Saturday, July 20, 2019

United by Separation



Two Wine Decanters and Glazes designed by Weston Neil Andersen circa 1950's
Recently two beautiful wine decanters, designed by Weston in midcentury, were returned to us. I date them at the late fifties or early sixties because the wine decanters were phased out of the production line by the seventies, to my recollection, as the wild life sculpture line and other functional designs became predominately featured. 

The form is understated in its simplicity. There are other forms of the midcentury or mid-century-inspired-era based on a bulb with a thin elongated neck but this form predates most of them. There are forms going back to antiquity based on a bulb with an elongated neck and yet I have never seen one that resembles the particular design choices made by Weston when he created this form for the first Andersen Design line to be marketed to the public.

The cast and fettling of these two decanter-vases is perfectly executed, bringing out the finer sensibilities of the design. The fullness of the bulb is anchored toward the ground. The bulb elongates, curving inward in both upward and downward directions. The downward curve is shorter for security at the base. The bulb elongates upward and tapers to an reserved degree before it expands outward again, without extravagance, toward the heavens, like a bulb flowering from earth to sky.

The glaze and the application of the glaze is accomplished with the perfection of skilled craftsmanship. The white glaze differs from the andersen signature look. It is a glossy white rather than a matte. The glossy white compliments the sensuality of the forms curvature.

Bulb Decanter with Slanted Lip and Two-Tone Glaze
Designed and Crafted by Weston Neil Andersen
Circa 1948


Glazing is one of the most intriguing and seductive arts of the ceramic designer craftsperson. It is both a science and an art. It involves molecular interactions which cannot be seen with the naked eye requiring an understanding of chemistry worked out as mathematical relationships. Every material has a different combination of oxides, which have different melting points and affects on other oxides. The glaze has to be matched to the body and daily attention paid to the water level and additives which regulate the flow of the glaze in both its first untempered character and as it becomes hot liquid glass flowing on a body of interacting clay molecules.


The Blueberry glaze is perfectly applied. The surface is smooth, embedded with deeper tones in speckled variegations. As the decanter was turned during the glaze application, the glaze flowed together on two sides, producing two elegant streams of a deep blue color. One stream is subtle and the other pronounced. The tactile surface is uninterrupted and smooth to the touch. The glaze meets the bottom of the form evenly with only one discretely present bubble aligned with the contrasting coloring where the glaze streamed into itself producing a darker tone. One must look closely to perceive it.

When Dad created his glazes he had to calculate everything by hand but today we are lucky to have a genius among us named Tony Hansen who created an invaluable glaze calculating software called digital fire or Insight and an ongoing blog which discusses many of the problems and sought after solutions in this fascinating field. Enter your materials and the program calculates the chemical information in an instant, but the hands on process of creating ceramics remains the same as it has been since the dawn of civilization.


Very Early One of a Kind Three Footed Tear Drop Vase with hand-crafted turquioise glaze by Weston Neil Andersen in late forties


Melon Vase and Bronze glaze designed by Weston. Glaze application by Mackenzie Andersen circa 2010
These two beautiful decanters began their lives like Siamese twins, bonded together in the kiln by a happenstance of placement when loading the kiln. They were placed too close together and were joined together during the transmutational process of heating and cooling.

There after was an attempt to separate the pair which created two matching holes around the center of the bulbs. The holes did not bother me but rather seemed a part of the union lasting for over half a century, a bond made stronger by history, one at birth and inseparable ever since, even after a forced attempt was made to separate them.




However when I recorded an image of the torn asunder decanters, I could not view it, I was filled with feelings of horror at the human capacity for evil. The image so sickened me that I immediately clicked it out of sight. In the two dimensional version, the vases had been executed! The feeling was amplified by the three dimensional vases sitting on the table top.

In the instant of perceiving the two dimensional vases as an execution, The restrained simplicity and refined craftsmanship of the whole vases in three dimensions became a memorial of every human soul whose life has been cut short by the horrors of human destruction. The contrast between one view of the vases and the other heightened the understanding of why mankind's desire to create objects of beauty matters.

