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Patterns in Stoneware Penguins and Trees

In my last post I began a discussion about how one identifies the author of a piece, pointing out the importance of the signature but that the signature can also be misleading. The true signature is in the hand of the artist which is as unique as handwriting. This One of a Kind Vintage Emperor Penguin was created when the decoration for the production design was under development. The overall uniformity of the pattern is one of the keys to identifying that the penguin is decorated by Weston and not by Brenda.


Weston’s hand is patient, disciplined and rhythmic. The pattern is systematic but not mechanically uniform. Weston takes a philosopher’s approach to pattern. The components of the pattern are integral to an inseparable expression of wholeness. The state of mind is at one with the beingness of existence. Weston patientently executes the teardrops in an organically flowing rhythm on the backside of the Emperor Penguin. A similar approach to pattern is shown in the vase, by Weston, to the left. The parts are irregular dabs in an organically organized formation which produces an overall effect which appears deceptively as regularity, like life

Brenda’s approach to pattern is as a narrative, While Weston’s approach might be compared to that of the drummer, Brenda is the dancer who lays a linear story line over the background of the beat, one might say, a beatnik pattern maker, as the artists culture was called in her day.

Brenda is likely the creator of the tree pattern. Trees all tell a story of life, responsive to the rain, wind, sun, moon and stars, causing their branches to reach out in a way unique to each individual tree. The philosopher focuses on beingness while the narrator tells the events of an individual journey through time

My own childhood artwork can be identified by the wreaths I placed around the  characters. This is how I envisioned the world in my first philosophical conceptualization, as I sat, at the age of five, in the midst of an unmowed grassy field, most likely the first summer that we lived in Maine. I thought about myself as a circle, and my family as a larger circle, and the other people in the world as an even a larger circle.The whole world was the largest circle but it could blow itself up. That didn’t make sense and ruined the whole concept. I had going in my head.

If the figure in the center looks dismayed, that is why. That’s my generation, the first generation born into a world which could blow itself up. We had to practice hiding under our desks but we knew it was much worse than that. Other generations have since been born into the same world but the way of dealing with it changed and children in sub primary class no longer have to practice hiding under desks preparing for an atomic bomb attack. Now they have to prepare for other kinds of attacks coming from their most immediate circle,

My narration went off pattern, when I leaped from the immediate to the far, The atom, or that non-thing that we call atoms, takes a quantum leap when it goes from one orbit to the next. It doesn’t happen in conventionalized time and space. Within the nucleus within the nucleus within the nucleus, there is only consciousness.

That takes us deep into the process of creation, the essence of what makes us human. The process of creating a pattern is a process of consciousness, Creating a pattern is a state of being like chopping wood and carrying water and dancing around the room to the beat because there is no one to stop you from doing so in your own studio, and why small studios are in the Andersen Design master plan.

The eyes of the Emperor Penguin repeat the tear drops in stark black and white. Gray claws grip the base like a pronouncement of creaturehood. The sculpture has the mildly rough surface of a freshly sculpted piece cast in its first mold and the beat goes on.

Can Ceramic Production As An Art Form Have A Second Chapter In America Today?

Rare Standing Robin, circa 1980’s.

PART ONE in a series in which I  place Andersen Design’s vision of economic development in the economic development environment in Maine


I was raised in a home business, similar to a farm, but instead of producing crops, we produced ceramics. From the beginning, Andersen Design, was  conceived of as part of an economic development philosophy. My father Weston Neil Andersen, often expressed the value of creating jobs. In this 1964 letter, by my father as he sought capital for the next phase of development, He talks about increasing the number of employees of our small company and about the benefit that the ceramic industry can have for Maine’s feldspar industry. Our company was small but this is the stuff that real economic development is composed of, creating new avenues of wealth and connecting resources, not merely redistributing existing supplies of wealth.

We created a product line of classic ceramic design which has never gone out of style and a brand identity which can be used to market any product consistent with our style and values. These are intellectual property assets, and in my view,  an economic development resource, which can be used to revitalize a ceramics industry in the USA. Since our company has never had shareholders, we were not obligated to maximize our profit by relocating our production to low costs global labor markets, which is where most western ceramics companies produce today. I envision expanding our production through a network of independently owned slip cast productions with whom we would work on an independent contractor basis. My original inspiration was that people in the designer craftsmen community favor small teams and intimate spaces over working in a large corporate environment. When I was recently. briefly, considered the possibilities of a benefit corporation, It occurred to me that it was our absence of shareholders that made it possible to persevere as an American made ceramic product and that the network I had envisioned would enable expansion without changing that advantage.

The problem we have been dealing with for many years is a shortage of capital needed to adapt to the changing marketplace which the entire retail industry is confronting. I have been through many doors and found that we do not fit the current economic development paradigm and vice versa and so I have been telling the story, here in, about how Maine got to where it is today and developing ideas on how that can be reversed to create an economy which includes the greatest number of people and encourages diversity.This blog post is mainly about that, but I begin with my own perspective so it can be incorporated into the larger context. My idea is not a new one. There have always been regions where ceramics were made. The tradition survives in the Umbria region of Italy. England is also reviving its ceramic industry after the exodus of many companies in recent decades. Ceramics is a very engaging profession. I do not understand why the economic development community of Maine is so cold toward it, other than the mentality and culture which has developed in Maine since the government took over managing the economy, the story I have been relating here in.

The founders of Maine’s public-private government understood the wealth creating function of economic development when they declared that it is appropriate to use the profit motive to generate capital in the Maine economy.

A New Form of Entitlements

The Governor’s Task Force report recommended that two complimentary corporations be chartered by the Legislature, The Maine Capital Corporation and the MaineDevelopment Foundation.

