Sam Halstead opened his first studio, Hamlet Studios, 1n 1998 in Auckland, New Zealand, and he and his team completed over 1500 commissions over the next 10 years. 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 Kindle on Amazon.com in an updated form.
He had struggled to find suitable tools and materials in his early days but was willing and eager to share his findings with others. His first 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 fellow glass artists. 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 in New Zealand, 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 has had a lifelong interest in photography and film-making. In 2006 he wrote, produced, and directed In Passing, a short narrative film about a young girl who seemed to be able to remember a past life. In 2014 Sam travelled to Germany to film contemporary glass installations and interview two of the three remaining glass artists of the influential German architectural glass movement. He also filmed interviews with glass historians and a number of American, Canadian, and New Zealand glass artists about the influence of the Germans. The resulting 90 minute documentary, Lighting the Way, is now freely available in high definition on Amazon Video and YouTube.
Sam is now semi-retired in California and works/plays intermittently on a variety of projects involving either photography, videography, screen printing, glass fusing, lino cutting, or pen and wash sketching.