Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Turn in the Road From Extinction to Distinction


PART TWO in a series in which I  place Andersen Design's vision of economic development in the economic development environment in Maine Go to Part One
Patron and Collaborator, Bob Rose standing among some of Maine;s "underutilized resources" 


A special request

It is the legacy of the second generation of Andersen Design, including yours truly, to preserve the Andersen Design tradition and meld it into the 21st century. Today more than ever, it teeters on the brink of extinction. To secure it's physical headquarters, and work space, which is also where we live on a rental basis, we need to raise $2000.00 in funds available by Friday.

You can make a donation to our ready cash fund to cure the most immediate need here:


 
This is a donation to this research and opinion blog, which I have been individually maintaining since 2007. If Andersen Design makes it through this existential crisis, we will be willing to make good on your donation, on an individual basis, if you present the receipt to us, when we are up and running again.
featuring special vintage pieces and items that are either 

currently in production or are scheduled to be in production


We need to establish a fund for monthly recurring contributions totaling $2000.00 or more so that we are not continually dealing with an existential crisis as we are trying to re-establish our new foundation. Tax deductible contributions can be made through our Fractured Atlas project, Andersen Design American Phoenix. Those contributions take a week to process and will not be available by Friday.
There are a couple ways to make a tax deductible contribution:
1. You can donate by credit card online at the link below:The Andersen Design American Phoenix Project2.
If you prefer, you can also donate by check. Please send contributions to Andersen Design, 103 Cochran Rd, Edgecomb, Maine 04556-3024. Checks should be made payable to Fractured Atlas,
The Andersen Design American Phoenix in the memo line.The Andersen Design American Phoenix is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non‐profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of The Andersen Design American Phoenix must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” and are tax‐deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Andersen Design took years to establish. It is hard to imagine anyone today persevering through such a long birthing process. In the years of prosperity that followed, my father complained that he was in a tax bracket in which the government was taking 50% of what he made. In those years, Andersen Design was in the taxpaying class heavily relied upon to finance the investor class of the Maine's new public-private government. Today, when Andersen Design is in need of capital, the response from the economic development bureaucracy is "Drop dead!"

As I wrote in my last post, the Midcoast Maine Community Action group's mission statement emphasizes economic development and economic independence, identifying that it serves low income, "at risk " people, which is currently myself. The website says they help us with our problems by helping us to identify what our problems are. How it can it be true that they help us with our problems, which they identify? In our case their definitions occlude the whole nature of who we are. The assumption in that conjunction is that low income people are not capable of identifying their own problems. The mission statement is a language trap. The word "economic development" is processed through the term "at risk" to take on a meaning that economic development is security gained through public assistance, not growth and opportunity, but a security floor, which raises one out of the at risk category. Period.

Yesterday, I tried to explain to MMCA that a significant part of our income is derived from a business in our home. In that case, I was told, the group could not help me because I am a business. Aren't businesses part of economic development?  No, not the way they define economic development which is helping people with personal needs. I said, currently our gallery is not yet operational but I use the phone and home office to generate income. Then they cannot help me because I am doing business in the home The way MMCA defines economic development excludes businesses, despite the fact that their mission statement specifically includes business as a category they serve, It was explained to me that they were formerly called an economic development group but now their name has been changed to a community action group, I called that devolution. Maine is devolving into feudalism! Expect the word "businesses" to soon disappear from MMCA's mission statement, as did the words "helping people to become economically independent" disappear from Boothbay Resource's mission statement after I suggested to that organization that they could fiscally sponsor Andersen Design.
 
A year ago I was dealing with the other end of the spectrum and trying to get help in writing our business plan from a business consultant who has a private practice and is also associated with several of Maine's public economic development resources and active in the art world. That sounds like a good combination for Andersen Design. I shall call him Mr Green, not his real name.

The first thing I encountered is a rule one frequently encounters at this strata of Maine's economic development system. Mr. Green would only talk to one person from any organization. I see no benefit in this rule for the client. It exists solely because it makes it easier for the consultant. It  establishes a class order in which corporate heads only talk to corporate heads. In our case there is more than one principal. Since I was not an executor of my father's will, I was excluded from conversation, left to judge what was going on by hearsay. It seemed that all had gone well with the first meeting but I could see my partner was offended in the first follow up phone call. After a while I became confused about Mr Green's role. At first I believed he was there to help us with our business plan but after a while I came to believe that we were supposed to present a plan to him so I called one of the public economic development groups in which Mr Green is listed as a consultant. I asked for help with writing a business plan which we could present to 
Mr Green and insisted that all principals needed to be at the meeting.