The Maine Development Corporation is the Maine board of all boards and still existent today. It is reasonable to argue that The Maine Development Foundation was put into place to facilitate a replacement for that form of decision making that the newly formed public-private government sought to eliminate. In the words of the second objective stated in the  Governor’s Task Force for Economic Redevelopment-1976:

2: eliminate the requirement for a local referendum on municipal bond issues.          

The Maine Capital Corporation has since been repealed except for section §5202-A:

1977 §5202-A. Small business investment companies exempt Corporate small business investment companies, licensed under the United States Small Business Investment Act of 1958, as amended, and commercially domiciled in Maine and doing business primarily in Maine, shall be exempt from taxation under this Part. [1977, c. 640, §2 (NEW).] As currently found in Maine statutes   

For public relations purposes, It makes practical sense to separate the act that makes investment companies exempt from taxation from acts that grant investors refundable tax credits. Refundable tax credits mean that if no taxes are owed, the tax payers owe the holder a cash payment. 

The statute chartering the Maine Capital Corporation  included the following rationalization for the new system of government:

The Legislature finds that one of the limiting factors on the beneficial economic development of the State is the limited availability of capital for the long-term needs of Maine businesses and entrepreneurs. In particular, the lack of equity capital to finance new business ventures and the expansion or recapitalization of existing businesses is critical. This lack of equity capital may prevent worthwhile businesses from being established; it may also force businesses to use debt capital where equity capital would be more appropriate. This creates debt service demands which a new or expanding venture may not be able to meet successfully, causing the venture to fail because of the lack of availability of the appropriate kind of capital.

This impediment to the development and expansion of viable Maine businesses affects all the people of Maine adversely and is one factor resulting in existing conditions of unemployment, underemployment, low per capital income and resource underutilization. By restraining economic development, it sustains burdensome pressures on State Government to provide services to those citizens who are unable to provide for themselvesTo help correct this situation, it is appropriate to use the profit motive of private investors to achieve additional economic development in the State. This can be accomplished by establishing an investment corporation to provide equity capital for Maine businesses and by establishing limited tax credits for investors in the corporation to encourage the formation and use of private capital for the critical public purpose of maintaining and strengthening the state’s economy. (emphasis mine)

A new government function, that of the state centrally managing the economy, was then deemed into existence, justified by this line of reasoning:
  1. Because businesses do not have access to capital, they do not grow, or they grow at a slower rate.
  2. Because businesses growth is slow, there is unemployment, under employment, low incomes and resource underutilization creating pressure on the state to provide for the needy.
  3. Therefore it is appropriate to appropriate money from the taxpayers to refund investors for investing their capital in the state, which is to say, to take capital out of the whole economy to give to investor class.

Under Longley, the government compartmentalized society into two classes. one class which is hampered from growing because of capital shortages, and another class of citizens who are unable to provide for themselves, apparently not due to a lack of  resources but because of something lacking within themselves.

What was the source of public money refunded to private investors? It was taken from the middle because the bottom is “unable to provide for themselves” and the top, only, is hampered by capital shortages. Some of the refund might also be paid by the top income earners, but one has to ask to what advantage that would be to the top, when, by investing in the Maine Capital Corporation, there is guaranteed a “limited tax credit” which was a refund, by Maine taxpayers, of  50% of the investors investment, without the investor having to part with a share of the profits? To be fair, in truth, no class is composed of multiple individuals all sharing one homogeneous identity and so there are probably top earners who also paid the taxes to finance the states new redistribution of wealth system for the top.

The Maine Legislature justified the appropriation of public funds by deeming that it was appropriate to use the “profit motive” to create capital for Maine businesses, and so a new government function was created, that of creating capital for special interests. It was an act prohibited by the Maine Constitution in Article IV Part Third Section 14, which  prohibits the Legislature from chartering corporations by special acts of legislation. No one in the public, private, or media sectors took issue. It was declared, by the Maine Legislature, that “centrally managing the economy is an essential government function” and the Maine Capital Corporation was chartered. Federal law requires a public corporation to prioritize the profits in the shareholder’s interest. In compliance, the Maine Legislature wrote a sweet deal to attract shareholders to the new investment corporation, creating a burden on the middle class to pay for it.

Flash forward to 2018. How has economic development policy evolved?  I have written in this blog much about the economic development policies written to benefit the top of the economy, but what about economic development programs for the bottom half of the economy?

In example, here is the mission statement from Midcoast Maine Community Action, a non-profit organization:

 Midcoast Maine Community Action is a community action organization advocating on behalf of low-income and other at-risk individuals, assisting them to identify and address their needs, enabling them to achieve self sufficiency and independence.  MMCA actively promotes economic and community development of the businesses and communities in the mid-coast area where individuals and families reside. (emphasis mine)

That latter sentence, which I have emphasized, is either an intentionally false statement, or the people who work in such organizations believe economic development is distributing living subsidies to as many people as possible. (see website). If that were the case, why did we ever need the state to take over central management of the economy? There already existed people dependent on the state for subsistence. If economic development were public assistance programs, we were doing great back in the seventies, though not quite as great as today, when an even greater number of Mainers depend on food stamps, heat assistance, section eight housing and so forth, than ever before.

In the rhetoric of the Longley Doctrine, people dependent on the state for subsistence were portrayed as the problem, not the solution. Today we have evolved to the point where  living on government assistance is conflated with economic development- true at both the bottom and top of the economy but in the class structure, the conflation takes on extreme status differentiations. One sector is glorified with such phrases as “the creative class” and “quality jobs” while the other sector, denigrated, led by Governor Lepage, portraying people on public assistance as losers who spend all their time and money in state owned vice industries, though of course LePage does not mention the the profit the state makes in the vice industries.

