Designer and artist Robert Foster can’t be described in just one word.

His sister Janine Clifton called her Canberra-based brother “impish, talented and extremely clever”.

Robert Foster died in a head-on crash on the Kings Highway in Kowen, east of Queanbeyan in the Australian Capital Territory, on Wednesday morning.

Well known for his iconic Fink water jug design, Robert had work in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and major Australian institutions including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art.

“He was prolific but he was modest,” Janine said.

“You wouldn’t find out he got an award until he said, ‘by the way, I got this last week’. For Robbie it wasn’t about all of that, it was just what he wanted to do.”

Robert attended Bendigo Senior Secondary School until 1980 when he discovered his interest in art and studied at the Australian National University’s school of art.

“Dad was a well-known local an art teacher but (Robert) rebelled against art a little bit and wanted to do biology and sciences to start with,” Janine said.

“He discovered as he was in his leaving year at high school that he was interested in art and was pretty good at it. It went from there.”

Robert worked with metal and was an excellent silversmith. He was a finalist in the Bendigo Art Gallery’s Contemporary Australian Silver & Metalwork Award in 2013.

Janine said despite living in the ACT, Robert still had strong roots in Bendigo.

“He still has close family in Bendigo. He used to regularly come back,” she said.

“We are extremely proud of his achievements and the sort of person he was.”

Former Bendigo Art Gallery director and now National Gallery of Victoria director Tony Ellwood said Robert’s passing was very sad new.

“Robert was one of our great design success stories and ambassadors,” he said.

“His products are collected and used all over Australia. Robert’s work has also been actively collected internationally, he really was a great success.”

The National Gallery of Australia said Mr Foster’s “craftsmanship, innovation and sense of aesthetics” made him one of Australia’s leading contemporary designers and makers.

It said his works were held by all of the major institutions in Australia, including the gallery, which has an extensive collection of his work.

“He was a great friend of the NGA and our thoughts are with his family and all those who were fortunate to know and love him.”

Chris Pedler – Bendigo Advertiser