Stepping into Maya-Xel in Tulum is to be transported to a nautical wonderland.
The brainchild of artist Kevin Haley, Maya-Xel is a multipurpose art and lighting décor store, marine museum and coffee shop. For the past 20 years, Haley has married his passions for art and marine conservation by crafting sustainable, ocean-inspired art from hand-picked seashells to create truly one-of-a-kind pieces that can be discovered both in person and online.
We caught up with Kevin to learn more about his craft, how math and nature combine into art, safeguarding our oceans, and how to take your home décor to the next level with a custom work of art.
Please tell us a little bit about you and your work—
My name is Kevin Haley and I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois. I’m currently 55 years old and for the last 20 years I’ve been creating works of art in what I call the “Natural Realist” style, meaning that I try to recreate things or places I have discovered in nature. I also create works based on the Fibonacci sequence, which is based throughout mother nature and ourselves. Since I’ve been creating my works, I’ve been heavily influenced by our oceans and thus most of my style is marine in nature.
What type of artwork do you specialize in?
I quite by accident discovered that seashells were translucent and at the same time that I have an interesting ability to form absolutely perfect circles and spirals by hand in very thick copper wire in a matter of seconds. Might have something to do with my backgrounds in mathematics and engineering but really has everything to do with what seems a spacial recognition that is off the charts. I’ve thus combined my abilities of metallurgy and seashells and have produced what most people believe are truly beautiful works of art.
I’m creating the most beautiful sea theme art gallery and sea life museum in Tulum I can dream up. Everything you see here was created by my own two hands, from top to bottom. Everything from the expanding foam ceiling reef to the hanging gardens, waterfall fountains and more than a 100 shell lamps.
This piece (above) is titled “Audrey” after the man eating plant from the Little Shop of Horrors movie. The base is carved from golden travertine stone, incorporated with copper tubing and large spiny oysters (Spondylus Regius).
If you had to choose, what is one of your most favorite pieces that you’ve created and the story behind it?
I’ve been living in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Mexico for decades, perfecting my art forms. I’ve created about a hundred large installations of my artworks in people homes and commercial businesses around the Mayan Riviera over the last two decades. Here are some of my favorite works:
I’m also branching out (no pun intended) into something new at this point. About 7 years ago I created my first steel wire bonsais, including having transformed into this style now mounted on minerals:
Always wanting to create something bigger and better, in 2017 I started my largest and most complex creation ever. I’m still working on it, but this is what I’ve created at this point:
How can people get in touch for commissions?
I can create and ship internationally my hanging lamp artworks of anywhere from 2 to 50 piece groupings. Also available are multiple piece seashell wall sconce creations. In reality just about anything that can be imagined using large illuminated seashells is in my abilities to create.
Also if anyone is interested in commissioning entire ceiling-scapes I would be open to discussions. On top of this I’m open to setting up workshops to teach other artists how to create these amazing creations. I myself have developed several unique styles of bring wonders to life and would love to pass the information on to others so that it all continues!
Please feel free to add anything else!
My place also houses my personal collection of seashells and creatures that I’ve collected over the last 20 years. I’ve always wanted to teach people about the wonders of the Caribbean Sea and about the problems that our reefs and beaches are facing every day that are literally destroying entire ecosystems in our lifetime. Problems such as global warming, invasive species, plastic pollution, use of coral harming sunblocks and sunscreens, and overfishing and what we can do on a daily basis in our daily lives to combat these problems.
I myself can clean plastics off the beaches and plant baby coral on the reefs but my main goal is to influence 10,000 people to do the same through the reef cavern and undersea world that I have created.
I would like to have other conservation efforts to get in contact with me to see if we can work together for a larger cause.
Photos courtesy Kevin Haley