Since the 1970’s the state has furthered a cultural and economic class society, composed of the “quality” classes , and by default, “the unquality classes”, each having their own state designated sets of rules. Since the state concentrates and redistributes the wealth in Maine, it becomes difficult for any organization or individual not to serve as an extension of the state. The control of the flow of capital in culture is akin to controlling the flow of water in nature.

What is missing from the economic development programs offered by MMCA, are any programs that assist business to develop jobs and opportunities for the middle and bottom sectors of the economy. This is where our business would be a great resource but there is no support offered for businesses that I have found. Being that the mission statement says it exists to help business and for economic development purposes, I called and asked to speak to the head of economic development but the woman answering the phone had never heard of the term. With the institution of the Longley Doctrine, was born the idea that the state should only further those jobs paying higher than average wages, based on a delusion that an upper end of the economy can be created artificially and not damage the whole cultural and economic fabric of society, as if by taking money from the middle and giving to the top, the same money will trickle back down to the middle.

The alleged public benefit that the Maine Capital Corporation delivered were jobs for a relatively small percentage of the Maine people and the supposed  trickle down effect which, in theory, benefits the whole economy. Statistics show that since the mid seventies, when refundable tax credits, aka wealth redistribution, came into use across the USA.  inflation grew like a steep wall dividing the haves from the have nots. The justification for the redistribution of wealth by government is that there exists one class of people who is inherently deserving of the opportunities which access to capital enables and another class of people who cannot provide for themselves, implying an absence of skills and intelligence, and therefore a class to which living rations are distributed, Even within the “quality jobs sector”  the state negotiates rations for the workers, as if social justice is the equivalency of economic development:

Observe in this testimony by Mr Douglas Ray, legislative liaison for the DECD, as a wage increase is negotiated for the quality jobs sector.  Note that the negotiations are not just for a raise but for a raise for a state approved expenditure, premised in the principals of social justice arranged by the state, as a third party, without access to information about the wealth creation exchange existing in the relation between employee and employer.

In this testimony given in the congressional session for  §3304.Industry partnerships,  Mr. Ray describes his vision for the expansion of the role of government in a centrally managed economy, led by the private sector, in other words, led by those who have access to the real exchange between employee and employer, which is where the return on investment is measurable. Qualified employees are ones who have earned a bonus by the measure of the wealth creation exchange existent in the employee-employer relationship to which the state does not have access. In short the real contribution given to the employer results in an increase in funds which affords the employer the means to give the employee a raise or bonus.

DECD also supports the Industry Partnership model and recommends that the partnerships be led by the private sector, the job creators in our economy.             ……… The creation of the Skills Academy could fit very nicely with DECD’s initiative to address the immediate hiring needs of Maine businesses, which Commissioner Gervais touched on when he met with the Committee a while back. We are looking to help match skilled workers with companies seeking similarly skilled employees. These companies, should they decide to participate, would then pay qualified new employees in this program a bonus towards their educational or housing debt. While this document is again a good starting point we must not fall into the trap of re-funding the same programs that cannot demonstrate a measurable return on investment. DECD is a willing partner in your efforts and we look forward to working with you every step of the way. The question we encourage you to ask when considering each policy decision and part of this document is: Are the results measurable, and, will this make Maine a more competitive state? (emphasis addedTestimony by legislative liaison for the DECD, Douglas Ray

A policy which determines the rate at which an employee should be paid in terms of what the employee should be able to afford, as opposed to basing the rate of pay on the value of the service provided to the employer, is consistent with a system of rationing.

Rationing is not economic development. The term economic development implies that something actually develops as in those quaint old times in America when people used to “pull themselves up by their boot straps” or “earn a living”. If you ever watch the Mad Men series,there is one episode when the lead character expresses excitement about building something. That is the essence of economic development.

Sleeping Sandpiper by Elise Isabel Andersen circa 2016

The Early Correspondences of Weston Neil Andersen

  • Thank You for supporting the Andersen Design Museum of American Designer Craftsmen with a donation

    1956 Statement by Weston Neil Andersen

    From the fall of' 1948 to the summer of 1952 I was a member of the staff of the Akron Art Institute as Supervisor of Education of the Art School. This project to be quite an undertaking and exciting too. In the school we had a well-equipped. ceramic laboratory and. I soon found myself fascinated with the material. In several years I decided I preferred" pottery making to teaching.

    1956 Statement explaining why Weston Neil Andersen, left an “exciting” career as Dean of the Akron Art Institute to start a ceramic art and design slip-cast production on the Coast of Maine.


    Weston Andersen 1964 letter Seeking Capital to grow business

    First page describes leaving the Akron Art Institute and embarking on a sales trip on the East Coast as the Andersen’s look for a suitable location for their ceramic slip casting endeavor

    The Andersen’s develop their line, expand their facility and deal with that “old bugaboo: insufficient capital” Weston discusses advantage of slip-casting for Maine Feldspar market.

    Page Three tells of the addition of the wild life sculpture line as a commercial success, the reorganizing of the production facility, during which time production was slowed. The subsequent addition of a larger staff


    Page four discusses working with an agent, entering the New York and Boston Gift show, and figures on sales .

    The 15000.00 dollars in capital that Weston was targeting in 1964 would be 119,819,05 today: https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

    1964 Letter Requesting Samples From Industrial Design Magazine

    A 1964 letter from Industrial Design magazine requesting samples of the Andersen’s work

    To date, I do not know if my father ever found the capital he was seeking. Hopefully we will find more records to piece together the story.

