Deconstructing Centralization Requires So Many Butterflies! Part One

One of a Kind Bowl by Weston Neil Andersen Early Fifties or Late Forties. The bowl appears to be thrown suggesting that Weston may have created it when he was in Ohio. It is decorated in a wonderfully organic abstract pattern, identifying the decorator as Weston, rather than Brenda. The white rim on the outside of the bowl is uneven giving the work a humanistic appeal .The pattern is intuitive taking on a resemblance to a hieroglyphic alphabet arising from the personal sub conscience of the creator.

Story narrated by Susan Mackenzie Andersen


Andersen Design is not only the products which we make, we are also a brand. Brands become characters in our collective drama. The persona played out by the Andersen Design brand in the national and global drama is that of natural American individualism. free enterprise, and microeconomics. These traits are written into our history but what does that mean in today’s world ? and why does it matter if the Andersen Design re-emerges in the twentieth-first century? It matters at this time more than ever in terms of how our historical relevance intersects large swirling vortexes of a changing world, but that is a tale to unfold, all in due course,

The Whole Foods Business Model

I once saw Whole Foods as a model for how Andersen Design could work with independent slip casting studios. Before the sale of Whole Foods to Amazon, Whole foods worked on a decentralized model, allowing local management independence and marketing many emergent independent brands from local markets. It offered low cost loans to the small farming community.

This Saw Whet Owl Vintage Prototype is perfectly glazed in the brown slip designed by Weston in midcentury.​ This is a craft prototype we saved for many years as a standard for the Saw Whet​ Owl in Natural Brown. We are selling our craft prototypes as part of our funding project for establishing a new production and training facility.​​ 

Andersen Design and Whole Foods began with a similar philosophy in a similar cultural milieu, but their paths separated early on. Even in its beginnings, Whole Foods was seen as a store that moved into a neighborhood, undermining and replacing its smaller competitors. In 1992 Whole Foods became the first publicly traded organic foods retailer and established itself on the path which would ultimately lead toward  economic and cultural centralization, although for many years afterward, under its own ownership Whole Foods was able to maintain and cultivate a culture of localism.

Andersen Design remained an S Corporation. As an S Corporation, Andersen Design can take the long road and balance a multiplicity of values rather than being guided by pure profit primacy, but a publicly traded corporation does not have that freedom. Therefor in 2017, when Whole Foods went through a period of decline for seven quarters, it was forced to make radical changes resulting in its sale to Amazon, a company with a very different attitude toward employees and the environment and towards localization vs centralization. Whether Whole Foods survived in anything but name remains to be seen.

Sheeba, by Weston Neal Andersen began as a garden stone which became a Moon Face and then became Sheeba, the Queen of Nature. About 12 inches high, slipcast in red stoneware and glazed in the verdigris glaze designed by Weston Neil Andersen.

John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods, founded an organization called Conscious Capitalism. Despite Mackey’s beginnings and history of working with the micro-economy, Conscious Capitalism’s focus on large corporate culture belied him, I once approached Conscious Capitalism with the idea that small farms and small slip-casting studios are similar enterprises, but found no open doors to dialogue. The corporate culture of Conscious Capitalism appeared to have no interest in the microeconomy. Although Whole Foods began with a great idea of localized management and loan programs to help the small producer, ultimately Whole Foods did not have a choice but to change at the demands of its board, and it chose Amazon, undermining public perception about Conscious Capitalism and Whole Foods simultaneously. John Mackey climbed the ladder of  success in the corporate world and when he got to the top, he became an underling of Jeff Bezos.

Andersen Design Born in the Middle Class 

Andersen Design is a brand built on individuality and that is the identification we want to prevail. Underscore that point because cultural individualism is a needed alternative in today’s increasingly centralized world.

We began in the days when the middle class star shone bright. Middle class values grow outward from the most local form of governance. Family, community and work are the central cultural values. Achieving financial success means the ability to maintain a level of comfort and control in one’s life, on one’s own terms. It was due to Andersen Design’s middle class values, and to to our S corporation structure, that Andersen Design was able to remain an American made product in the eighties when most of the western ceramics companies were moving production to low cost global labor markets. We were not a publicly traded company and did not face that pressure from a board driven by profit primacy, and so today the Andersen Design brand has historically identifiable deep roots in the Made in America, designer-craftsmen movement.

