Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Space For Andersen Design's Vintage Collection


The Large Sea Urchin Bowl 

A Special Fund Raising Project
Space to Display, Organize, and Archive
The Andersen Vintage Line



This year we have been facing the probability of losing our home where in Andersen Design's production space and retail gallery have been located since 1952. Last Sunday we were served notice to quit the premises in 31 days so it looks likely that we will lose this battle- but it is not over until its over so there is still an unlikely but still possible chance of staying here in our historic location.We are concerned about the future of this property if this old house is left unattended during the winter months. We would like to negotiate with the bank to let us stay for our mutual advantages,

But for now we have to also find another place to live. We have found a location which we believe is a best case scenario for this transition. It is a house with two apartments. The bottom apartment can be used as a gallery where we can display our vintage work, rather than having it put into storage. This will be a great advantage to all that we are trying to do. The space will also provide for much needed office space for the Museum.

We do not yet know if we will be offered this space but if not we will find another space where our vintage line can be on display. Both spaces are very reasonable for the current rental market.
We need to raise 2400.00 for three months rent for the vintage gallery and work space .
If we can raise that amount we will also at last be past the $1000.00 dollars required in personal donations required by our fiscal sponsor in order to apply for foundation grants.

We are offering a 20% discount on your next purchase, once we have a new production up and running, to all who make a donation to The Andersen Design American Phoenix Project . All contributions are tax deductible. Text block. Use a contrasting background to draw attention to this content.

The Museum

The first function in forming the Andersen Design Museum of American Designer Craftsmen  Before the Museum concept was born, Elise was already in discussion with Museum curators and arranging for Andersen Design's work to be shown on the museum circuit. Andersen Design has a history spanning sixty five years which has produced an abundance of creativity and variety. There is a genuine need for a space to organize the artifacts of Andersen Design's history, which can be curated in themes of endless variety.

It follows quite sensibly the the museum should be the Andersen Design Museum of American Designer Craftsmen, a bellwether for an era when mass marketing wants to homogenize and humanity wants to individualize. The Museum will be a focal point for celebrating unique human creativity and the value of the work process in and of itself, core values of hand crafted industry.
First Stage Museum funding will pay for the costs of  archiving an original  history of  American designer craftsmen. This is an exciting project. Archiving the history of Andersen Design, alone, is a very ambitious project but we think it is important to also record a larger story of American designer-craftsmen, starting with local history, which is most accessible to us and not necessarily included in other histories.

We have in our possession a handwritten journal of a local crafts organization which existed in the 1950's when our parents relocated to the Boothbay Peninsula, Our Dad, Weston Neil Andersen was the last president before the group dispersed, which is how the journal came to be in our procession. Weston was also instrumental in starting the Boothbay Arts Foundation which today is an important local cultural focus on the Peninsula and beyond. 
 Recently I came across a dusty old file containing my father's hand written, or typed letters,composed in 1964, wherein Dad is appealing for capital to fund operations after expanding his production facility, mirroring our own contemporary situation.. The letter tells the story of the beginnings of Andersen Design. In the same file, also dated 1964, is a hand signed letter from Industrial Design magazine requesting samples of Andersen Design's work. He makes a point, not often understood. The fact that Andersen Design was created with the intent to create a hand crafted product affordable to the middle classes determined that the business has to operate at a scale that makes an affordable hand crafted product viable. 
An even earlier manuscript is dated 1956 and tells why Dad made a remarkable choice between an exciting job as Dean of the Akron Art Institute Art School, providing a comfortable secure income and making pottery, which inspired him the more.

"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 proved 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."Statement by Weston Neil Andersen, 1956
 The Early Correspondences of Weston Neil Andersen 

In the initial stage we will also be seeking a space where the vintage work can be organized and on display in an initial preview gallery as well as space for  the photography  and graphic design studio, and office space.
The Large Sea Urchin Bowl 

One of the first projects we would like to get going in our new production space is to bring back the Large Sea Urchin Bowl. It has been out of production for some time because it needed a new mold. The new mold is nearly complete.and we plan on getting production going on the Large Sea Urchin Bowl as soon as everything is hooked up and ready to go.
Our new production studio is coming along, shaping up and becoming the best production space we have ever had, even though it is financed on a shoe string.

Happy to help.

You can call us at 207 449 1449 or email Elise  or Mackenzie if you have questions

Friday, October 6, 2017

The System Outside the System






In 1952, when my parents, Weston and Brenda Andersen started Andersen Design, then called Ceramics by Andersen, there was no National Foundation For the Arts, and there was no ensuing wealth re-distributive non-profit arts industry. Even the trade shows had not yet been invented. Andersen Design was started as a leap of faith. 

