Establishing a repertoire of styles, cuts, methods, tools and machines of his own, low-tech engineering, and old world design.
Robb Rich is a serious multi-conceptual artist, having a long history in his chosen medium, and one of extraordinary range.
That range is now full time to this website, it’s school and museum – and the product development for it’s students worldwide.
New York City born:
In the year of Our Lord
Nineteen Hundred and Forty Nine
The first time this kid picked up and navigated an engraving machine was in 1957 at the age of 7 when exploring his father’s workshop. A childhood experiment? “Go figure.”
Briefly retiring from academia at 16, his first real job entailed etching on steel woodworking knives. The opportunity for experimentation presented itself again, but not yet serious.
Working as an offset lithographer and graphic artist on the cusp of ’69-’70, there came a renewal of an old interest in custom aquariums as an art form. Glass etching became an augmentation to their grace and beauty, and experimenting became more intense then past efforts.
“The Wake of the Wind & Tidewater”
This was a period of great personal change when a move to Virginia Beach, Virginia lead to living in a home by the sea.
One day after a storm, a northeaster, many pieces of strange and wonderfully shaped driftwood made an appearance on the early morning sunlit shore. These were the impetus for etched glass top coffee tables of nautical splendor. Etched with undersea wildlife, treasure maps, sailboats, and ghost ships, top dressed with stemware and mugs to match the motif.
“A Crystal Embellishment of The American Motor Coach & Hollywood Calling”
Just about the time the driftwood was running out, custom vans were showing up everywhere. Once again etched glass came into play for the artist. Auto glass would be the dominant medium for several years to come, leading to the artist becoming an itinerant and the practitioner of an original calligraphy and scrimshaw style miniatures that would adorn some very beautiful automobiles from coast to coast to coast.
With stints in Pittsburgh and Denver, the artist continued west in the summer of ’77. Quietly slipping into Hollywood, slowly making a name employing his ancient craft, and working at Fellinis on Melrose in between gigs (“before the bar”).
One job in particular would garner praise and publicity for the artist and his handcraft come the following spring while savoring that sunny southern California way.
One day out of the blue a call came from Barris Kustom of North Hollywood. George Barris wanted some special glass etching after seeing samples of the artist’s mix-media methods.
These were to grace the windows of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s “gold” Sedenca, Rolls Royce to be featured in the upcoming ’78 Auto Expo and they had to be done in 2 days.
Having some serious vertical scratches on both rear door glass, it was time for some quick thinking by the young street artist. Simplicity ruling and following the body contour, he opted for sandblasting a 2″ border with an adjacent 1/4″ pinstripe inside until the scratches were gone.
This made the window viewing area considerably smaller yet created a feeling of intimacy throughout the entire automobile.
Then came the introduction of the butterfly, the rose, the hummingbird, and other discreet cuts to bring life to the effort. All was well with Zsa Zsa.
“Another Bite of the Apple & Itchy Feet Ride Again”
Hollywood was a very interesting and entertaining sojourn not lived long enough to suit the artist, but family obligations called him back east to take on the 80’s.
So diverse was this decade, both personally and professionally, that the artist running for his life stumbled and lost his youth. On the road, balancing a “where-the-work-is kind of schedule lasted a few more years in New York and New Jersey, spending more time in Virginia Beach and St. Louis.
Again, family matters and a desire to settle into a studio would beckon. In the autumn of ’82 Rich returned to his hometown in New Jersey; crafting his glass works in the New York metropolitan area.
On the crest of publicity received in the late 70’s and early 80’s, a credible reputation began to emerge on a higher scale.
It seems that itchy feet and the hit and miss condition formed by the artist’s quicksilver movement from one venue to another, was making a dynamic take shape in the status of his elusiveness.
Here (at the artists’ request) caution is taken when using the word “legendary”, but almost. This guy really got around, did excellent work, and had the respect of men who worked with their hands.
“Because He Could Be Found”
In an effort to stabilize on a momentum, Bobby Rich moved into a studio/craft shop format late winter of ’86.
Now, because he could be found, toasting glasses and mirrors were a constant through the years. Making this transition to studio artist would mean demands were more varied as were the accommodations employed for the eclectic tastes of his clientele.
The following are a few examples in the name of namedropping:
Barris Kustom; North Hollywood, California; George Barris;
Shirley Barris-Boat Back Excalibur;
Zsa Zsa Gabor-Sedenca-Rolls Royce.
Capezio-The Famous Capezio Clown
Hand Etch-One of a Kind Cut
Fellinis Restaurant; Hollywood, California
Hand Etch Stage Mirror “After the Bar”
N.F.L. Licensee & Product Development
Logo Series; New York Giants
Deep Carved Glass
Marvel Comics-Ghost Rider Motorcycle
Hand Etch Mirrors
Unveiled at Harley-Davidson Café
New York City
Trump Taj Mahal
Limited Edison Logo
Dom Pérignon (Champagne Gift)
Actress Brooke Shields
Rare Copper and Brass Cup
Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Eddie Brigati
This diversity would exist into and throughout the 90’s.
“The Loving Hands of an Artist”
Finding himself in the 90’s, the artist found himself in his 40’s and in a zone of getting lost in a high-tech shuffle by an imposing threat of computer generated engraving machines, and the many technological misunderstands following their advent into this medium. A ubiquitous advent at that, these gadgets are still everywhere.
All things in their place and proper perspective, this method is good for trophy shops with awards and the like.
But not for romance, not when you really mean it. Rob Rich was taking his time to study the landscape and hold true to the art. Once again his reputation for free form calligraphy and miniatures came to the fore, through human understanding.
A calligraphy crisp and romantic with starburst highlights, and the miniatures reminiscent of the little things you saw, and the feeling you got the first time you looked through the other end of a telescope. A 19th Century trick of the eye brought to you by the mind and the heart of a mystic artisan, soon seen when these tiny murals are held to the light.
In closing the decade, day by day the compass was pointing towards building a website accompanied by a nuts and bolts facility 7 years in construction and still counting.
With a commitment to craft by loving hands and ancient skills, the artist would take these ways to the new century, where the future is still old again.
“The Turn of the Century, The Leaf, & The Wheel”
The winds of change, a century turning, and the artist coming to 50 years of age found he could cast anchor in fresh perspectives.
Now a vessel of occurrence and some longevity himself, it was time for some slow thinking by the old artist. Yet work was at hand and it was full time to the toast.
Establishing a vanguard collection of misty lit flutes worthy of the honest search by those sworn to the quest and extending an invitation to a down-to-earth modestly sophisticated clientele who know and seek handcraft in all its primitive forms.
Speaking of primitive forms, this was the artist’s condition when stranded on the island of the technologically anachronistic and it was time to build a website. Nevertheless, retaining pre-eminence in his own genre it was at this juncture he would assemble a crew of indigenous on-line professionals to bring his art to the world.
BIOGRAPHY – Robert Joseph Rich :: Story and Text by Micky Nidgit – Mechanical Verse