kiss a Dog”, Arthouse Gallery, Sydney
2016 Mossgreen Gallery
2015 Mossgreen Gallery
Anthea Polson Gallery, Gold Coast
Arthouse Gallery, Sydney
2014 Mossgreen Gallery, “Ghost Worms and Glass Hearts”
2013 Mossgreen Gallery, “Creatures from the Studio”
2012 The Melbourne Art Fair, Exhibited by Mossgreen Gallery, Melbourne
2011 New Works, Mossgreen Gallery, Melbourne
2010 Arthouse Gallery, Sydney 2009 Mossgreen Gallery, Melbourne
2008 Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
2007 “Weird little things…”, Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
2006 Deborah Halpern: “Angel”, Survey Exhibition, Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
2003 Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
2001 Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
1999 Buschlen Mowatt Fine Art Gallery, Vancouver Canada
1999 “Art’s Toys”, Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
1998 Chapman Gallery, Canberra, ACT
1997 Despard Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania
1996 Small Works, Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
1995 Sculptures & Works on Paper, Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
1991 Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
1989 Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne – Irving Sculpture Gallery, Sydney, NSW
1987 Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
1985 Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne
1983 Rosies Gallery, Albert Park, Victoria
1981 Blackwood Street Gallery, Meat Market Craft Centre with assistance from Craft Board of Australia Council


2020 – 2021 “Mother Earth, National Palace Museum – Taiwan
2019 – 2021 “Baby Bird”, Kilora Open Spaces, City of Casey
2019 – 2021 “The Four Graces”, M5 Urban Design, Cultural Capital, Sydney
2019 “Dove”, Luther College, Croydon, Victoria.
2018-2020 “Sense of Place”, Big Boy, Dingo, Kangaroo, Flying Dog, Dunolly community project, Dunolly, Victoria.
2017 “Portal to Another Time and Place”, Point Leo Sculpture Park, Victoria.
2014 “Queen of the Shire”, Gateway Sculpture, Shire of Nillumbik, Victoria.
2013 “Mermaid with legs”, “Fish”, Private commission, NSW
2012 “Water Creature”, “Big Cat”, MC2, City of Manningham, Doncaster, Victoria
2012 “Wayfarer”, Council Offices, Shire of Nillumbik, Greensborough, Victoria
2012 “Mali,’ City of Melbourne, Birrarung Marr
2010 “The Parrot Factory”, set and costume design, Victoria Opera
2008 “Dream Festival”, inflatable sculpture event, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne, Victoria
1996 “Ophelia”, used as the ‘face of Melbourne’ by City of Melbourne
1992 “Ophelia’, Southbank, Melbourne, Victoria

I work in many different mediums: ceramic, paint, printmaking, bronze, glass, neon.

I was honored in 2021 with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for my services to the arts.

I have worked and continue to work in schools, give workshops, and lectures.

I am committed to make a positive difference to the planet in my lifetime, however that may look.

To discuss new projects, upcoming events and media enquiries,
please contact Deborah Halpern’s team…

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