Monday, September 30, 2019

It Takes Hatching Many Butterflies to Diversify an Economy- Part Two!

Opportunity at the Economic Roots 

Broken Platter.The Owl and the Pussy Cat by Brenda Andersen circa 1960's

Part One

A Call to Action!

I first began blogging about political matters because I observed that there was a missing diversity of reporting and opinion in the Maine media. My purpose in writing my own blog is to create an alternative voice. I have likewise found this to be true in terms of access to economic development support in the Boothbay Region despite the existence of organizations which call themselves economic development councils and resources. The economic development council is as unapproachable as the Boothbay Planning Board, which despite language found in Title Thirty of the Maine Statutes stating that the public "shall" have a hearing in regards to town planning, inclusive of comments submitted in writing, the Boothbay Planning Board does not provide contact information on the town website, also true for the Joint Economic Development Planning Council.

When I approached the Joint Economic Development Council of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor about a museum concept for which Andersen Design had been fiscally sponsored, the JECD has just spent 79000.00 of public money to hire New York consultants to write, from a great distance, a master plan  for our local community. 
The Camoin Associates master plan recommends museums for the region. 

Fiscal sponsorship means that the sponsored organization can accept non-profit funding without itself being a 501(3)C organization. In other words a fiscally sponsored project can bring capital funding into a community but it still pays taxes, including property taxes. Ms Wolf seemed unaware of Andersen Design's history, recognition, and support within our industry. We were readily invited to apply for funding from a major Maine Crafts Foundation but that requires establishing a board for the museum, for which I found no support locally.

One might expect a local economic development council to understand fiscal sponsorship as a community asset. However, it is uncertain that JECD spokesperson, Wendy Wolf, was familiar with fiscal sponsorship, as she advised me that the first thing I would have to do is become a 501(3)C organization. Wolf also relayed that the JECD could do nothing to help individual businesses. I was advised to get help from my own peer group, dismissing the advise in the Camoin Report, about developing museums in the region. Ms Wolf was preoccupied with planning an advertising program to benefit the Boothbay Harbor restaurants and accommodations industry, in conjunction, with the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Christmas lights event, all accepted into the JECD's peer group.

It is true that Andersen Design's support is not found in government and other public organizations. There is a large world outside the public system but there are times when one must confront and even collaborate with government. Now is one of those times since it matters to preserve the quality of life and working environment provided by a business in the home. For many years that life style, so fundamental to rural living and designer craftspeople has been a target of elimination in Boothbay. An examination and comparison of statutory mandates and town planning leads from one to the other by following the money, distributed  as grants. The State is playing a hand in our town planning, which could be remedied somewhat by establishing a town charter, but that still leaves the heavy hand of centrally managed wealth redistribution. Since I would not like to move once more in order to have the freedom to live a quality life consistent with my upbringing, I must take up the call to action and harken others to join me. I present my case herein.

The Cat that Thinks by Himself, By Brenda Andersen. Vintage Prototype circa 1970's ?

A Concept is Born

About twenty years ago, Andersen Design's production, which once had a large facility, had fallen back on our space in our home. I was casting the line but it was too large to cast all at once in that small space so I had to rotate the line. I imagined there being many small studios and that each one could concentrate on particular segment of the line, perfecting the craftsmanship of those particular pieces. I favor the quality of work process that small studios attached to a home provide, but size and working environment would be up to the individual studio.

We need collaborators who love the process and are dedicated to it and so I felt the studios should be individually owned. We would network with them as independent contractors. The studios could either work exclusively with us or develop other business and their own lines. That would depend on the individual of which there are all types. I am aware that there is a subculture in America of artisans who decorate slip cast forms and others who slip cast forms and sell them to that market, evidence that the interest in ceramic work is alive and well and attractive. My idea is a variation on that and fashion design studios which out live their namesakes, and continue the originating tradition.

The classic Chickadee was designed by Weston and Brenda Andersen is produced using our original casting slip and glaze recipes made from raw materials. Even though the glaze and decorating recipes are the same, due to the process, each studio's work is likely to be distinguished by its own identity. Teaching a process dependent upon originally designed glaze and body recipes requires the hands on involvement of those who know the process. Small works like the chickadee have never gone out of demand, fitting in small spaces in the kiln, increasing its value and creating a better firing density They are  a pleasure to craft well and all that we can produce is readily sold. Today we are missing a studio where we can produce and train others. Please sign up for our Kickstarter support list, which needs to grow far beyond its current size before we launch. If you are already on our list you can help by sharing this message around.

I didn't realize then, that it is a politically radical idea to propose ownership at the roots of the economy, in Maine, in the early years of the twentieth first century.

Diversity- A Plan or Pipe Dream?