I grew up within the very long arc of that leap of faith, realized after I had left home to attend Pratt Institute, when the enterprise became financially successful, providing a comfortable income.
A Tradition of Innovation

The fact that Andersen Design was born in the age before government and non-profit support for the arts spread across the land, and even before the trade shows provided a venue for reaching national buyers, is an important aspect of Andersen Design's historical significance- it was the extraordinary realization of an artistic lifestyle created on a shoestring at a time when there was no larger social structure supporting the arts. My parents created the lifestyle within the free enterprise system, which has, since the emergence of the non-profit arts industry, been widely characterized as a choice motivated exclusively by profit.

Today the  concept of "public benefit " is undergoing transformation.The introduction of the social enterprise is slowly changing that perception in which free enterprise is defined exclusively by its wealth creating function, and therefore said to be motivated only by the will to materialistic profit. Social enterprises are defined as private enterprises, having a primary reason to exist for which their wealth creating function is the means to that end and not the end in itself. Andersen Design is a social enterprise born long before social enterprises were conceptualized in contemporary political economic thought.
Weston Neil Andersen and his wife Brenda started Andersen Design during the age of plastics, with a mission to create a hand made product affordable to the middle classes, establishing a tradition of taking the road less traveled.

The enterprise trained women, formerly employed in the fish packing industry, in the artistic skills of ceramic slip casting a decorative techniques, Before long a cluster industry grew up in and around the Boothbay peninsula of Maine..Andersen Design's seldom heralded achievement was to create a successful and individual means for making a living doing what one loves to do, the quintessential American dream, which lies at the heart of the free enterprise system. Ceramics by Andersen was production as an art form before said art form was officially invented by New York art star, Andy Warhol. Perhaps I am biased but I think my parents did it better! As others who knew my Dad will attest, he had an ability to convey a sense of meaningfulness to the process of making things. There is no way to deconstruct how that meaningfulness was conveyed, except that it permeated everything absolutely, to my own perspective. The work process was and is first and foremost meaningful in its own right as a primary foundation to beingness. I have not yet decided if it is a bane or a blessing to be raised in such a sensibility, but I think it explains why Dad seemed to have a cult hero status to many.
I now embrace my role, as custodian of a unique legacy, in creating the Andersen Design Museum of American Designer Craftsmen, the more so as the community which was our birth place is being re-invented by developers who have no interest in the history of a place. History is important but it only survives if it is recorded. Who tells the stories that become recorded history? It is my family legacy to do so and to encourage and promote the tradition of the American designer craftsmen.
For years I have been going up and down the system, both government, which is largely a public private relationship in Maine, and nonprofits alike. Finally I identified that our place, relative to "the system" is outside of it, but there exists a system outside the system which works in mysterious ways.
Our new production studio is coming along, shaping up and becoming the best production space we have ever had, even though it is financed on a shoe string. Eventually we will need some capital for fatigue mats and a good air filtering system and insurance, and so on, but we take one day at a time.
I have my father's parameters of operations, a profoundly resonate book which appeared at our magical dump, by the title of  "After reengineering, Organizing for Growth" by Richard K Lochridge, and an amazing app to organize it all, called AirTable. We just need a working team of natural thinking talent. With God's grace such a team will manifest.

On that note, talking of working with natural talent, it is the Andersen tradition, since we have always trained employees on the job. For a long while I have been wishing to be able to train natural talent in another capacity in which I work, which is photagraphy and design, including web design.
Currently I have been photographing our vintage line for archival purposes, using the AirTable application. We have a very large vintage history. It would cost us a small fortune to hire outside professionals and so I taught myself photography, web design and Adobe photo shop skills. This is work that I enjoy and find therapeutic but there is a huge amount of it to be done.

For this purpose the photographs should maintain a consistent style which I can train others to do. Since this is a museum function,
 tax deductible contributions to the Andersen Design American Phoenix Project can be used to pay for the work I am doing, as well as training and eventually hiring others to do this work.

Please consider making a contribution of $100.00 
or whatever to this cause  We still need to raise about $850.00 of the thousand dollars required in personal donations before our fiscal sponsor will allow us to apply for foundation grants.

Thank all for all the support we receive on a regular basis. God bless !

Happy to help.