In the early twentieth century Marcel Duchamp reacted to the concept of art as created for the viewing with the eye, only, referring to the prevailing concept of art as "retinal art'. Duchamp was one of the most influential artistic and intellectual minds of the twentieth century. His first controversial art work was The Nude Descending the Staircase, created at a time when nudes were commonly depicted in art as rendered realistically in the style of Renaissance Art, but Marcel was interested in deconstructing and reordering thinking about art. It was a time  when science was breaking old concepts of nature as defined by the most common human senses to discover an underlying dimension in which the laws of nature in the quantum domain contradict the laws of nature sustained in the classical paradigm. Heisenberg's uncertainty principal introduced what Bohr called, "the end of what we can know" as it became apparent that the act of observing was affecting the observed and that position (space) amd momentum (time) could not be measured simultaneously. The Nude Descending the Staircase expresses the new revolution in man's perception of nature and reality as it attempted to transcend a portrait anchored by classical time-space co-ordinates and depict a quantum superposition. I do not know if all of that was transpiring in Duchamp's mind but the idea that art transcends the intent of its maker was inherent to Duchamp's thinking about art as a conceptual process in which the artist could chose a work of art, rather than making it and the artist surrendered control of the work of art to other factors.

After a time, I could view the two dimensional artwork and see it as two vases with holes, clearly not bullet holes which would have shattered them to bits. The vases and their history are inseparable from the artwork which they have become. They were bonded together at birth, pulled asunder but inseparable after over half a century, art created through the passage of time, which ultimately highlights the original instinct which brought them into being, man's quest for beauty. Their beauty may be retinal but their journey is conceptual, open to interpretation. What made them inseparable? Together they became one when they were broken apart as a shared experience.

This blog series is introducing a collection of rare and one of a kind historical works to the public. The prices for which these rarities are being offered is high relative to the selling prices points for a line which originated with the idea of creating a hand made product affordable to the middle classes but modest relative in the marketplace of rare and one of a kind collectible objects. The idea of establishing a production studio with such a purpose as to create a hand made product affordable to the middle class, was a response to the industrial era of plastics. Weston and Brenda began Andersen Design at the pinnacle of America's great middle class era, a time when the greatest amount of wealth was distributed among the greatest number of people. Today the world has been re-ordered on completely different terms, but like the two vases, there is no way to separate Andersen Design from its history and from the unique moment of its birth or from the process of making something by hand, the pursuit of beauty, and philosophical artistic, and economic choices made in response to the industrial and technological era of their day.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

A Vote for Andersen Expresses a Philosophy that Endures Through Change



Photos by Mackenzie Andersen have been accepted in the American Art Pottery Calender Photo Contest. 

Please take a moment of your time to vote for the photos you like in this Contest. We hope it will include ours.

Vote for multiple photos – 13 will be chosen for the calendar. You will receive an email confirmation to confirm each vote.Voting ends JULY 31, 2019. Winner will be announced on the American Art Pottery/ FaceBook Page August 1st, 2019.

The art pottery movement in America began in the 1870s, coinciding with the beginning of the Arts and Crafts movement, which gained momentum in the 1880s. Wikipedia describes it as " aesthetically distinctive hand-made ceramics in earthenware and stoneware from the period 1870-1950s"


The work in the photos submitted to the American Art Pottery Calendar Contest is from the late forties to the early fifties. Our work is usually associated with the mid-century design esthetic but we are also American Art & Design in Stoneware. 







While Andersen Design's work does not fit the image of what is ordinarily thought of as "American Art Pottery", it fits the philosophy of the movement. We feel that this philosophy did not end in the 1940's but is still alive and well today. 


Our customers started calling our work"art" when the first Andersen Gallery opened in barn on Southport Island in 1952. At that time it was only a functional line but the forms, glazes and decoration transcended mere functionality in the spirit of the American Art Pottery movement.


 




Andersen Design's work inhabits a matrix on a continuum that extends in many directions. Our vintage work has roots in the early twentieth century which we hope will seed a new beginning in a new century.