"As Tzu-Gung was traveling through the regions north of the river Han, he saw an old man working in his vegetable garden. He had dug an irrigation ditch. The man would descend into a well, fetch up a vessel of water in his arms and pour it out into the ditch. While his efforts were tremendous the results appeared to be very meager. Tzu-Gung said, “There is a way whereby you can irrigate a hundred ditches in one day, and whereby you can do much with little effort. Would you not like to hear of it?” Then the gardener stood up, looked at him and said, “And what would that be?” Tzu-Gung replied, “You take a wooden lever, weighted at the back and light in front. In this way you can bring up water so quickly that it just gushes out. This is called a draw-well.” Then anger rose up in the old man’s face, and he said “I have heard my teacher say that whoever uses machines does all his work like a machine. He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul. Uncertainty in the strivings of the soul is something which does not agree with honest sense. It is not that I do not know of such things; I am ashamed to use them "cited as favorite anecdote of Werner Heisengerg. by Marshall McLuhan in The Medium is the Message.
Recently, in response to developments, I thought of an even more radical idea, that the core network should be located in Boothbay. It should be an avenue accessible to those of limited means (or not) to become entrepreneurs, just as it was for our family which lived on the edge of faith during my youth, before the business attained financial success providing a comfortable and secure living.

I was too young to be aware of financing, aware only that the business was started with small business loan and proceeds from selling the Levittown style house Dad was able to purchase as a war veteran. The SBA loans were guaranteed by the government and enabled financing but did not cost the taxpayers unless there was a default. Such a system can measure its public benefit value by the ratio of loans paid back versus defaults. I have wondered how my parents managed to swing the financing of the New York Gift Show, which put Andersen Design on the national map. As the first NYC Gift Show, it may have been offered at a reduced rate. I only know that I have never heard that they had any outside financing to make that happen.

A business in a home is one of the most conducive environments for using production as the medium of art. It allows the artisan the quality of life to tune in to his internal rhythms rather than adapting to external cues. Both platters were painted by Brenda Andersen in the fifties or sixties.The platter on the left is a production pattern but intuitively ordered. The pattern on the right is a one of a kind artwork which emerges during the production process when internal impulses are permitted expression by the environment and the fluidity of the process.

Winters were dicey. I went to the post office every day eager to see if there was a check in the mail. I was accustomed to not knowing when necessary funds were coming and having the funds arrive, as needed. That reinforced faith in the workings of the universe. This is the spirit of America that is lost as we become another wealth redistribution society, providing security but withholding opportunity for all those except the economic top. Andersen Design possesses productivity assets which can contribute to the economic development of a region from the roots outwards. Our assets, an extensive marketable and classic product line and a historical brand identity, are unusual and can only come about over the long term, not instantly manifested over night. 

However many are intent upon reinventing the Boothbay Region as an exclusive community for the wealthy. How can the latter accomodate a budding micro-economy entrepreneurial class? Can the economics of one co-exist with the economics of the other? I can't answer that. But it has to begin with a vision and the ability to suspend disbelief. The vision is based on the foundational concept that the appropriate goal of economic development is economic diversity and strength in the middle. 

Should Andersen Design succeed in realizing a ceramic slip studio network, it will enhance the economic and cultural diversity of the community. Ordinances which encourage rather than prohibit home businesses contribute to the solution of several problems at once, affordable housing, year round employment, and way to integrate raising a family with growing a living. 

Acorn Squash Vase, small, 3.5" tall, The beauty of this natural and organic form takes on pristine clarity in our soft white matte glaze, Vintage prototype. Design by Weston Neil Andersen circa 1980's

An Industry Partnership

Most economic development in Boothbay is centered on the leisure time activities of the tourism and entertainment industries. A ceramic network enhances a community focus on creative, innovative and productive work activities. Networked ceramic studios, sometimes working independently, sometimes collaboratively, meets the description found in §3305. Industry partnership grant program, since such a ceramic network is an industry partnership.

The Industrial Partnership Program is one of the few options that make training affordable, but it is not as equitably accessible to all as was the minimum wage, which is no longer treated as a training wage, a shared expense by employer and employee, but as a minimum living wage, keyed to increase with inflation. Training is expensive to take on. It is a form of education, raising the skill level of the employee. Whereas the formerly conceived minimum wage made training equally accessible to all and a shared cost between employer and employee, one has to garner community support for grants. 

The first community served by a ceramic studio network are home businesses which need the support of town ordinances. The second community is designer craftsmen in general and ceramic artists in specific,and then there is the retail sector which benefits by shopping experience which is actually better in the real world than online. As already stated, the community that shares the values of creating entrepreneurial opportunity at the roots of the economy would be served by such a network. Andersen Design understands growth from the roots because that was how Andersen Design began. Growth from the roots up can extend to the heights, a pathway made more accessible when the divide between the haves and the have nots devolves into the middle, a divide which has only deepened in Maine since Governor Longley and his unelected board reinvented Maine as a centrally managed economy in 1976.