You can call us at 207 449 1449 or email Elise  or Mackenzie if you have questions

Monday, June 8, 2015

Honor Thy Father - Remembering Weston Neil Andersen

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Weston Neil Andersen was an American ceramic designer, craftsman and entrepreneur who in 1952, established Andersen Design Stoneware with his wife Brenda in the coast of Maine, USA, . He was also my father whom I loved and cared for and was cared for by during the latter years of his life. This is the story about the last five years in which he suffered from a brain injury. Weston was known throughout his life for his analytical mind, which was not affected by the brain injury but it compromised his ability to express his thoughts in complete sentences. During the last five years of his life, Weston spent many hours in deep reflection, seldom seeming to be bored. At times he would sleep for a very long time and when he awoke , he would say that he gotten a lot of work done. In mild weather, he spent many hours of the day sitting on the front porch taking in the natural surroundings and the community walking up and down the street which usually left him in a very good mood.

During his younger days, both Weston and his wife Brenda professed to be agnostics but both in their own unique ways came to accept the existence of God.

Brenda died in 1994.  Before her death, Brenda was in a coma for many hours with the family gathered around her. I was at a turn of holding her hand when suddenly I felt a spiraling motion swoop down. encompass and transport me into an open sky colored pink and filled with gold rimmed clouds. I felt an indescribably deep love and then just as suddenly l was back in the room and Brenda was conscious and calling for Weston. Brenda told Weston that she loved him, not words that came easily to her during her life and then she died.

Some will surely find the telling of this experience unbelievable but I can only testify to what happened as I experienced it, which seemed an experience in which there was no separation between my mother and myself as she/we were embraced by God's love. My Mother's encounter with death as revealed to me through the experience was as emotional as the way that she lived her life. As Dad used to say, she was always emoting. The visual imagery that I experienced was consistent with the Catholic background in which my mother was raised as a young English girl in London before and during World War II.

Weston & Brenda in the 1950's - photograph by unknown

During the years after Brenda's death and before Weston suffered macular degeneration which interfered with his ability to read, we shared many common reading interests uncommonly found in our larger community. Dad and I both read extensively in esoteric wisdom and quantum theory- which is to say the philosophy emergent from quantum physics, which does not prove the existence of God but which is consistent with the teaching of esoteric wisdom. Dad read Carlos Castaneda and I read Christian Hermeticism and we both read David Bohm's Wholeness and the Implicate Order and The Non-Local Universe by Menas Kafatos and Robert Nadeau among many other books. When he could no longer read, Weston listened to the entirety of the New Testament on tape.

These three early wine decanters display Dad's approach to ceramic design and glazes

Through out his life Dad was accustomed to seeing ghosts in our very old house in Maine. This did not frighten him, nor did he consider it to be anything unusual. The ghosts were as much a part of the natural world as any other phenomenon  He often spoke of the Sea Captain in the living room. Once he told me that the woman in the other room was very up set and that I needed to go that I needed to go and talk to her. I did so, although I could not see the woman.

Weston was a man of great intellectual and analytical capacity but with the brain injury limiting his ability to express his thoughts, his heart took on a stronger presence. He spent hours contemplating his life and often spoke of his wife, his mother, father, siblings and others he had known in his life. At his age he was aware that his days on this earth were numbered and it appeared to be that he was preparing himself for his own judgment day as he spent hours upon hours in contemplation of his life, past present and the future when he was gone.

 During the period after his brain injury, Weston relived his life chronologically and so we came to know him at many different stages of life As a boy.Weston lived on a chicken farm. One day, as an elderly man he suffered a seizure. When we entered the hospital we heard someone screaming  "Chicken" . It was Dad, who appeared to be reliving an early memory when he first realized that the chickens were destined to be killed. and was very upset by it.

When World War II broke out.Weston considered declaring conscientious objection but realized that if someone were trying to kill his family, he would kill them and so he enlisted. One day during his latter years he was in tears over a recollection of a man who had returned from the war missing his legs.

The morning that I took this picture of Weston, the expression on his  face was clear and innocent. I probably told him that he looked so handsome. Many of the caretakers who saw Dad over the years would say the same. At many times he had a engaging  and gentlemanly nature that charmed the people around him.

On other days he looked like this:

I am thinking thoughts too intense for words !

When my parents started their ceramics business in 1952, they did so on a shoe string budget and so they took their own photographs and published their own catalog

Years later I followed in their tradition designing our website and taking the photographs of the ceramic work. I set a makeshift studio up on the kitchen table where my father usually sat. 

In this picture Dad is sitting at the table on which my makeshift photography studio is being constructed. The bright sunlight comes streaming in through the window as father is sleeping in his chair.  Weston designed and constructed The kitchen table in the 1950's when we first moved into the house and it became the center of many different activities.

This is a photo that I took  in one of the kitchen table photography sessions of of the ceramic Blue Jay designed by Weston,

This Portrait of an Eating Dick is the last sculpture that Dad created in his life time.