The presence of Andersen Design in the American Art Pottery Calendar places Andersen's work on a historical continuum nor previously linked together in public perception but indelibly linked in the ongoing process of history. The times were changing and Andersen's work expressed that change.
Please take a moment of your time to view all of the wonderful photographs in the American Art Pottery Photo Contest and vote for as many of them that move you to do so.

Many Thanks, Mackenzie Andersen.


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Hand Making Ceramics in the USA, The Medium is still the Message

This post is republished from my blog, Preserving the American Political Philosophy.


Mug by Weston, Face by Brenda (c) andersendesign 1955

"This, is not a soup!" by Lou Ect is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 


"Smiley" by mag3737 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 


I was raised in a ceramic business in the home, which was different from its surroundings, making myself and my siblings, outsiders inside the classroom environment. When school closed and summer commenced, an alternate reality emerged, a world in which my family's art was sought after by a wide range of humanity. I felt welcomed by the foreigners and an outsider among local peers. Later when I left home for  NYC, circa 1966, I found myself surrounded by welcoming peers, a difference between night and day. It was New York City at the pinnacle of the flower power era when Greenwich Village was wall-to wall youth culture


As you can imagine this formulated a peculiar psychology, so strange, that even I didn't recognize it!
From Levittown
To Maine in 1952
Page from Jim Harnedy's book on the Boothbay Region. The 200 year old barn which was the first home of Andersen Design was torn down after we moved to East Boothbay

A while ago a high school acquaintance told me that what our family did was thought so unusual, when we moved into the neighborhood and put out a sign and ran a business from our home. It was my job to watch for customers, while walking the beams of the 200 year old barn where the swallows flew through an open space in the roof. When visitors arrived, I jumped from the beams and ran down the hill to alert my parents. I remember it as an era of personal freedom, but that personal freedom was a choice made by my parents when they moved from a Levittown styled community in Ohio to Maine. They chose the path less travelled in their time, which in those days was something that could be done in Maine. Then they carved a path against the medium of plastics to design and produce hand-made ceramics.

That was in 1952. when Andersen Design was born out of a unique philosophy, focused on creating a hand made product affordable to the middle class. The hand made making process was the ground out of which our art grew, literally the ground where the raw materials of the ceramist are are found.

By the time I arrived in NYC in 1966. Marshall McCluhan was as popular as the happy face, which came later.  McCluhan's time was the age of electricity. McCluhan held that most people perceive the content and not the medium. He identified those who can see the medium as artists, in whatever their chosen field of practice. Today they are called visionaries. In The Medium Is The Message, McCluhan wrote:"The artist can correct the sense ratios before the blow of new technology has numbed conscious procedures."

Today we live in the digital age with an ever accelerating rate of change. Entrepreneurs become multi-billionaires when they perceive the medium and how it will change the world. The medium is the messenger of change, and today part of the change the new medium has brought about is the billionaire syndrome, accompanied by the widening divide between classes, which is not only the content of the digital medium, but a new political medium as well, producing its own content. written in the statutes instituting sequential order in conformity with the will of global masters.

Every new medium, be it electricity or data, produces new processes and replaces old ones. Ceramic making is a process, rooted in antiquity, enduring through ever new mediums without changing its essence. One could be tempted to say that my parents resisted change when they chose the hand crafted ceramic process, but there was no change to resist in the making of ceramics. It is an art and a  technology which has existed since the dawn of civilization.
"Percussed victims of the new technology have invariably muttered clich├ęs about the impracticality of artists and their fanciful preferences. But in the past century it has come to be generally acknowledged that, in the words of Wyndham Lewis, “The artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because he is the only person aware of the nature of the present.” Knowledge of this simple fact is now needed for human survival. The ability of the artist to sidestep the bully blow of new technology of any age, and to parry such violence with full awareness, is age-old. Equally age-old is the inability of the percussed victims, who cannot sidestep the new violence, to recognize their need of the artist. To reward and to make celebrities of artists can, also, be a way of ignoring their prophetic work, and preventing its timely use for survival. The artist is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness" Marshal McCluhan, The Medium is the Message, 1964 

McCluhan defines medium as extensions of our bodies and our senses, be it an iphone or a brush. The hand made process removes layers of extensions and connects to the continuity of human experience through time. All great civilizations have been great periods of art and culture which has included ceramics. The making of ceramics engages the maker in a meaningful medium, not merely the content emerging from the medium in the form of objects, but the making process itself, which is at once the medium and its content.

