Halpern grew up in the world of ceramics, as her parents were ceramists and artists. She began work in ceramics as an apprentice in 1971. She went on to study painting at the Caulfield Institute of Technology in 1979. In 1981, she started to exhibit her work at the annual Victorian Ceramic Show and the Blackwood Street Gallery. The next year, Deborah worked as an artist in residence at the Croydon Community Centre. During this time, her work was selected to be shown in the Melbourne Meat Market Craft Centre and the Potters Gallery in Sydney,NSW.