Abigail Klein Leichman
December 10, 2009, Updated September 12, 2012

As down to earth as the natural materials she favors, world-renowned Israeli lighting designer Ayala Serfaty’s creations are a merger of art, design, function and spirituality.



A fascination with light: Morning glory by Israeli designer Ayala Serfaty.

Ayala Serfaty could hardly contain her excitement recently when she brought home the perfect kitchen fixture for her family’s Tel Aviv loft. Oddly enough, it wasn’t one of her Aqua Creations, but something she found in a store.

“I want to keep a balance,” the award-winning lighting designer tells ISRAEL21c. “I don’t want all the light fixtures in my house to be mine.”

Serfaty’s contemporary furniture and fixtures fill museum galleries and adorn public spaces in Atlantic City, Bucharest, Cancun, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, London, Manhattan, Moscow, Santo Domingo, Tokyo and Valencia. A luxury hotel in Milan is devoted to showcasing her fabrications. Yet she is as down to earth as the natural materials she favors.

Married for 25 years to her business partner, photographer Albi Serfaty, Ayala Serfaty executes works that have been described as the interaction of design and art, function and spirituality. She traces her inspirations to experiences ranging from childhood field trips with her biologist mother to the stirrings of life inside her own body.

At 16, she drew an oil painting of a rose and announced to her parents that she intended to be a painter. She took art classes throughout high school and her two years as an army secretary, and began studying fine arts at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem the very week she was discharged. She then earned her BFA at Middlesex Polytechnic in London on an America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarship.

Studio in a loft

In 1989, the Serfatys returned to Tel Aviv. That the birth of Yuli in 1992 coincided with the opening of the Aqua Creations studio – based for the first eight years in the loft where they still live – was not coincidental.

“Just after an exhibition of my paintings, I got pregnant with our first daughter and I became really interested in furniture and lighting,” Serfaty relates. “I was inspired by the baby inside me and everything I made was very sensual and all about fertility.”

Serfaty is enamored of translucent textiles. “I really love textures that are lit,” she says. “I see light as one of the materials that I work with. The light and the fabric are of the same importance.”

Silk, clay, mohair and wool are incorporated in her custom designs. Serfaty also crafts glass and polymer-skin light sculptures called Soma. Her newest love is a felt material made by textile artist Irit Dulman at Aqua Creations’ studio and factory – now an industrial space where 50 Israeli artisans are employed.

The studio could be based anywhere on the four different continents where Serfaty’s work is sought after. But she prefers to stay put.

Staying put, while the creations travel

“We are very patriotic,” she says. “We deliberately decided we are part of Israel… and we feel most at home here. We want to be patriotic also about producing everything here and making work for people here – people from many religions and from all the variety of people who live in Israel.”

Serfaty delegates the business-side responsibilities so that she can concentrate on designing and mothering. “I’m a proud Jewish mom,” she says. “I’m in love with my daughters and I’m happy I insisted on having them. I do love being in the studio, but I made a choice of doing both.” Yuli, now 17, inherited her father’s photographic eye and her mother’s painting talent. Oru, 13, is gifted in music and fashion. Eight-year-old Naya is a dancer.

Serfaty’s work has taken her to places like Holland, Tokyo and, most recently, Miami to oversee a museum installation. But she stays home as much as possible. “I don’t travel so much,” she says. “The pieces travel.” Her work Soma was exhibited at the Design Miami 2009, from December 2 to 5 and her Solo Light Installation is on display at Beelden Aan Zee Museum, The Netherlands through February 1, 2010.

Each piece – as detailed in her online catalog at aquagallery.com – starts out as a feeling. Serfaty has said that she wants her creations “to convey a link with our mortal existence, with our emotions and hopefully with our spirituality.”

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