Ilana Shafir

Still teaching and creating beauty at age 87.

“My work keeps me open-minded and engaged. It offers a sense of constant renewal and endless inspiration.”*

mosaic art

Birds In The Garden, (2010) 60 x 80 cm.

mosaic artists

Bird House, (2007). Pieces of handmade ceramic, pebbles, found objects and gold smalti are chosen, moved, added and rejected until she is satisfied with ‘their dialogue’.

mosaic art

Peacocks, (2007) 126 x 121 cm.
Peacocks consists of four separate panels – a hallmark of Shafir’s larger works.

ilana schafer

Nature, (2007) by Ilana Shafir.

mosaic art

Temples at the SAMA show in Chicago, (2008).
Photo taken by Libby Hintz.

mosaic art

Temples (detail) note all the pebbles and rocks.
Photo taken by Libby Hintz.

mosaic art

Creation of the Plants, (2006) 120 x 125 cm.

mosaic art
Flows, (2010)  181 x 141 cm.
Artist’s mosaic garden, Ashkelon, Israel.

mosaic artists

Through the Waves, (2011).

mosaic sea art

Primordial Waters, (2011).
She creates her large-scale mosaics without any preliminary sketches or drawings using a great range of materials.

mosaic artists

Urban Mosaic, detail.

mosaic artists

Urban Mosaic, detail.

mosaic artists

Shining Star, (2010) 60 x 80 cm.
Artist’s mosaic garden.  Ashkelon, Israel.

Ilana Shafir was born in 1924 in the city of Sarajevo, now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Now living in Ashkelon, Israel, Ilana has received a lifetime achievement award from the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA) for her many decades of compelling mosaic works. Her organically-shaped materials, skillful craftsmanship, and al fresco subjects combine to create her signature mosaic style.

Ilana is an advocate for a spontaneous approach to mosaic making, which means working directly on a piece without sketches or preconception. The process often starts with the inspiration of one interesting stone or piece of broken pottery that she loves. Then, all evolves with moment-to moment assessments of what would make a “right” piece. In the artists own words: “The “right” piece is not a preconceived or pre-visualized aspect of the mosaic. Rather it is the result of a decision that is made at the spur of a moment during the creative process of searching.

In the spontaneous mosaic, the artist does not “translate” a painting into the medium of mosaic. Instead, he or she “thinks” in mosaics and uses the distinctive language of this unique medium to create fresh artistic expression. In this way the artist paints with stones and composes with the shapes and lines that are inherent in the found materials.

Ilana describes her own process as the following:

“I usually start with one interesting piece that attracts me and says something to me. This initial piece serves as a key element that will further dictate the development of the entire work”, says the artist.

“In order to allow the spontaneous process to take place, I set the mosaic pieces on boards and I move them around until I am pleased with the outcome. I do not glue the pieces to the board until I am completely sure that I have achieved a good result. This initial stage is done with no attention to details. The objective at this exploratory stage is to draw the vital lines that define the basic composition. Each piece that is laid out during this stage influences the development of the entire mosaic. Similarly, the removal of a single piece can critically affect the mosaic and throw it completely off- balance.”

“Only after the basic composition has been determined do I permanently fasten the key pieces onto the boards. All the succeeding pieces are details that evolve through an endless succession of artistic decisions, which I make later. I work simultaneously on different sections of the mosaic, leaving open ends for a later stage. This allows for fine- tuning and careful balancing of the composition.”

“My mosaics are a collage that contain many different materials: handmade ceramic pieces, ceramic tiles that I glaze and fire by myself, glass fragments and glass tesserae, natural stones of all kinds and shapes, cut stone tesserae, etc. Also, I use corals, seashells, and objets trouves. I derive incredible inspiration from “rejected” ceramic pieces that may have accidentally broken or cracked during the firing process or ones that may have colors that have “not turned out well”. This vast assortment of materials provides an endless array of aesthetic possibilities. The mosaics reflect light in a dynamic manner because they are made out of elements that are of various heights. The uneven surface of low and high relief creates a vibrant effect.”

ilana shafir

Ilana Shafir, approaching 88, still lectures and gives workshops. *

ilana shafir watercolor

Fans watercolor. Shafir credits her years of working in watercolor with providing her the confidence she required to develop her intuitive method of working in mosaic.

This video titled ‘Mosaics’ is the last in a series of eight short films about Ilana’s life and work.

The video series ‘Milestones‘ made by the artist’s son showcases 70 years of his mother’s works. Link to first segment of the series.

A video of Ilana in her studio:

A nice video featuring Ilana’s mosaics:

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Written by Keiren

Keiren is an artist who lives in New York City. A lover of animals, nature, science & green building. Keiren originally founded Inspiration Green in 2007, which merged with Insteading in 2016.

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