Stained-Glass Artist and Chef Wayne Hawrys

by Barney Quick
photo by Chris Gustin

Stained-glass artist Wayne Hawrys is one of those Brown County figures the surface of whom, if “scratched,” reveals far more than what his business card says. He’s also one of the area’s most renowned chefs, a former steelworker, and an avid collector of records—as in LPs and 45s. Oh, and in the mid-1970s, he went on the road as a tech with the rock band The Tubes.

His work is on display at the Quintessence Gallery, part of the glassblowing Lawrence family’s operation on Van Buren Street in Nashville. Hawrys highly values his long-standing relationship with Dick Lawrence and his sons James and John. “They’re good about letting me talk to customers, which I consider important,” he says.

He also shows at some other Nashville shops. His suncatchers are on display at his wife Cindy’s artistic rubber stamping and scrapbooking store, Papertrix. He’s never seen the need to participate in art shows, noting that “Brown County gives me the best exposure I could ask for.”

His client list is impressive, including homeowners and business people from Martha’s Vineyard to Mexico City. He’s currently working on a cityscape of the Indianapolis skyline for a Cummins, Inc. executive.

That project has posed an interesting challenge for Hawrys. “I was struggling with the little lady on top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument,” he explains. “With all the robes, it got too ‘busy’ to do with lead lines, so I’m going to sandblast her figure onto the back of the bevel and then incorporate that into the straight lines of the skyscraper pieces, giving her a sleek look. Now that I’ve figured it out, I can’t wait to get it done.”

Hawrys has another occupation that keeps him at least as busy as his stained-glass work. He’s Executive Chef at Salt Creek Golf Club. “The restaurant satisfies the social side of my personality, and the stained glass meets my need for solitude,” he says. “I recently did my twentieth Easter buffet. Some families have come every year. I’ve seen some kids grow up and go away to college.”

His sociability has led to some career enhancement. Bernard Clayton, a former San Francisco Chronicle foreign correspondent who moved to Bloomington and became a cookbook author, is one of the Salt Creek dining room’s regular guests. He included Hawrys’s recipe for Harvest Pumpkin Soup in the Complete Book of Soups and Stews.

Hawrys is a native of Gary, Indiana. His passion for food began with exposure to the cuisines of all the ethnic groups in his neighborhood.

He majored in business administration at Indiana University in Bloomington. “I took photojournalism,” he say. “That was about as artsy as I got.”

During that period of his life, he also took advantage of an opportunity to go on the road with The Tubes, one of the era’s flamboyant rock bands. “There were some adventures on that bus, you can be sure,” he says.

It was after moving to Brown County that he became both a stained-glass artist and a chef. A local couple, Roger and Jenny Meshberger, had an antique-stripping business, which Hawrys purchased. That led to his acquaintance with a supplier of stained-glass windows salvaged from inner-city buildings slated for demolition. “Before this guy started saving these great pieces, I can’t imagine what was lost,” he says.

Because of the way he was introduced to this art form, he has developed a style that emphasizes symmetry and bevel work. “Someone told me that my windows aren’t churchy, but that they are strong-looking, imparting a sense of security and well-being.”

He has a studio called Brilliance adjacent to his home. “It’s also where my record collection is stored,” he says, referring to a hobby that sends him perusing the offerings at garage sales and flea markets for vintage vinyl. (His particular passion is British Invasion music.)

How does he balance his dual careers, his hobby, and his home life? “I’m a big believer in naps,” he says. “They don’t have to be long, just enough to refresh yourself.” He also notes, in another example of the duality that characterizes his life, that he’s ambidextrous. “I think that has something to do with my ability to be both creative and administrative.”

Hawrys can be reached at (812) 988-0191.