Honoring The Father

Day is June 16 This email is devoted  to honoring our father, Weston
Neil Andersen,  the founder of Andersen Studio and Andersen Design, 91
years old.

A youthful Weston Neil Andersen

Last night I sat with Dad alone on our front porch overlooking the pond
and he spoke of  concerns for his family and the future of the
business. Dad is a man who cares profoundly about others, both in the
sense of family, which is the deepest concern of all, and the terms of
community, as in an extension of family.  

I often throw tarot cards. The card most often representing Dad is the
Hermit Card , showing an old man on a mountain holding up a lantern.
Weston has wisdom, of the sort that one wonders  who will carry it on
after he is  gone. Today old values are slipping away like the Mists Of Avalon– 
a book I read many years ago about the transformation of culture as it
evolved from paganism to organized religion. These times are as
transformational and
Dad is now an icon of the past.

The Hermit card shows a man standing alone and independent on a
mountain with a lantern of shining light. Dad created an unusual
independence in the art business that he founded. It is a complex
business that in-sources just about everything from design to production
to marketing. As such the only outside authorities passing judgement on
the value of the work are our collectors and the market, and so we were
raised amid an  independence of art world institutional authorities but
with affirmation coming from our parents and the community with which
we interacted through the process of operating a business. Our
collectors identified the work produced by our studio as art in the many
correspondences that we received. Weston has long been recognized for
the work he achieved in ceramics and business but now wonders if what he
built will survive after he is gone. This is perpetually on his mind.
It is a business that came to birth through years of struggle and
devotion, which is unusual to come across today.

Weston Neil Andersen , der of Andersen Studioa nd Andersen Design Ceramics in the 1960'sDad
has always read a great deal. Before Dad had macular degeneration, we
shared an interest in quantum theory philosophers. One book that we both
found inspirational as as well as informational is The Non-Local Universe,
by Menas Kafatos and Robert Nadeau. The theme of the book is that of
wholeness existing in all parts and parts exisying in the whole,
illustrated by using the hologram as a metaphor.

Dad continued to listen to books on tapes after he could no longer read
but a few years ago he fell down on the pavement and suffered a  brain
injury. Then he stopped reading but he thinks all the time, sometimes
about his life and at other times about the future. Once he slept for
two days and when he woke up he told us that he had gotten a lot of work

When Dad was in the first
stages of recovering from the brain injury, he was talking repeatedly
about “systems management”. That’s when I connected with the central
strength of his character. Many recognize our father for his talented
work in ceramic design but behind that- which made it all possible , is
my father’s incredible understanding of systems management-  an
understanding that involves the way that the whole is in the parts and
the parts are in the whole. As my father was recovering from the brain
injury, he was applying the same understanding to recovering his own

Floating Gull is the first Nature Art created by Andersen Studio, The
slightly stylized work has a whispering geometric appeal with out losing
its natural quality

After the brain injury, Dad’s essential character remained the same but
his psyche was rearranged in an interesting and unusual way. I can no
longer engage in a discussion of the molecular make up of ceramic glazes
with Dad, a capacity which uses the intellectual capacity of the mind,
but in place of that has emerged an intellect of feelings. Dad expresses
his feelings with a childlike purity merged with a mature understanding
of life. His thoughts are often expressed cryptically. Language is
constructed in creative and original patterns. Sentences are short or
even partial. Dad will talk about a person but not identify who they are
although I can often probe to find out more. He often answers with
merely a nod for yes or no, sometimes speaks in sign language and at
times refuses to speak at all while at another moment can become quite
loquacious with a flow of thoughts which are  perceptive and
economically delivered. Weston Neil Andersen at 90

while ago Dad went with us to meeting with our lawyer We met in a room
in the Damariscotta Library. Dad walked in and announced “We can do a
lot for this community”. That’s the way Dad thinks. Before the meeting
was over he had switched places with the lawyer at the head of the
table. He made an emphatic point to the lawyer that he had married his
wife, with whom Weston  still remains deeply connected. 

time when Dad came home from rehab the very first words Dad had to say
are “We need to work with people we do not know” He is right of course.
We need a  organization with people of many different sorts of skills.
As a starting point we are looking for a business consultant who
understands licensing.

I keep an on going blog about our business at Andersen Studio KickStarter Diaries. I hope some will enjoy following it with interest.

Tufteitmouse by Mackenzie Andersen in wax 

                 Another view of the Tufted Titmouse Sculpture waiting  mold making process to commence.

Terms of Agreement- A Reality Story

Dad was right about working on my sculpture from feeling only. The Tufted Titmouse is moving ahead faster than before as I find I have a clarity about what I want to achieve by working in this way. 
Dad seems fascinated by the sculpture as an object of study that he frequently caresses. He is doing amazingly well.

Meanwhile, I continue to work on getting the items of our line published online. Once they are up, they can be activated and deactivated at will.  Yesterday I published the Emperor Penguin.

Our KickStarter Project is stalled at 12% of our minimum
needed to retain any funding. We have however seen an increase in email
sales and sign-ups on our website.  I am already brewing some ideas
related to this effort but now is not the time to reveal them- however I may release them early to our email list for which one can sign up HERE

Whatever the results of the current fundraising project, it will remain published on KickStarter where the our vision of a Great American Ceramic Designer Craftsmen Network will receive exposure and I plan on continue to publish my Kickstarter Diaries Blog, on Google and on Kickstarter.