This is an early version of the bear by Susan Mackenzie Andersen. It has a long snout and an almost human looking expression to the face, friendly and aware..It was later changed to the rounder snout. I do not know how many of this were cast but it is the only one I have seen. Currently the whereabouts of the mold is unknown. It is, more or less rare. If anyone has another bear like this, we would like to know about it.

Decline of the Western Ceramics Industry 

In 2007, a scholar, Elizabeth Hart, produced a paper, Once Made in England, which examined the effect, of the decline of the ceramics industry in Stoke-on-Trent, on the people who worked in the ceramics industry. Stoke-on-Trent was the birthplace and home of Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. From interviewing the workers, Ms Hart found that the pottery workers date the start of the decline not from the mid 1980s, but from the early 1970s, soon after one of the larger pottery manufacturers took over the family-owned and managed pottery factory. This paragraph taken from Mr Hart’s paper summarizes it:

When we stand with pottery workers, alongside them, rather than look in at them from the outside, then a very different explanation for what happened to the pottery industry starts to emerge. The view from the outside is that of economic decline under pressure of external global forces: the view from the inside is that a thriving business which was ‘brought down’ by people who felt no connection to the clay or the people who made and decorated the ware and whose sole and driving interest was profit. In a variety of ways, and over a period of over thirty years, these owners and managers pursued a strategy for defeat, one which was successful for a time, mainly on the back of the success of the family-owners, but which ultimately and inevitably killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

Tulip Vase glazed in yellow is rare to find

My Generation

In my studies of economics all leads back to the seventies, as time when transformational change, from a free enterprise system toward a centralized economy was seeded. This is the time when my generation graduated from college and entered the market place and the hippies transformed them selves into the yuppies. The thread that runs through the subsequent history of my generation is one that culminates in a political-economic culture which Senator Marco Rubio has identified as dominated by the profit primacy motive. As Rubio’s report, American Investment in the Twentieth Century establishes, by the time the twenty first century rolled around the American macro-economy had begun to decrease investments in (non-financial) businesses, including research, so that it could increase investment in pure financial assets. Meanwhile Senator Rubio’s Report as Chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurial Committee, Made in China 2005 and the Future of American Business, establishes that China is escalating investments in production and research, proclaiming production to be essential to national strength, a very different attitude toward production than what has emerged in America in recent years.

The philosophy of political-economic culture, embodied and lead by the macroeconomy is so deeply embedded that it is seldom questioned that human society could be formulated in any other way. Given that the American economic culture, led by the values of central management, is arguably programmed to crash into the great wall of China, sometime in the near future, perhaps it is time to start visualizing that American society could be structured on a different set of values, as it once was. Senator Rubio is the leading voice for such a conceptualization, based on the research he has delivered in the form of his two reports. However government likes to paint in large brushstrokes covering great spans of territory at once, and so Senator Rubio’s primary focus remains the macro-economy. Andersen Design has a role to play as a protagonist for the inherent cultural values found within a flourishing micro-economy.

The Listening Kitten was designed by Christine Andersen and is finished in an original glaze designed by Weston Neil Andersen

The Atlantic is featuring a series of articles by thinkers compatible with Senator Rubio’s genre of economic development. One can find the links to similar thinkers embedded in each article. Oren Cass, a Senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, delivers points consistent with those to be articulated in this new series of posts. Mr Cass uses different language to express ideas commonly shared by this author, all for the better. In Economic Piety Is a Crisis for Workers Government policy should emphasize production, not consumption, Mr Cass articulates why a decentralized economy is needed to correct the course in which The USA and the world is currently headed.

Taking the Road Less Travelled

The 1970’s did not alter Andersen Design philosophy, to create an American-made hand-crafted product affordable to the middle class. As the hippies became the yuppies, Andersen Design remained the same. By remaining the same, Andersen Design’s path separated from that of main stream. During the 70’s Andersen Design’s primary growth factor was the New York Gift Show, participating in the first New York Gift show that ever was, when the vendors displayed their work in hotel rooms.The buyers were many and varied, from small gift shops and galleries, department stores, museum shops and catalogs. It was a thriving micro-economy main street market place.