One of a Kind Happy Face Mug, Form by Weston , Face by Brenda in the 1950's
In 1966 Andy Warhol was doing production as an art form and becoming the darling of the New York art world. Warhol's studio, known as the Factory, was a den of iniquity, where silk screened art of soup cans and portraits of celebrities were produced. The Factory was both a culture and a hand made work process. It was in a sense an urban business in a home away from home for its inner core and circle of followers.

In the same extended period, that Warhol painted soup cans, images emergent from the medium of commercialism, my father designed simple functional forms like the hand crafted chowder bowl. The reader can have both worlds by filling the hand crafted chowder bowl with some yummy Campbell's soup!

The classic chowder bowl pre-dates the iconic Campbell's soup can by Warhol
While commercialism reflects collectivism, the hand made forms produced by Andersen Design called out to the individual. Collectors collected Andersen as an expression of their personal taste, not as a trend, borne out by the fact the market appeal has attained classic status, enduring through time.

Back in the urban environs of New York, my parents peers of a former time, were designing for companies with factories which produced the designs. Later those factories would relocate to countries with low wage labor markets, while Andersen Design's production remained in America and successfully competed against foreign-made imports.

Andy Warhol's art factory was inseparable from the human culture which inhabited it.  Warhol's factory was an urban extension of a farm, the original business in a home, as much as it was a factory. and so the factory was more than a factory, it was a scene, which brings us back to McCluhan, when he associates the medium, as the background. The scene at the factory produced an abundance of creative content, not only silk screen artwork, but music and film and poetry. Warhol directed other artists to create his works but he was also involved in a hands on relationship with the creation of the art, and in that way Andersen Design and Andy Warhol's factory are similar concepts. As owners of our own "factory" we have never stopped being hands on involved in the process, be we need to work with others to produce a line of over 200 designs, and because producing a line of slip cast ceramics is a very complex process  requiring a team, working synergistically together.

Mark Kostabi and Jeff Koons, carried on the Warhol art as production tradition but pride themselves on never touching the artwork produced in their factories. If there is a human culture associated with their productions, it never reached the cultural notoriety of Andy's factory. Koons and Kostabi are more like designer-CEO's than artists in the meaning embedded in that identity by McCluhan. They are the sequential followers of Warhol, but at once, as commercial as a soup can, seeing only that art can be produced in a factory, but missing the deeper cultural import of Warhol, who created a farm for a dysfunctional family in the Biggest Apple in the orchard of urbanism. The significant message of Warhol is in the cultural medium he created.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

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.

If you are in the area this weekend- Look for us at the Finest Kind Barn Sale! Opening Gala Reception is Friday Night from 5-7 pm




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 .

Elise is also running a small Go Fund Me project to get the show on the road. You can support Elises Project HERE.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

What Difference A Curve Makes



Large Salad Bowl Form by Weston Neil Andersen: 10 inches diameter copyright Andersen Design 1970


Prototype of Form before lip was adjusted
The Large Salad Bowl with the two tones of blue leaves has been around for a long time. All the while I thought it was a beautiful decoration done on a bowl which had warped in the casting.
Recently. when photographing the bowls together, I realized I was wrong. The reason I thought the bowl was warped was because of what appeared to be a mis-shaped curve of the rim. I took it to be that the bowl had been trimmed when it was too wet and had released and curved inward. On closer examination, I realized it was not a casting error. The bowl was cast from a mold with a higher curve to the rim.

lip comparison

Observed side by side with another bowl it is obvious that there is no warping in the globe of the bowl. The blue flower bowl, shown from the back side, is the one on the right in the picture. Both bowls have perfectly formed globes. It is only the curve of the rim line which is different. This revelation identifies the blue leafed tree bowl as an original prototype which was cast and found unsatisfactory and so the form design was reworked, reshaping the curve of the cut-out lip.