I am currently working on publishing the Seal Emerging from Water on our online store at www.andersenstudio.com

A while back  there was  a response to my vision from a young couple
located near us. She is pursuing her own business as a ceramic designer and he
is a painter and a professional brander. They gave us a presentation about
marketing  founded on the idea that we should market to the
“influencers”  and produce our work as a
limited edition line at a much higher price point.

The original contact was with the wife who contacted us in regards to slip casting, 
which she has pursued on her own but not with us. We cannot offer a high
wage to meet expectations based on the income made in an urban environment, and so I attributed that as the reason why no real working relationship came about through that connection. After the
presentation was made, there was no offer and we were left wondering what was
the purpose.

Since then, I have intermittently engaged an email dialogue with the husband,
a professional brander. He consistently tells me that everything I have done is wrong, and so,
I did not contact him before launching my Kickstarter project but waited until
there were 12 days to go and then I said to him “If you can make this KickStarter
project fly- then I will be impressed- and if you want to brand us then brand
us for the unique business that we actually are”.

He told me that the project was failing because everything I
did was wrong and so I thanked him for responding and told him that he had
answered my question.

And the email dialogue continued on .

Eventually, he said that we should be
offering a wage, suggested a not unreasonable wage and shared ownership of our company – with
OWNERSHIP- all in capital letters.

And I said that the idea of the Great American Ceramic Designer CraftsmenNetwork is that it will be a network of independently owned studio’s sharing
resources somewhat on the model of a franchise- which is different that sharing
ownership. One does not enter lightly into
shared ownership- does he see the difference?

I have to say that if there were an offer of a sizable investment on the table such a demand might seem reasonable, but other wise the demand just fails to acknowledge the trade off in terms between owning one’s own business, especially a micro economy business, where in all of the employees must be paid before the business owner. The employee enjoys the security of a guaranteed pay check, which the business owner does not. I had just told my friend that it took years before my parents started making real money- after I had left home. It’s hard to imagine anyone in this day and age going through such a long struggle.

So my friend is telling me that the employees should have both a guaranteed pay check and ownership of the business , sounding very socialist to my ears. What happens when the employee business owners are told that they have to sacrifice their paycheck to keep the business afloat ? What happens if they leave the business ? What if they aren’t even worth their paycheck?

In the franchise model, there is a contractual agreement between independently
owned businesses. Each business has the responsibility of running their own
operation in such a way that they make a profit. The contractual agreement
between the two parties should grant each a fair chance to profit by the terms of the
agreement but does not necessarily mean that the agreement is the sole source
of income for either entity. The idea is to provide a leg-up to other
entrepreneurs using the resources that our business has created, From there the
relationship should grow in its own form organically. The parties may find that
they want to work more independently or more collaboratively based on the
development of the relationship between the two parties and external
considerations as well. Once the terms of relationship are established, then if there is a purpose and advantage to shared ownership, there is a viable basis for working that out. Shared ownership is not an entitlement.

My friend did not seem to understand that the great American Ceramic Designer Craftsmen Network is envisioned as a private sector network of operating micro-businesses. He referred to it as a ceramic educational center, which it is only to the degree that our business has always trained the employees on the job

We are currently working with a young woman who came to us with a ceramics industry background. She worked with a relatively well known pottery on the West Coast and so like us has worked in all aspects of the business from mold making to slip-casting to marketing to business management. We are currently working with her as an outside contractor and thus far find the relationship is very compatible. Today we discussed our eCommerce software which has many functions that we have not been able to familiarize ourselves with and utilize to its full capacity. She will be looking into that and helping us to utilize it effectively. She seems to have a good organizational mind and the attitude that we all need to work together to build our resources potential so that we can all make money. That is the spirit that reigns in the micro-economy and the spirit that our country needs to nurture in these difficult times.

Ceramics Slipcasting: Art Meets Business As A Way Of Life

This is the current Introduction to our soon to be launched KickStarter project- still a Work in Progress

A Ceramic Slip-Casting Studio: An Art, A Business, A Philosophy and A Way of Life

by Susan Mackenzie Andersen
Andersen Studio’s Mold Making Kickstarter Project
is a foundational process  for kickstarting  our envisioned evolution
of a historical family run ceramic design and production studio,
established in mid-century by our esteemed parents, the twentieth
century ceramic designers, Weston and Brenda Andersen.  Our dream is to
pass on the creative lifestyle
and a living legacy in the form of the Great American Ceramic Designers
Craftsman Network built on our brand,
Andersen Studio- Andersen Design Stoneware established in 1952.

A page from Images of America showing Andersen Studio Andersen Design
the early 1950’s when we were known as Ceramics by Andersen.
Click to see

Andersen Studio is a local historical landmark
on the Boothbay Peninsula on the coast of Maine. Our lines of wildlife
sculpture and functional design are established classics which the local people
and summer visitors began collecting in the mid-century days when Weston and Brenda
opened their first gallery in a 200 year old barn on Southport Island Maine.  Today there exist many collections that date back
to the 1950’s, handed down from one family generation to the next. We receive many
correspondence from art lovers who have rediscovered our work after many years
and connect with it as a icon from their own personal history

Weston Neil Andersen in 2012

Brenda died in 1994 and Weston is 90 years old, seemingly
with nine lives as the medical profession has told us  many times over
that Dad has barely a chance to survive  A few years ago Weston fell
down and suffered a serious brain injury. The prognosis was convincing
when we were told “multiple system failures, what is good for the heart
is bad for the brain, and that he would never be off the oxygen” –
convincing until Weston woke up and ripped off the oxygen mask. He lives
with us today in the house that he purchased in the fifties containing,
in addition to a home, the business that Weston built as part of the
architecture and life lived within it. The brain injury brings the heart
into focus and re-arranges time so that we have come to know our father
at many ages of his life. Weston’s mind is still very much on the
business as he made very clear, in his typical manner on a morning when I
greeted him as he was waking ,and  he said  “The whole thing would work
better on a larger scale”- and that is what we are hoping to achieve
with our Kickstarter project.