There is a correlation between what happened to Stoke-On Trent and what happened to Whole Foods. According to Wikipedia, Stroke-on Trent was once called the pottery capital of the world, but now the primary occupations are in the service industry and distribution centers, the sorts of jobs offered by Amazon. Amazon jobs in service and distribution are jobs coveted by the central managers of the Maine economy, designated as “quality jobs” because Amazon pays workers higher than average for the industry, which by no co-incidence qualifies Amazon for the greatest advantages which corporate welfare has to offer.


Recent reports describe working conditions at Amazon distribution centers, as humanly denigrating as the 19th century factories which impacted the writings of Karl Marx.

Nineteenth Century

Factory workers had to face long hours, poor working conditions, and job instability. During economic recessions many workers lost their jobs or faced sharp pay cuts. New employees found the discipline and regulation of factory work to be very different from other types of work. Work was often monotonous because workers performed one task over and over. It was also strictly regulated. Working hours were long averaging at least ten hours a day and six days a week for most workers, even longer for others. For men and women from agricultural backgrounds these new conditions proved challenging because farm work tended to be more flexible and offered a variety of work tasks. Factory work was also different for skilled artisans, who had once hand-crafted goods on their own schedule.

Twenty First Century

Amazon “pickers” move around the warehouse on a predetermined route to collect items for delivery, scanning each one with a handheld scanner, which times the length between scans, employees said. They say pickers must hit a certain number of scans per hour, and if they miss their targets, a manager will show up to see what they’re doing. Employees say that things like spending time talking to coworkers, going to get a drink, or even taking too long to find a package are billed as “time off task,” too much of which leads to penalty points for an employee. Get enough of those, and you’re fired. That — combined with security cameras dotting Amazon’s warehouses, its airport-style security checks, and short breaks — makes employees feel like “robots,” they said. And it’s all in the service of getting those parcels out faster. Business Insider

Amazon brushed off the reports and relied on the higher than average wages and benefits in its defense.

In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman said: “Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We are committed to treating every one of our associates with dignity and respect. We don’t recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings.” Business Insider

Small Melon Vase and Blueberry Glaze by Weston Neil Andersen, circa 1970-1980’s. The intentional variegated effect is, like nature, never the same. Glazing a form in the Blueberry glaze requires skilled craftsmanship to maintain the right balance between a variety of factors. This vase was a second because the glaze ran too much and flowed off the bottom and onto the kiln, which is visible on the bottom of the form, and yet it still remains a uniquely beautiful object. There are few production companies which work with glazes as unpredictable and variable as Andersen Design’s glazes.You can support Andersen Design with a purchase of this or another of our one of a kind vintage works. The funds raised from the sale of our vintage works will be used at this time to establish working relationships between Andersen Design and existing American slip casting enterprises, of which there are only a  handful across the nation, which in turn will develop funds for our own working and training studio.

Western jobs in the making of ceramics were largely relocated to emerging nations in the 1980’s. Ceramic making is a process which engages unique skills and talents of the participant. Every ceramic production is run in a unique way and is its own culture, which is generally true of all free enterprises, but not so true of corporations and economies run from the top down which seeks uniformity and efficiency and awards conformity.

All is not bleek. in recent years there has been a ceramics industry revival in Great Briton. Andersen Design would like to be influential in a similar trend in the USA. We feel that our unusual assets, a line composed of over 200 marketable designs, and an identifiable and historic brand name, put us in a category which can become a voice for the micro-economy, designer-craftsmen, and rural cultural values in which businesses and home are integrated.

Andersen Design has remained in touch with the values of the making process through the decades, staying its course and now facing new challenges in streams of cultural change which conceptually disconnects the processes of creating things from the process of wealth creation, as is the central message of Senator Rubio’s report, American Investment in the Twentieth Century.

The beautiful and rare Heron sculpture is decorated by it’s creator, Weston Neil Andersen. This sculpture was rarely produced due to a technical issue involving supports to keep the neck from sagging during firing. If our vision of re-establishing our production capability as a network of small independently owned studios, at least one such studio could specializing in these particular kinds of feats. This is currently among the most expensive items in our vintage collection. While Andersen Design is not a non-profit, we are historically recognized in our field. Our work can be donated to a Museum and qualify for a tax deduction. 

This concludes Part One of our story. Make sure to get Part Two by signing up for our email list!

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