Lakeway decorator turns glass into art

When interior decorator Jeffrey Hayes fuses together a glass ashtray, a punch bowl and a vase, he is left with a work of art.

Hayes' style of assemblage art stems from his love of glass and a mind-boggling collection of more than 10,000 pieces of glass from all over the world.

"I've always collected art, but I love bright, beautiful, interesting glass," Hayes said.

Several weeks ago, while looking at a glass bowl that had been sitting on his coffee table for years, he suddenly saw a finished piece of art.

"I instantly knew what to do, and two hours later, it was done," Hayes said of his glass art creations.

But he didn't stop there. He worked 18 hours a day for the next eight weeks until he had amassed more than 70 illuminated glass sculptures.

Lakeway neighbor Holly Warner happened to stop by and stood in the doorway speechless at the array of colorful glass artwork that had taken over Hayes' home.

"I have never seen anything like this in my life," said Warner, who is now Hayes' unofficial agent. "I've lived all over the world, so I've seen lots of pretty things, but this is just amazing."

She told Hayes, "We need to get this out for people to see because it will make a lot of people happy."

After making phone calls, she called Hayes back and said, "You better get busy."

Hayes' collection, which he named Il Vetro Illuminare, meaning "glowing glass," is being sold locally at Artworks Gallery, Artisan Bistro, Authenticity Gallery at the Hill Country Galleria and Outrageous Gallery at The Domain. More than 25 pieces are featured in a spa in Maui.

"I've never seen anything like them. They're totally unique. They're spectacular," said Tom Robinson, co-owner and buyer at Artworks Gallery in downtown Austin. "I don't know anyone else doing it. I think he's very creative and has a bright future."

The pieces, ranging from $175 to $1,200, might each include 10 to 12 glass items.

"There's nothing out of bounds," Hayes said, referring to the different types of objects he will combine and fuse together. "It could be a shot glass, vintage marble, Murano vase or a Waterford candle holder. It's all about the balance and the fit."

Hayes also creates custom art pieces on commission using clients' heirlooms.

"I've always been a huge, huge proponent of repurposing," Hayes said. "I have the strongest instinct to take family pieces that have been sequestered for years—amazing pieces we're obligated to keep but don't necessarily enjoy. I want to take those pieces and repurpose them."

Hayes, who has no formal art training and says he rarely goes to art galleries, first began creating illuminated glass sculptures in Minneapolis in the late 1990s. His designs won several awards; however, he didn't pursue art as a career. Instead he moved to Kauai, Hawaii, where he managed a multimillion-dollar furniture store.

Business travels eventually brought him to Austin. In 2006, he moved to Lakeway and re-established his interior design company of 26 years, Habitat Hanalei Interiors.

"I'm a lucky, lucky person to be able to do what I have a passion for doing," Hayes said.

Il Vetro Illuminare, 636-3096,