Seeking Capital

Since thinking of the idea for networking the production of our line. I have explored the capitalization-funding systems from every angle and came to see the entire economy as intersecting wealth redistribution sectors. Once there had been three separate and distinct sectors, government, private, and non-profit, but all had merged into one, morphing intermittently into the appearance of separability but in fact so homogeneously connected that it seemed that it had swallowed up the wealth creating sector, obscuring it from perception by the naked eye. Although the wealth redistributing sector redistributed wealth that was once created, it developed into a culture in which the act of creating wealth was viewed as untoward, while the act of redistributing wealth was perceived, or at least promoted, to be motivated by the unselfish will to public benefit. Meanwhile behind every powerful non-profit organization is found a multitude of large corporate foundations which have accumulated large concentrations of wealth in the private sector.  As reported in American Investment in the Twentieth Century, since the onset of the twenty first century, the macro-economy, which funds the redistribution economy, has been decreasing investments in building non-financial businesses in order to increase investments in financial assets, or money making money, as its only function within society. We are not there in totality, yet, but is the direction in which America is headed. How is it sustainable?

The Butterfly Effect

It is often said that the individual has no effect on the path of the world. However in chaos theory, there is a minutely sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state:
The Butterfly Effect
Edward Lorenz, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a tornado (the exact time of formation, the exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. Lorenz discovered the effect when he observed that runs of his weather model with initial condition data that was rounded in a seemingly inconsequential manner would fail to reproduce the results of runs with the unrounded initial condition data. A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome.
Andersen Design has a special talent for form. The Andersen Butterfly as it was decorated as a production pattern can also be decorated as a one of a kind or limited edition artwork. There is no limit to the decorative and glazing possibilities. It is because Andersen Design started as a business in a home, that it was able to evolve as production as an art form, which is the truly humanistic response to the inhumane working conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, and in the twenty first century, by those working "quality jobs" in Amazon distribution centers. Andersen Design's brand of production as an artform centers on work as more than a means of an income but as an important quality of life. Andersen Design Production as an art form necessarily relies on its humanity.

One might equate central economic management with the data system which is rounded off, in the belief that that only large systems contribute to results, dismissing smaller systems as inconsequential. The State as central manager of wealth redistribution economy, arranges the pay and benefits of the workers from minimum wage to quality jobs, which are defined as jobs paying higher than average wages and benefits, with no further criteria. A system of grant giving corals all who engage to serve as instruments of the State's centrally managed design for everything that exists. The State just hasn't been able to figure out how to coral those darn butterflies! The best solution is to round them off, to build one's model of everything as if nothing exists outside the all-knowing state.

Title 30: §4345. Purpose; department to administer program Under the provisions of this article, a municipality or multimunicipal region may request financial or technical assistance from the department for the purpose of planning and implementing a growth management program. A municipality or multimunicipal region that requests and receives a financial assistance grant shall develop and implement its growth management program in cooperation with the department and in a manner consistent with the procedures, goals and guidelines established in this subchapter.  
§4346. Technical and financial assistance program
E. Assistance in the development of ordinances; 
In the Boothbay Register, articles about our town economic development groups are always about the money, and inevitably grants from the State.

The Meeting of the Emperor Penguins Board. Emperor Penguin designed by Weston and Brenda Andersen and finished in Andersen Design's proprietary glazes.

The Mad Hatters Board Party

In 1976, Governor Longley's unelected board, defined one of the two missions of the state's new centrally managed economy in its report Governor's Task Force for Economic Redevelopment, Recommended Legislation for an Economic Development Program -110th Congress as "To eliminate municipal referendums on public bonds". Since public votes on municipal bonds are provided by the Home Rule Amendment to the Maine Constitution, added in 1969, it is not such an easy thing to do. Instead a system of government by boards proliferated and proliferated.

Government by boards is an opaque form of government. There is no individual accountability as positions of the individual board members are hidden behind the collective identity of the board, like the Wizard of OZ. Boards can deem nonsense like the Mad Hatters Tea Party and there is nothing to do about it.

In my search for a means to recapitalize Andersen Design, I learned about fiscal sponsorship, which allows an enterprise serving a mutual purpose of a non-profit 501 (3)(C) to be sponsored by the non-profit as a project enabling the project organization to apply for foundation grants without being structured as a 501 (3)(C) non-profit. The entity whose project is sponsored qualifies for funding, otherwise available only to 501 (3)(C) organizations, but is not tax exempt. This seems like a healthy development with potential to redistribute wealth on a more equitable bases by including the micro-economy free enterprise sector, which is taxed to finance subsidies for the large corporations which concentrate wealth and create foundations to give via non-taxpaying non-profits. The justification for subsidizing large corporations with taxpayer funding is because it serves "the public benefit". For such rational to be true, what goes around must come around.

