Sam Halstead opened his first studio, Hamlet Studios, in Auckland, New Zealand, and he and his team completed over 1500 commissions. While many of those were domestic commissions, the commercial and religious projects were the most sought after, challenging, and satisfying. Like many glass artists around the world, Sam was intrigued and influenced by the modern architectural glass movement in post-war Germany and connected with, and learned from, Ludwig Schaffrath and Johannes Schreiter, the two leading artists of that era. Sam held many stained glass workshops and taught hundreds of students, some of whom turned professional. During this time he wrote The Stained Glass Handbook which was a best-seller. It sold out two editions, and is now available from Amazon.com in an updated form. The educational activity was important to him - he had struggled to find suitable tools and materials in his early days and was eager to share his findings with others. One large church commission required most of the glass to be painted and kiln-fired. Glass paint was not available in New Zealand at that time so Sam made his own by grinding up glass and mixing it with black oxide. Later he invited Roslyn Rees, an Australian artist, over to bring in some glass painting supplies and to teach trainees. Roslyn and Sam were the judges for New Zealand's first, and only, amateur stained glass competition. Sam was the first New Zealand glass artist to feature fired-on glass paints in exhibition panels and some of his independent works were widely exhibited throughout the country.
When substantial stained glass orders eventually became scarce, a number of glass artists moved overseas and most studios closed their doors. Sam managed a craft training organization for some time and, while there, created the first fulltime stained glass training school in New Zealand. Sam was hired by the Auckland University of Technology to manage inmate education programs in Auckland's medium and maximum security prisons. He introduced some innovative programs that turned a number of offenders around and he presented these initiatives at international conferences; also writing them up in the Correctional Education Journal. The widespread impact of these programs led to Sam being invited to work in inmate education in Orange County. He eventually moved on to lead the Instructional Design team at SoCalGas, where he worked mainly on instructional videos. Sam has a Masters Degree in Learning and Technology from Western Governors' University.
Throughout these years, Sam's passion for architectural glass never waned. In 2014 he travelled to Germany to film major glass installations and interview two of the three remaining glass artists of the influential German architectural glass movement. He has also filmed interviews with a number of American, Canadian, and New Zealand glass artists about the influence of the Germans. Sam is currently involved in post-production of his documentary Lighting the Way which will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2017.
Sam is now working fulltime in stained glass and documentary-making and able to accept contemporary architectural stained glass commissions of any size - in domestic, commercial, or religious settings.