Made on the Gulfshore
Tucked away in the quiet outskirts of southeast Naples, and surrounded by lush tropical wilderness, artist Jo Ann Hawley’s house is more like an art gallery than simply a place to hang her smock at day’s end.
After selling their gallery and glassblowing studio in Austin, Texas, she and husband Jay von Koffler moved to Naples four years ago, leaving Hawley without a place to display her work. Her creations eventually found a home on her living room walls, windowsills and bathroom sink countertops.
"I call this one ‘Bootylicious,’" she says of one of her nude female sculptures, a cast glass piece intricately molded from clay and then fired in a kiln. It has curves that would make Michelangelo’s David blush.
Nudes, religious relics and botanicals have become Hawley’s signature pieces, each made in her two-acre back yard where she and her husband share studio space. She displays one of her first pieces on the windowsill in her office—it’s a poppy flower she molded out of a clay board before putting it in a plaster mold, adding glass and firing it in the kiln. Although she says her art has come a long way since, her favorite medium is still cast glass.
"Glass is such an alive and ever-changing medium," she says. "Some people see our process and don’t even know it’s glass."
Her husband was the spark that drew her toward the glass-blowing flame. "When you have a lot of artistic people together, you bounce ideas off of each other," she says. "It was an awakening when I started working with Jay in this studio."
In Texas, she says that work at the studio often turned into a party, sometimes drawing crowds of more than 100 people who would stop by to watch her, von Koffler and son Cheyenne, 16, blow glass.
"We’ve always encouraged everyone to stop by, bring a bottle of wine and watch us blow glass," she says. Spectators would often buy the pieces afterward because they felt like they were a part of the process, she adds. "Good art, good wine and good music, that’s all you need to bring people together."
And Hawley’s art has brought a wide variety of people together, with buyers including actress Sharon Stone and even a few nuns.
"I’ve had nuns buy [my] crosses," she says, adding, jokingly, that she doesn’t give discounts to her customers, regardless of their profession.
Actually, Hawley is known for her generosity. She and her husband often donate works to charity events, such as the nude piece Aurora they donated to the Arts for Abuse Counseling and Treatment Fine Art Auction held in Fort Myers in 2005.
"Once a year, they have a huge celebrity who attends," Hawley says. "It was funny because about a week [after the event], we got a donation form that said ‘Sharon Stone … buyer.’"
Hawley’s do-gooder reputation doesn’t end with art-auction donations; she formerly worked with autistic children in Texas who would stop by to watch her and her husband blow glass.
"It’s a great outlet for these kids," she says. "They would just watch us, wide-eyed. It was a real eye-opener because you could see that there was really something there. Their parents would cry because they were so happy."
And no matter the outcome of the final product, she stresses that there are no mistakes when it comes to art.
"There was a cross I made for a friend that, when I put it into the kiln, had a crack in the middle," she says. "When I broke away the plaster pieces, it had a mark [on the cross] that looked just like a nail. It was almost like divine intervention." The price for her crosses, some of which are displayed in galleries in Texas and New Mexico, range from $400 to $2,000, depending on the size.
Her Christian background is just one of her many inspirations, as well as her travels to places such as South America, where she lived for three years.
"I’m very interested in the Peruvian culture," Hawley says. "A lot of my inspiration for the botanicals comes from visiting the Amazon."
Having traveled around the world, Hawley is happy to have found a more permanent place in Naples, but she’s far from settled down. She hopes to open a second glass blowing studio and an art gallery near downtown Naples to display her and her husband’s work, leaving more room in their own household for some of their newest creations.
For custom pricing or private viewing of Jo Ann Hawley’s work, call (239) 353-3046 or visit