Studio Zenobia
The Elizabeth Collection
Biography of the Artist


Welcome to my web site!

My name is Donna Zenobia Saffir, and I have been an artist of one kind or another all my life. When I was a child I painted and drew every chance I got, convinced that I would some day be a great artist, a painter. As so often happens, life intervenes, new experiences come along and changes in direction occur. At thirteen, I fell madly in love with the theater and resolved to become a great actress. To that end, I majored in theater in college, did some acting in the years to come, taught drama in high school, and (don't ask me why) opened a bakery specializing in beautifully decorated wedding cakes. I also married, had two children, and, with my husband, and sometimes my children too, traveled the world. But, in the back of my mind was always the voice of the painter.

I turned 50, my children left home to start their adult lives, and the voice became louder until I could no longer ignore it. So I enrolled as an art student at a wonderful college near my home, and for the next five years I was like a kid in a candy store. Since I already had a masters in theater arts, I did not have to take any academic classes; just art and lots of it! I loved every minute!!

During that time, I revived another childhood obsession: seashells and shell collecting. The shells piled up and I began reading books on shells and books on decorating with shells and on the history of shells in art. Of course! Why didn't I think of that before? Shells in art. Shells in my art. At the same time, I read many books about Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603). I studied portraits of her done by artists of the day and was struck by her incredible apparel: the richly textured fabrics, the jewels (especially pearls), her bright red hair, and the painterly make-up she wore in later life. Combining the queen and the shells seemed like a very natural thing to do.

I do not consider myself a 'shell artist', but an artist who uses shells in her work. The pieces are time-consuming and take enormous patience to do, but I love doing them and will keep adding to the collection.

Even though I have not been to Egypt, Cleopatra is my next subject.