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 KickStarter is that at the upper end the suggested price is stated as “X amount of dollars or more”. In theory a supporter could elect to pay more than the requested price, which would then potentially increase the value of all the pieces in the limited edition – an interesting concept because such a generous act would not only benefit us but all those who purchase the item, as it would establish a higher value than others paid for the item. We can reward the highest contributors by offering them first choice out of the total number sold during the project, because every piece that we create is unique in its own right as a result of the hand-crafted process.
To our point of view it would be ideal to develop a limited edition sculpture, sell the entire run in advance, as KickStarter allows one to do, and then be able to contract with other slip-casters to produce the piece and possibly the decoration as well, though I expect that initially we will do the decoration in house- but one of our goals is to develop the ceramic design and crafts business that our family has established in such a way that it can be carried on by future generations beyond our own family. Therefore to be able to subcontract all aspects of production advances us further on that goal and as we achieve that goal it opens up our own time so that we can concentrate on sculpture, designing, and the fascinating art of glazing and decorating.
However we never want to stop producing a line that is affordable to the middle classes. Over the years we have received so many personal letters of appreciation from our base in the middle. While galleries, organizations and shows honor or reject work as as art or not art, craft or not craft, often opinions formed on the basis of using a re-productive process, our collectors who send us personal letters have formed a consistent consensus , they identify our handcrafted affordable sculpture as “art”.
In fact I attribute the decision to re-produce art work using the slip-casting reproductive process as the source of our ability to maintain prime Google search engine positioning for our key search terms. When I set out to create our website, I read up on search engine optimization and decided to focus, initially, on the search term “ceramic birds”. I created 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.