Mr Green there after called to schedule a meeting with all of us. The meeting began with Mr Green asking why I though we were there. I said, to have a dialogue. He said "Do you know what I think a dialogue is? Me talking and no one interrupting !". That sounded like my definition of a monologue but I sat back and let him deliver a generic speech. Mr Green is a thinly censored man with a tendency to blurt out what is foremost on his mind and so he commented many times over that our product is of very high quality and our brand surely has strength. I appreciate him for that because through the many doors that I passed through during this last year, most treated Andersen Design as having no value, people like Wendy Wolf of the JECD development group,and others. Mr Green's opinion carries more weight. His art background is consistent with knowledge of our field.

Mr Green's delivery was punctuated by repeatedly asking if we wanted to work with him, and at other times exclaiming that he couldn't work with us. Was it disdain or insecurity? It felt like both, his disdain for having to deal with people of our distressed financial status and insecurity stemming from recognition of the value of our intellectual property assets. In Maine's two tiered cultural system, there is no room for ownership in the bottom half of the economy, intellectual property rights, or otherwise.

Eventually, I wrote the business plan on my own, after Mr Green did not respond to any contact after the first meeting, The plan I wrote incorporated my long held vision for a network of studios independently owned by the people engaged in the work process. When I mentioned this idea to Mr Green, he said, "That's illegal! I can't work with you if you are going to do illegal things!" Did he not listen or was it just that he couldn't deal with the concept of a world with entrepreneurs in the bottom half of the economy? 


Andersen Design serves a public benefit in unique and unrecognized ways
:

Andersen Design has always taken the road less travelled. The originating philosophical mission was to create a hand made product affordable to the middle class. Those were the days of a middle class so great that my father described it as a bell curve in which the largest amount of wealth distributed among the largest number of people. Because Andersen Design was started with such a philosophy, Andersen Design's art, as the public elected to call it, was collected by Americans of every walk of life and handed down from one generation to the next. For sixty five years many special works were created, and without being documented, were sold. Works are special because of their superior craftsmanship, or because their one of a kind decorative finish, or because they have a very rare glaze, or the interactive glazes, that Andersen Design uses in its production process, turned out to be particularly stunning as in the bowl shown here:




Dad was always carving, cutting out, stacking, and cut and pasting ceramic forms into new configurations. 






 And Brenda painted with vitality and expression, never rote :
The whole family was engaged in the creative process:
Girl in a Wreath. Jumping Rope by Susan Mackenzie Andersen, in the private collection of Terry Seaman


There is no telling how many very special Andersen pieces are hidden across the American landscape in the private collections handed down from generation to generation by families of ordinary means. works forgotten to our memories. The most exquisite pieces were sold, without a record made. When Andersen Design is professionally established as the go-to dealer of Andersen, we have a great likelihood of attracting the most unusual work. documenting it, representing those works in the market place and placing them in Museum show venues. Andersen vintage pieces can be donated to the museum as a tax deductible contribution, but the market establishes the value of the donations.

As with other online markets, in example, Ebay, Amazon, and Etsy, a go-to market for antiques dealers is already established. It is competitive to get into this market place. One must have references with other dealers who are already in the marketplace being the preferred reference. Fortunately, we have such references and have been invited to phase two of the application process. Online research reports a very high monthly fees for participating in this marketplace, but tradeshows are equally expensive. There is also a section for twenty first century design in which contemporary ceramic vases sell for several thousand dollars. Andersen Design can develop and encourage products for such a market. It is a different direction from our founding philosophy but consistent with the way the world has changed since then. Put that together with "The Great American Ceramic Craftsmen Designer Network" of my vision and Andersen Design can be a marketing venue for a plethora of creativity emerging from the small independently owned studios in the network. I have envisioned the network situated in Maine's low income high unemployment areas which have been virtually ignored by Maine's public-private government. I call it the free enterprise zone, areas where businesses in the home are potentially still allowed in municipal zoning ordinances.

Conceptually speaking, if we should be accepted as a dealer in the world class market, it would benefit many of our private collectors. If we can establish the "Great American Ceramic Designer Craftsmen Network", any one of those studios could develop products for the 21st century line with the  Andersen Design brand, providing them access to the global high end market of dealers and interior decorators.

The dealership is a private enterprise. The archival work is a function of  the fiscally sponsored Andersen Design Museum of American Designer Craftsmen, which is still a private enterprise, which pays taxes, but is permitted to accept tax deductible contributions via our fiscal sponsor.

The Museum can play a role in bringing. into the light of day, the works hidden from public view in the private collections of ordinary Americans.  I have been documenting our vintage pieces on Airtable. Given available financial resources that can be expanded as a data base of works in other private collections. Andersen Design collections can be donated as a tax-deductible contribution to any museum but it is the private market which establishes the value of the contributions.

Go to Part One  Go to Part Three

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