The bright afternoon light streams in the window interacting with the shadows and light of the makeshift photography studio on the kitchen table. Suddenly Dad became very animated and was in a verbal rhapsody describing the rhythms and forms in the display and counting them.

After Dad's brain injury counting and the spelling of words took on particular significance, used for emphasis or explanation. If in pain, the word "ow" was spelled. Once when we called the paramedics because Dad had fallen out of bed, Dad explained everything to them by spelling the words as if spelling the words clarified the meaning, a curious phenomenon indeed. Spelling has to do with the ability to express thoughts to others involving the part of Dad's brain, which never fully recovered. leading one to wonder if the actual process of thinking is primordial to the process of communicating in language. Did spelling take on such meaning because of its function as a tool of communication?

Despite the brain injury and despite the fact that cameras had changed dramatically in appearance since the days when Dad took photographs, he understood the process of taking pictures from within and without. Once, when the afternoon sunlight was particularly bright, he said "I hope you know what you are doing !" It amazed me that he grasped the process of taking a picture and how such a bright light might affect the results. In this picture he is smiling for the camera,  So sweet !

In the years after Brenda died, Dad worked on this sculpture. After his brain injury he spent time observing it. One day while sitting on the front porch as he often like to do, he turned to me and asked that I would make a sculpture of him.

Dad would become involved when I worked on a sculpture, turning it as I worked and always letting me know what he thought. Here he is touching some wax sculptures in the works.

Here Dad sits in the morning having his coffee. The mug on the table with the funky tear drop designs is a form created by Weston, who designed a series of original mugs and a large line of functional forms  in addition to a line of wild life sculptures.

The day Dad fell and injured his brain, he was working on a project to have the mugs produced for the commercial market. I have now taken over the project. This is one of my favorites. Dad hand scraffitoed the spiral on the mug himself. I have to figure out how to translate this decorative technique into a commercial process. I understand his thinking on this project, not just in terms of the mug but in terms of the evolution of our family ceramic business.

Two hand cast stoneware steines, one decorated by Brenda and the other decorated by Weston

 One day Dad was looking sad and said that he had nothing to do. A few weeks later he said, "There are three people here and so there a three musicians." (This was said as a full sentence which was extremely rare.) I gathered up all the instruments I could find and we all played. Dad took to the keyboards. As a young man Dad's mother had wanted him to learn to play the piano but he refused. He did not play in a learned way but he played with deliberation, He preferred to play when no one was around but we could hear him in the other room.

Throughout his life Weston enjoyed classical jazz. As a young adult he went to Chicago and New York and listened to the greats playing in small venues.

One day we put on Sade and he listened to her for several hours. He said it is very involved. We introduced him to Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan and Mazzy Star, He stayed up late into the night listening to trance like music of Mazzy Star over  and over again.

A few days before Dad died I was picking out the notes to Sweet Georgia Brown. I asked Dad if it sounded right and he looked at me and smiled his sweet smile,

During his life Dad was in the hospital on many occasions and we became accustomed to hearing the  lectures about how he may not make it this time around. The most convincing time was when he fell down and suffered the brain injury. The doctors said that what was good for the heart was bad for the brain and that Dad would never be off the breathing tube. That night as I drove from Portland to Boothbay with my nephew we both agreed that although Dad had had many miraculous recoveries this time it sounded much more challenging and then we both said at about the same time- But this is Weston! The next day Dad woke up and removed the breathing tube. By the time I returned to the hospital he was already walking around the place in his walker although he had a giant bruise on his head. The older doctor looked at the younger doctor and said "Forget your ever saw that MRI !"
In the days afterwards, while recovering from the brain injury Dad was speaking over and over again about system management. That is when it hit me how that Dad's unique talents were as much about system management as about art and design. He was system managing his own brain recovery. He was also speaking a great deal about fishermen and fishing, It did not escape me, with the common interest I shared with my father in esoteric wisdom, that the fish is an ancient symbol of Christianity.

Dad survived that injury to live five more years, dying at the age of 93. Three days prior to his death he was sleeping deeply and as peacefully as I had ever seen him sleep. Around five in the morning of the day that he died, my sister checked on him and found him sleeping with a karge smile on his face. Dad often worried during his life time and I would tell him, you just have to have faith. I think he found that faith. He chose when to go. Of course I wanted him to stay longer but I have accepted the wisdom of his decision. People say the are sorry for our loss, which I appreciate, but I really do not feel a loss because I do not feel my father is gone, he just went on to another stage of his journey, like the ghosts he used to see in our house and consistent with the nature of time in quantum theory and esoteric wisdom, Dad is still very much with us. 

And still enjoying the view from our front porch.