We have followed in our parents
footsteps in doing our own marketing. In the fifties that meant taking
black and white photos of the work and publishing a hand crafted
catalog. Today that means taking our own photos, creating our own
website and developing our own seo, while engaging the social networks.

We focused our online presence on our line of ceramic birds in order to
capture prime real estate on the Google search engine for the search
term “ceramic birds”. Once attained it is effortlessly maintained as
there is little competition for the depth of our line of ceramic birds
developed over the course of decades, and classically popular for all
those years.

We focused on our Ceramic Birds but we have several other lines such as our Marine Life Sculpture

However marketing is only one piece of the
picture. We are currently doing our production in the small studio
attached to our house which was intended to be our personal design
studio. We have put a temporary stop on active pursuit of  internet
marketing while it continues to grow organically. The marketability of
our line is solidly established but the internet demands instant
delivery. With such a large line being produced in such a small space
and with a minimal staff, we need to shift our focus to expanding our
production and order fulfillment capabilities- which is the first
plateau of the ultimate goal of  our KickStarter project. The project –
creating rubber master molds of  items offered as rewards, enabling
production molds to be easily made by anyone with a minimal amount of
training  – will facilitate the ability to transfer production to other
ceramic slip casters, once we have an adequate production facility where
we can train the skills and attract the talent that is uniquely suited
to carry Andersen Studio into the future as a living legacy.

Since Andersen Ceramics was born in the early fifties we have been committed to being an American made hand crafted product.

Today , due to our history and the unique path taken by our parents, Weston and Brenda Andersen
when they set out not only to design but also to produce their designs
in a hand crafted process and then added a line of wild life sculptures
to their line of functional forms, Andersen Design -Andersen Studio has
carved its own unique place in ceramic history. Our small company is in a unique
position to move into the limited editions market which opens up an
inspiring new creative direction and lucrative opportunities for our
company. our collaborators and our collectors.

Andersen’s classic Sea Urchin Bowl decorated as a one of a kind by Mackenzie Andersen

As a small family
business producing a product which became a collectible through a grass
roots movement we are ideally suited for Kickstarter and Kickstarter is
ideally suited for us. Our family would like to shepard what we have
built into the future to ensure that the values with which this business
is started are preserved. This includes not only the beautiful products
that we produce which are treasured by so many but as importantly,
preserving the living working process into the future. Andersen ceramics
does not fit neatly into any pre-existing mold. The creative process
blends the attributes of repetition and spontaneity. When functioning
optimally one side enhances the other. Thus along with our standard
production line – the basis of a successful wholesale business, we have
always been creating off beat variations along side the standard.
Sometimes this takes the form of glazing a bluebird green and at other
times it may manifest as cutting and pasting our forms together in
unexpected ways.

Cutting and Pasting in the midcentury- A collaboration by Weston and Brenda Andersen

The discipline of the repetitive work perfects the craft in a zen
like rhythm of productivity, while the playful latitude results in an
unexpected variation of a form which keeps the spirit and interest alive
in eager anticipation of opening the next kiln. This is a process that
one has to be immersed in to fully appreciate. Those looking from the
outside in do not necessarily perceive the value of an internalized
meaning in the work process itself. Andersen Stoneware is not your usual
corporate culture and so the Andersen family is grateful to the
opportunity that Kickstarter provides to capitalize a birth of a new era
for our company without giving up control and ownership in the process.
We could use some “corporate management” help in some areas- such as
office work, data management, order and delivery, but we feel the areas
of design and production need the personal attention of those who have
lived the process.

As a private enterprise, we cannot offer a tax
deduction for contributions to our fundraiser but we can offer art,
which has an intrinsic in-the-moment value to its collector as evidenced
in the many letters of appreciation which we have received over the
decades- and another “collectibles” value which may increase in value in
unexpected ways over time.

Historical Future

This is an image of the last sculpture that my father, Weston Neil Andersen, did before the day he fell down on the pavement  and suffered a brain injury. The sculpture, in my view is the most gentle and tender sculpture that Dad ever did. It invites one to enter into the intimate activity of looking for food. It seems quite daring to do a sculpture in which the beak is not complete as it is buried in the sand, the form of the belly is so round, full and sensuous. the curve of the neck so natural and our brown slip treatment of the surface seems to melt, lifelike, into the form.

The last sculpture that Dad is likely to do, is actually a new direction for him and it is interesting in respect to the fact that the brain injury prioritized a different aspect of Dad’s personality. It brought his own gentleness and tenderness to the surface, and it rearranged his experience of time so that we get to know our father at many different ages of his life. As a child he was raised on a chicken farm. He probably witnessed the chickens in a similar pose as is seen the sculpture, on many occasions. Realizing that the chickens would be killed was one of the most traumatic experiences of his life.

Dad knows I am writing this. He always experienced dimensions in a slightly different way than others, accepting the ghosts that he encountered wandering around our 200 year old house as a natural and non-threatening occurrence. Now when I write a blog, I am unsurprised when I encounter my father and he continues my train of thought. Although I can no longer tap my father’s wealth of information about clay bodies and glazes, Dad remains actively concerned with the welfare of the unique and creative business that he built. He is often deep in thought and when one asks him how he is, he will say something like “the whole thing would work much better on a larger scale”- which is what we hope to capitalize with our KickStarter project.

