About the Artist

Stephanie Jaffe Werner

Whether placed in public plazas or staged in shadow boxes, the artwork of Stephanie Jaffe Werner is distinguished by unconventional combinations of handcrafted and found materials. Her vibrant collages and mosaics integrate eclectic elements such as vintage keepsakes, dolls and fine china with blown glass and fired clay to create whimsical arrangements. Jaffe engages diverse audiences on multiple levels: nostalgic narratives and historical tributes evoke personal memories and community pride; topiaries of sculpted ceramic flowers inspire an appreciation of the natural environment; assemblages of popular products spark cultural critique.

Now based in South Florida, Jaffe was raised in New York amid a family business that manufactured wire components, nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for collecting a wide array of objects and transforming them in creative ways. She studied glass and ceramics at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1980. A few years later, she founded Germantown Glassworks with a former classmate, employing fellow artisans to produce functional pieces exhibited at the American Craft Council shows and sold in galleries and retail stores across the nation.

Jaffe’s studio practice and subject matter evolved after her move to Miami in the early ‘90s, a shift reflected in series of three-dimensional paintings and mixed-media dioramas depicting domestic scenes and meditating on marriage and motherhood. In 2004, she was selected by a jury for a subsidized studio in the Bakehouse Art Complex, a nonprofit formed nearly 30 years ago by artists who converted an abandoned Art Deco bakery built in the 1920s in what would later become the world-renowned Wynwood Arts District. Jaffe continues to create and sell two- and three-dimensional works in this pioneering creative hub with dozens of studios, production facilities, classrooms and exhibition spaces.

While exhibiting assemblages in group shows at museums and galleries around the country, she developed new techniques to form ceramics with a deceptively soft appearance and intersperse them with strategically broken shards of china. The region’s bright hues and subtropical climate made mosaics an optimal medium as she began to pursue larger pieces with a more enduring presence. Since 2004, Jaffe has been selected by public juries and commissioned by private enterprises for numerous interior murals and outdoor projects. Her business experience has prepared her to efficiently manage substantial budgets and work with community leaders, architects and landscape designers – occasionally involving local students in the creative process.

Jaffe’s distinctive works are permanently installed throughout Florida, from the accessible Lealman Park “L” in Pinellas County to the monumental Florida Highwaymen Obelisk in Fort Pierce that features her hand-carved ceramic interpretations of landscape paintings itinerant African-American artists sold along state highways in the 1950s. Her star-spangled, V-shaped memorial to all U.S. veterans, unveiled this fall in front of the Town Hall of Miami Lakes, is the first public artwork commissioned by this municipality in accordance with a Miami-Dade County ordinance that calls for the allocation of 1.5 percent of construction costs on new public facilities to original artwork accessible to all citizens.

 

Artist Statement

Mixed media collage allows me to expand my range of artistic choices, thereby producing a unique, personal effect. Oftentimes, this involves refashioning familiar forms; creating for each an entirely new identity. The found objects incorporated in my work harken back to a bygone era—one of handmade, family heirlooms—when quality and craftsmanship were societal expectations. This forgotten norm stands in marked contrast in today’s machine-made era. Nostalgia, both an emotional response and an idea, is a fundamental element of my work. It is here that I probe the complex interplay between memories, humor and the emotional resonance of objects.

My newest studio series of mosaic topiary sculptures transcend the traditional and expected topiary tree shapes by the inclusion of embedded, found figurines and other iconic forms to compliment and challenge the handmade ceramic flowers, tiles, and pieces of antique china I typically include.

When approaching a public art commission, I seek to create a dialogue with a specific people, place or time (be it relevant to the present day or commissioned to satisfy a historical context). Public art is a powerful tool that, when effectively executed, will instill a great sense of community pride and serve to enhance the site for which it has specifically been designed. To me, these types of art projects are the most fulfilling.