The correct curve of the lip


This makes the bowl a very rare one of a kind casting of a prototype in the works. The bowl has some additional defects in an indented mold line, which is visible in the photo below and some small irregularities in the glaze application. While the curve of the lip is not right for the form of the bowl, this is only evident when looking down on it, Viewed from the front at a common placement, the curve of the lip is attractive and adds more room for the decorative tree, painted by Brenda, to grow. In the photo at the top of the page the form of the blue leaf bowl is not noticeably different from the other two and the tree is vibrant and vivacious.


The Working prototype is signed with capitalized letters spelling ANDERSEN, written in sgrafitto 



The bowl to the left is a vintage large salad bowl, ten inches in diameter The bowl is decorated with artistry characteristic of Brenda’s work.  

The execution of the form was problematic. The bowl was cast too thick and should have been tossed back into the slip tank to be reprocessed, but sometimes, in a moment of weakness, the slip-caster can’t bring themselves to do that and instead tries to fix it by thinning the curved lip of the bowl, causing a visible ridge along the rim as the thinned lip meets the heavy cast of the body. The bowl cracked during firing but the crack does not go all the way through the bowl and it holds liquid.  


The decoration of the bowl is perfectly executed in the first instant without any re-dos or touch ups giving the hand execution of the pattern an elegant and natural beauty expressing the inner confidence of the artist. The leaves have a crisp outline which requires a perfectly balanced white glaze and a perfectly adjusted decorating color. The former is done by the glaze maker and the latter is in the hands of the decorator, who must pay attention daily to the balance of the decorating colors. A talented decorator will develop an intuitive awareness through practice, but it is always about the relationship between the glaze and the decorating color.  


All this goes as an example to slip-casters as to why the cast which is too think should be thrown out, to give a fair chance that a masterful decorative execution will be matched with a perfectly cast form. The whole is in the teamwork.

This bowl is signed on the bottom with a scripted AD, indicating that it was probably a production work rather than a prototype. This is not certain as I am not certain that the distinction between the signing of a prototype versus the signing of a production work was paid a lot of attention, but it should be in the future.



The bowl is shown in the picture below with another bowl, also decorated by Brenda. The second bowl is a better cast. The decoration is charming with exuberance, despite the leaves not being as crisp as the leaves are in this bowl. 




The bowl on the right is cast to a perfect thinness. There is room for it to go even thinner but it is fine at this thickness and adds strength against breakage without making the bowl heavy in weight.

This bowl is decorated by Brenda. It is signed on the bottom in an unusual way. with the name ANDERSEN DESIGN written out in capital letters. This suggests that it might have been created during the prototype process, but that is not certain.





Monday, May 13, 2019

Patterns in Stoneware Penguins and Trees

In my last post I began a discussion about how one identifies the author of a piece, pointing out the importance of the signature but that the signature can also be misleading. The true signature is in the hand of the artist which is as unique as handwriting. This One of a Kind Vintage Emperor Penguin was created when the decoration for the production design was under development. The overall uniformity of the pattern is one of the keys to identifying that the penguin is decorated by Weston and not by Brenda.

https://store13231446.ecwid.com/One-of-a-Kind-Vintage-Jar-Vase-decorated-by-Weston-Neil-Andersen-p137192786
Weston's hand is patient, disciplined and rhythmic. The pattern is systematic but not mechanically uniform. Weston takes a philosopher's approach to pattern. The components of the pattern are integral to an inseparable expression of wholeness. The state of mind is at one with the beingness of existence. Weston patientently executes the teardrops in an organically flowing rhythm on the backside of the Emperor Penguin. A similar approach to pattern is shown in the vase, by Weston, to the left. The parts are irregular dabs in an organically organized formation which produces an overall effect which appears deceptively as regularity, like life


Brenda's approach to pattern is as a narrative, While Weston's approach might be compared to that of the drummer, Brenda is the dancer who lays a linear story line over the background of the beat, one might say, a beatnik pattern maker, as the artists culture was called in her day.