Right now, I am wondering if we should produce this piece as a limited edition. My first thoughts are that I do not want to price out our loyal clientele of our line of ceramics which began with the philosophy of creating a hand made product affordable to the middle classes, but my second thought is that we will not be out-pricing our base because we still be in an affordable price range within the collectibles limited edition market. The difference is that a limited edition establishes a degree of rarity, and rarity increases the investment value of a collectible. The way the rewards are listed on a stand alone page that displays our collection of ceramic birds (still not yet complete but more so than other categories) . I watched as our website went from not being found in a search for “ceramic birds” to making its way from the bottom the first page to the top. For a while we maintained the number one position but now that belongs to Etsy, (after a paid ad for Pottery Barn) which includes among the ceramic birds it offers, our own ceramic birds. We now maintain the number two position, with ease, thanks to our unusual number of bird sculptures that we have developed over sixty years. Since we have never created our work as a limited edition line in the past, our classic sculptures keep on selling and the number of ceramic birds we have to offer has grown to a level for which we have little competition. Our classic line has a proven marketability consistently established over the course of sixty years, as popular today as ever.

Our classic chickadee sculpture is three inches long and fits in spaces around other objects in the kiln. Most kiln firings contain some chickadees. The chickadee has been a perennial favorite since it was first created and retails at the affordable price of $35.00.

We are targeting the beginning of August as the time to launch our KickStarter project. Success depends on the ability to reach a large base of supporters. We know we have a large base but reaching them all to let them know about our project is why I am writing this blog. If you would like to see Andersen Studio succeed, not only in reaching our project goal , which will be relatively modest but in developing the capitalization to obtain a new production space and the equipment, and resources to hire a small staff, then please help us by sharing this blog and spreading the word.

An advance Thank You for your support.

Ceramic Productive Traditions

TWEET THIS ! http://goo.gl/FBBf9D 
Andersen Studio is not a school but it is a place of learning. When Weston and Brenda  brought their ceramic slip casting studio to Maine, there were no other slip casting studios in the area and so they taught the skills of ceramic slip casting, glazing, and decorative techniques to local women who had formerly worked in the fish-packing industry.
Weston and Brenda also created their own marketing brochures. We still create our marketing in house but today it includes web design, social networking and related skills which we can also teach to others. as we encourage them to learn on their own.

This historic Maine Coon Cat was modeled by Brenda Andersen probably in the late fifties. It is featured in Images Of America. There were a few pieces cast but the mold was retired early on because the Coon would split in the mold. As you can see, this Maine Coon has places at both ends that hold the mold in place. As the clay dries in the mold , in shrinks in size. If a mold is anchored at both ends it will split at the middle.

We love this wonderful Coon and after all these years would like to re-configure the mold. We are hoping to include the making of the Coon mold in our KickStarter project and to offer the Maine Coon Cat as one of the rewards.

On the job training is costly and so a number of years ago I called the Maine Arts Commission to inquire about applying for the traditional arts apprenticeship grant

The then director of Traditional Arts, Mr Keith Ludden, said I would have to make a convincing case that ceramics is a traditional art. This took me aback since ceramics is one of mankind’s oldest art forms. Most culture’s have evolved their own traditions of ceramic art.

 I did not pursue the inquiry further. Later I participated in the Traditional Arts forum on the Maine Arts Commission. This forum had one topic. All topics were created by the government, none by users. Once again it was managed by Mr Ludden. I asked what qualifies a traditional art and Mr Ludden recited a list, to which I responded that all applied to our studio, including being handed down from one family generation to the next. Mr Ludden said I was off topic.

Ceramics is a traditional art form since the dawn of civilization with each culture creating its own uniquely identifiable tradition. Andersen Studio’s ceramic art is intrinsically associated with Maine. At one time Maine Governors would use our wildlife sculpture as gifts. Andersen ceramics are iconic in individual family traditions. There is a familiar story that many people tell of how their grand parents discovered Andersen Stoneware and ever since their family has collected Andersen artwork. There is an intimate identification when the individual discovers a collectible, independent of external influences. Andersen Studio became a collectible through an authentic grass roots movement.

In the larger world, ceramic slip casting is a traditional craft that is endangered in Western civilization as long established potteries opt to “outsource” to countries with low priced labor, few workers rights, minimal environmental laws and low corporate taxes. The idea that I am entertaining – that this is a time when one can grow an American slip-casting industry must seem audacious on the surface, considering the rapid decline of the pottery industry in the west.

I am introducing three articles about the British Pottery Industry which hint at an emerging shift in the outsourcing trend and are also applicable to what is taking place in Maine as our economy is redesigned from the top down by state corporatism.

The first article, The Strategic Management of Outsourcing in the UK Ceramics Industry , by The Manchester School Of Management, was written in 2001. It is a comprehensive study examining the advantages and dis-advantages of outsourcing and also contrasts, with an eye toward integrating, human behavior and institutional (by the numbers) factors that impact decision making. It applies as much to government institutions and it does to the private sector, especially in the era of the “quasi” which blurs the distinction between the government, non-profit, and private sectors. I am introducing this paper as a resource for anyone who might take a serious interest in our vision for the future of Andersen Stoneware. Andersen Stoneware is distinct from the examples in this paper, which are a company producing hotel china, a company producing fine “inspirational” tabletop china, and a company producing low cost earthen ware. Of the three, only the latter had embraced overseas outsourcing at the time this paper was written. Andersen Studio produces art sculptures and inspirational functional ware and operates at a much smaller scale than the companies examined in this paper, but If I were to find myself on the verge of implementing my vision. I would want to read this paper several times over.

