I've been taking a bit more interest in New Zealand architectural glass lately, for several reasons. One of these was the need to include architectural glass in the note I wrote for the forthcoming book on NZ glass being published by the NZ Society of Artists in Glass. That led me to try to make contact with Robert Middlestead, which I was able to thanks to the wonders of Google. As a real bonus, however, Robert was in New Zealand recently, finally tidying up and disposing of his workshop studio, which he had retained even though it is a long time since he lived and worked here. So I was able to meet him and talk about his work.
Robert was born in Canada in 1947. On his post college wanderings in 1974 he arrived in Auckland. In due course he met John Croucher and became involved in the Sunbeam Cooperative of glassworkers. He had had a minimal amount of exposure to glass in California on his travels, but like many other early Sunbeams he was substantially self taught.
After working at Sunbeam in Jervois Rd, Robert bought a disused factory in Garnet Road, Grey Lynn (left). Robert exhibited widely, with works in Art in Architecture 1982, Pacific Glass '83, and the Philips Glass Award exhibitions in 1984 and 1985. He was one of a number of New Zealanders who exhibited in Japan in Glass '84 in Japan, and also in New Zealand and Australian Glass in Germany. Since the late 1990s he has lived and worked in Portland Oregon, though 'home' at present is frequently his beloved yacht.
The piece shown above entitled Crossroads was his entry into the Japanese exhibition in 1984 - he had retained in amongst his belongings in Auckland.