Brenda is likely the creator of the tree pattern. Trees all tell a story of life, responsive to the rain, wind, sun, moon and stars, causing their branches to reach out in a way unique to each individual tree. The philosopher focuses on beingness while the narrator tells the events of an individual journey through time


My own childhood artwork can be identified by the wreaths I placed around the  characters. This is how I envisioned the world in my first philosophical conceptualization, as I sat, at the age of five, in the midst of an unmowed grassy field, most likely the first summer that we lived in Maine. I thought about myself as a circle, and my family as a larger circle, and the other people in the world as an even a larger circle.The whole world was the largest circle but it could blow itself up. That didn't make sense and ruined the whole concept. I had going in my head.


If the figure in the center looks dismayed, that is why. That's my generation, the first generation born into a world which could blow itself up. We had to practice hiding under our desks but we knew it was much worse than that. Other generations have since been born into the same world but the way of dealing with it changed and children in sub primary class no longer have to practice hiding under desks preparing for an atomic bomb attack. Now they have to prepare for other kinds of attacks coming from their most immediate circle,

My narration went off pattern, when I leaped from the immediate to the far, The atom, or that non-thing that we call atoms, takes a quantum leap when it goes from one orbit to the next. It doesn't happen in conventionalized time and space. Within the nucleus within the nucleus within the nucleus, there is only consciousness.

That takes us deep into the process of creation, the essence of what makes us human. The process of creating a pattern is a process of consciousness, Creating a pattern is a state of being like chopping wood and carrying water and dancing around the room to the beat because there is no one to stop you from doing so in your own studio, and why small studios are in the Andersen Design master plan.




The eyes of the Emperor Penguin repeat the tear drops in stark black and white. Gray claws grip the base like a pronouncement of creaturehood. The sculpture has the mildly rough surface of a freshly sculpted piece cast in its first mold and the beat goes on.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Original Vintage Prototype Stein in Blue and White Stripes by Weston Neil Andersen



The Blue and white stein is an Andersen classic. This stein is probably the original prototype. It is signed on the bottom with a hand scripted “Andersen”, painted in blue decorating color against a background circle glazed in white.

It is very rare to find the signature on glazed background indicating that the work was created early on, before the glazed background was dropped for production reasons. 


Before Weston designed the prototypes for individual pieces, he made many sketches of a complete line of functional forms on any piece of paper handy, including napkins from road side diners, This is likely the original prototype of the stein because he wasn’t thinking about brand identity when he signed it in simple script with his last name.

By the time Dad did the second stein, shown with it in some pictures, the idea of a brand identity, complete with a logo, began to evolve as Weston started to sign his work with “A” instead of “Andersen” The way the signature on this stein is written in fluid decorating color, makes it difficult to determine if the spelling is “Anderson” or “Andersen”, but I interpret it to be “Anderson”. The changing of the spelling from the Swedish spelling to the Danish spelling indicates the thought process at work in developing a brand identity. Weston’s ancestors are Danish. The decision to use the ancestral spelling of his last name is an integral acknowledgement of who he is and how he came to be here in the grander scope of human history.

The stein is shown with second stein made around the same time. The second stein is signed with an “A’ on an unglazed background. In the early fifties Andersen Design was called Ceramics by Anderson.

The year was actually 1952





The original prototype stein is perfect in form, representing the way that Weston intended it to be produced. The cast is thin and the stein is taller than the second stein shown with it. The difference in length has to do with a longer grinding process used on the lip of the second stein so that it is not only shorter but it does not flair out as much as in the original prototype.

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This stein is a product of a moment in history and a perfect example of the prototypical form of the classic Andersen Design Blue striped stein, all hand-made and decorated by, Weston Neil Anderson.

Andersen Design is an American Designer Craftsmen Studio established by Weston and Brenda Andersen in 1952 on Southport Island, Maine, USA. The studio was started with a philosophy of creating hand crafted products affordable to the middle class. Andersen Design remained an American made ceramic studio when most of the western ceramic industry moved production to foreign labor markets and competed successfully in a market flooded with foreign made imports, producing a hand-made art product affordable to the middle class. Andersen Design stands as a singular American original design company taking a unique alternative path during an era of global transformation.