This paper points out that outsourcing is not new in the ceramics industry but that there is a fundamental difference between outsourcing locally and outsourcing to a foreign county.

The British identify their pottery industry as a “heritage industry”. Andersen Studio has been given a similar recognition in Jim Harnedy’s Images Of America, The Boothbay Region

 The second article, written in 2007, is  Once Made in England  by Elizabeth Hart – How the former pottery workers explain the decline of  the UK pottery industry focuses primarily on the workers in the British Pottery industry and tells of their feelings of loss of dignity within society that resulted from the loss of employment in the pottery industry. It also includes this inspirational quote about the philosophy of Josiah Wedgwood

Wedgwood was a Master Potter in his own
right, a hard task master and strict disciplinarian: he was also a
talented designer and innovator, who knew how to create markets for his
ware nationally and internationally. Wedgwood and his fellow
industrialists were inspired, amongst others, by the great French
Philosophes. He was an Enlightenment thinker who was against slavery and
believed that manufacturer was the driving force of improvements in
society, including for the potters he employed. Wedgwood was a shrewd
and talented businessman and his approach to manufacture, design, and
marketing is used as an exemplar at Harvard Business School even today.
An eighteenth century industrialist, his values, however, were those
which the craftspeople I have brought to you today, would recognize,
identify with and hold to. In effect they are twentieth century
industrial workers whose attitudes to work, to bosses and to the clay
were moulded in an age of Enlightenment.

The Third article is short and sweet, a cultural blog CharlotteHiggins ONCULTURE blog for the  Guardian wrote the following in the fall of 2011

one of the things that has changed – indeed was in the process of
changing while I was growing up – is the state of the pottery industry.
When I was young in the 1970s, the small and medium-size firms were
being gobbled up by the giant companies, often to the detriment of
design values. Later, it seemed to many companies to make good business
sense to mothball Stoke factories and outsource production to the far
east. But the quality of ware thus produced could be variable, and
meanwhile the industry seemed slow to second-guess the changing fashions
in tableware: a trend for chic informality replacing the
full-dinner-service culture of previous decades.

 Last week it was deeply heartening, then, to see that for some firms,
such as Portmeirion, “insourcing” – bringing back pottery production to
Stoke – was a new buzzword: that actually making things in Stoke is
possible, and economically viable. At a time when one of the few things
uniting Ed Miliband and George Osborne in their conference speeches is
the conviction that Britain ought to be a producer, not just a consumer,
of things, I hope Stoke can lead the way. 

Three mid-century Andersen mugs in teardrop pattern

Developing Economic Growth At The Roots.

Our Stoneware Wren Sculpture is a popular classic 
from our Ceramic Birds collection

When, as described in the previous post, I  presented my pitch to Mr Burns, I believe that he responded to the what he perceived to be a large scale idea, but did not recognize that the the need for a larger scale arises from the need to accommodate the breath and depth of our line of designs as well as the development of new designs. Our designs have retained their marketability for over half a century but because we use a hand crafted production process, our designs never saturated the market. The reason for envisioning  a number of networked production studios is because of the complexity of producing such a large line. If one can contract the crafting of designs to other studios, those studios can then focus on the specific skills and artistry involved in specific designs.

Each individual piece has individual tricks that one has to keep in mind. Some pieces such as our small birds are always in production, but other pieces are produced in runs. When I am working in casting, I usually find that if I haven’t produced a piece for a while, it takes at least a couple of tries before I completely recall all the little tricks that make that particular piece function  at an optimal level. There is a great marketing potential for Andersen Studio on the Internet, which can produce an increased demand for all of our pieces, enabling us to provide a bread and butter basis for other slip cast productions. These could be designer craftsmen themselves or slip cast productions that primarily focus on the craft of slip casting.

Andersen Studio started with an idea. That idea was not about making a high growth profit, it was to make a hand crafted product affordable to the middle classes. Just as one could not start a Microsoft or an Apple company in one’s garage today due to all the governmental regulations that have since been put into place, one could also not start a business based on the idea of creating an American- made hand-crafted product affordable to the middle classes. It was a difficult goal even when my parents started this business during the Golden Age of the Middle Classes.

But Andersen Studio is not a start up company. We already have a line that remains affordable to the middle classes and is hand- crafted in America.  Andersen Stoneware is an established brand, and a low profile collectible, with a well recognized place in ceramic history. That puts us in a unique marketing position that fits comfortably with social network marketing, and potentially with portal marketing as well. We also have an established wholesale business. We are currently seeing an organic growth in social network marketing, but are restraining from portal marketing and other more pro-active forms of Internet marketing as our current production capacity places limitations on rapid growth.

An idea remains only an idea until one connects with those that who share a similar interest and have the capacity to co-ordinate on implementing it. In the mean time one plans should include being prepared if interested parties appear. Expanding our production and shipping facilities is a necessary next step in our growth.

The Sea Urchin has vanished from the Maine shoreline since this bowl was created but perseveres as an Andersen Studio classic in functional form design

Our first new production facility should be located reasonably close to where we are currently located in East Boothbay, Maine. It would function as a production and a training facility, where we can teach the skills and aesthetics of our craft and designs. Other facilities can be located any where including areas where there is high unemployment and low income.  A ceramic production company can work with those who have a good work ethic and an ability to learn and a capacity for self direction. There can be a retail gallery adjacent to the production as a hand crafted art product works as “destination shopping” and around “destination shopping” other retail outlets arise- the most well known example of this phenomena being LL Bean.

An expanded shipping and delivery space is also a necessary function. It could potentially handle the needs of other producers as well

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