A Business from Scratch

One of a Kind Yellow Pitcher original prototype by Weston Neil Andersen copyright Andersen Design 1948

An anonymous benefactor has donated the funds for a memorial service for Weston Neil Andersen, founder of Andersen Design, who died in 2015. It is a daunting challenge but we hope to schedule the service in late August or Early Fall, the favored season for most of our most devoted collectors to visit the region.

In the year 1952. Weston Neil Andersen and  his wife Brenda founded Andersen Design, The business development was as hand crafted as the products it produced. I credit the “can do” philosophy to my father’s roots in the farming culture. Farmers are very independent self-reliant entrepreneurs. They grow things from the roots up and depend on the grace of natural forces for their fortunes. Andersen Design. was born, with a modest small business loan, self capitalization and a commitment to a vision which took years 15 years to establish on sure footing. Faith kept it all together.

Weston created his first ceramic sculptures out of the clay he dug out of the earth on the Iowan Farm sometime in the 1920’s  when he was still a puppy himself.

By the time the 1930’s rolled around Weston was reading Scientific American and became inspired about a new field called industrial design. Automobiles were the new technology of the day. Weston sketched many automobiles designs, which were futuristic for their time, some even so today

Weston applied and was accepted to study industrial design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Eva Zeisel was teaching the first known class on ceramics as industrial design, featuring the slip casting technique. However, before his college education was completed World War Ii broke out and Weston answered the call of duty.

My mother, Brenda was raised in Trafalgar Square in London in a home of modest means but processing of talent she was sent on scholarship to the Royal College of Art. It was the 1940’s and daily bombing was the norm of my mother’s existence when she met the young American soldier who would become her husband.

Dad was stationed in London employed by the military in designing bombs, but he had another interest as well, he salvaged the crates in which materials were shipped and used them to build a sports stadium.

Weston met Brenda at a ball room dance in the middle of World War II. Together they started a company called Andersen Design, known for its ceramic functional forms and wildlife sculptures. They figured out how to create the business on their own. I did not fully appreciate the talent required to realize the daily operations of such a business until my father was in his eighties and fell down and suffered a brain injury. I went to visit Dad in the hospital and found him muttering about “system management” and “fishermen”. In that moment I realised that system management was a talent Dad possessed in great measure, He was using it to system manage his own brain recovery. As with the sun in the sky, I had taken for granted the ground out of which everything else grew because it was always a part of my existence. What a remarkable feat it was, just as remarkable as what he was then doing- putting his own brain back together. In the new configuration, the expression of his intellect was impaired by an inability to easily connect the subject and object of a sentence. Where once the intellect was primary, the heart predominated. This did not stop Dad’s thinking process as he there after spent most of his time in a state of deep contemplation:

instantaneously, I connected fishermen with Christianity, having read Philip K Dick’s novel Valis, a novel which Philip K Dick tells us from the onset is a true story, but since no one would believe it. he is writing as fiction. The main character in the novel experiences Rome at the time of Christ superimposed on California in the 1970’s. Fish and fishermen are frequently used as ancient symbols of Christianity. Dad hadn’t read Valis, but he seemed to be on the same wave length.

In the late 1940’s. In starting a business from scratch, Weston began by sketching a line of functional forms. The first sketches were very loose:

The sketches became more refined.The objects, inter-relational.

During this time,Weston was employed as Dean of the Akron Art Institute where he had access to a state of the art ceramic facility, The drawings became a group of slip cast ceramic forms with glazes designed by Weston, as he developed his ideas.This small group of forms launched an original hand built American business creating hand crafted ceramics in America. The items in the Ohio collection are very rare. Some are one of a kind, others are prototypes of forms cast in porcelain and finished in individualistic glazes as Weston explored the art of glaze making in the process leading up to the Andersen signature look which relies on unique glazes and decorating techniques as much as it is about the beauty of form.

Rare One of A Kind Pod Vase by Weston Neil Andersen, Copyright  by Andersen Design 1948

A very simple, very early, one of a kind vase by Weston Neil Andersen in subtle sophisticated  pink. The mottled coloration was created in a one-of a kind house firing. The ceramics were stored in the attic. The mottled coloration from the house firing merges into the Andersen naturalistic style. The decanter is 12 inches high and 3.5 inches in diameter.

Rare One of a Kind Rocket Ship Decanter by Weston Neil Andersen, Copyright  by Andersen Design 1948

We call this the Rocket Vase, This is the only known cast of this is a prototype design created by Weston in Ohio in a rare brown glaze. The Rocket Decanter is 12 inches tall and 4 inches at the diameter.

Wine Decanter with Ruski Crown, original prototype, Copyright  by Andersen Design 1948
Vintage Prototype by Weston Neil Andersen from Ohio period, This wine decanter is the form chosen for the production line which established Andersen Design of Maine. The handcrafted glaze in a shade of  a rich yellow green is perfectly applied. The decanter is topped of with a Ruski Crown. The crown is carved with a pattern of open round holes and dipped in a glaze matching the decanter.The decanter is 12 inches high and 3.5 inches in diameter.

Four footed Wine Glass Copyright  by Andersen Design 1948

This is one of my favorite pieces. Who wouldn’t want a four footed wine glass? The material and the form complement each other as a unique sensual experience. This is one of the original prototypes that Dad designed in Ohio. It was never selected as a production line item. Perhaps it was ahead of its time but it seems perfect for today’s market. It is the only known cast of this design and priced accordingly. These items are priced for the one of a kind art object collectibles market as part of our project to raise capital establish a new production and training facility for Andersen Design.

When Weston designed these prototypes his mission was to create a hand crafted product affordable to the middle class, made in the USA. Andersen Design was always committed to being made in America. The unique mission is a natural for a company started by an artist-philosopher and his wife.

Throughout his life. Weston questioned if he should not have taken a different path and designed for an established name instead of starting his own “factory”. I have always felt that Dad felt most comfortable in the world when he was connected to his farmer’s roots. Farmers have to love the process. In the case of growing small, intimate and independent things, be it a plants or a ceramic art, design, and production studio, the old song rings true. Love makes the world go round. You have to love the process, as my Dad did, for it to succeed. A ceramic production studio intimately attached to a home is a close relative of the family farm. Both processes begin with the raw materials. My father loved to tell of watching the farmers leaning against the fence, talking the talk, as they sifted the dirt in their hands.

Work from our Vintage Collection is found online at Andersen Design Vintage and Special Editions, priced to sell at a modest price in the high end market of historical and one of a kind art object collectibles as part of a project to raise funds for a state of the art production and training studio .

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