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. 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.