I applied to a New York fiscal sponsor for the arts, as a social enterprise. I was told before I went through the process that because Andersen Design has been teaching ceramic skills on the job, for our entire history that we should qualify. After taking an inordinately long time to come to a decision, the board rejected our application citing the use of the word "production" on the application, which the board declared to mean "being in it only for the money". By asserting that our motivations are whatever the board declares them to be, the actual fact that we have been teaching employees the skills of making ceramics since 1952, was disqualified as a social enterprise function. The fact that we taught the skills and can continue to teach the skills is an indisputable fact. The assertion by the board regarding our motivations is arbitrarily mechanized fiction.

After rejecting our application for funding the continuance of Andersen Design's historical purpose, the fiscal sponsors board then encouraged us to apply for a different mission, wherein the apparent thinking of the board became even more preposterous.

The board invited us to apply instead for a school or a museum. If we applied as a school, the board would not allow us to teach others how to make our product line of over 200 designs but it would allow us to teach how to make our proprietary glazes.

Tumbler designed by Weston Neil Andersen, cast and decorated by Susan Mackenzie Andersen. The is the last project I was working on before we lost our production capability. I worked out the right balance between the white glaze and the blue decorating colors so that the colors hold their forms without running or appearing too stiff, having just enough softness at the edges to gently merge into the glaze. This is the test of those results, with which I was pleased. 

Having invested so much time and energy into the application, on the spur of the moment, I decided to apply for a museum, making up the figures on the fly, being sure to show a loss. We were readily accepted once we changed our mission and showed a loss.

However our first goal is to re-establish a ceramic studio and training center. The museum makes a great component of the network whenever both materialize, but is on the back burner until then.

Town Ordinances Need to Work for All Inhabitants of the Community!

A January 2019  article in the Boothbay Register tells about an artist who purchased a house on Ocean Point, thinking it would be no issue in a small town to get permission to set up a gallery and teach a four student class. He was wrong. The planning board denied permission. 

In the same article it is reported that the planning board  is reconsidering its prohibitions against businesses in the home, but no contact information is given. In November the inhabitants of the municipality will be allowed an up or down vote on what the planning board decides, and a public hearing at that late date, but no mentioned opportunity for submitting written comments, as mandated by Title 30 of the Maine Statutes. As my reader might have guessed, this is my written comment.

Concurrently, with rumors that the planning board is reconsidering the ordinances prohibitive to home businesses, the town selectmen and JECD are trying to implement fiber optics broadband, and talking about grants to pay for it. Will there be a trade off bargain for State funding pitting one interest group against another? The broadband group commands the media with frequent stories advancing their intentions but the only way I found out about the planning boards rumored reconsideration of ordinances restricting home businesses is because of a one line mention, hidden in a paragraph in the January article in the Boothbay Register. The JECD does nothing to represent the interests of traditional rural lifestyles while using public funding to advance its own agenda.

Boothbay is located within commuting distance from the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, a former navy base, reinvented as a municipal corporation chartered by the Maine Legislature to serve as an instrument of the state. As the only municipality designated as a Pine Tree Zone in the Midcoast Region, most, if not all, taxpayer subsidies and tax exemptions, are invested in the municipality of MRRA, leaving only one role for the rest of the Midcoast Region - to serve as high end housing for the tax payer subsidized development at MRRA. The perceived needs of a MRRA suburbia is one speculative explanation for why the mysteriously appointed Boothbay planning board has passed ordinances, some copied word for word from the State's Industrial Partnership Act, aimed at breaking apart the lifestyle and work process which integrates a business with a home- a core value in Andersen Design's vision of a related network of independently owned, industrious ceramic studios, in fact the inspiration for it, without which the evolution of production as an art form would not have had room to grow. Production as an art form is historically relevant to all that has happened since the industrial revolution and its associated social issues.

Boothbay Comprehensive Plan of 2015 pg 16 & 17 Identical to Chapter 39: MAINE INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIPS  Action , 2-3 * Action B,2-4[ 2013, c. 368, Pt. FFFFF, §1 (NEW) .]
Action B.2-4Explore creating a small business assistance program that would help growing businesses, including home businesses and home occupations, with financing and with locating in appropriate commercial/industrial districts when appropriate. 

Add Developers like Paul Coulombe and Air B&B to the mix and there is little room for people of ordinary means. Even so, our politicians invest great rhetoric into claims of wanting to attract young people and to create year round employment and affordable housing. Even I admit that it is madness to think that young budding micro-economy entrepreneurs could afford to live and work in Boothbay, even if our ordinances were to be rolled back.

And yet, here we are, residing in Boothbay on a property with well water, needed for producing our product, due to the fact that in 2017 the town water in Knickerbocker Lake became unusable for the purpose of mixing our ceramic casting slip, as it acted as if radically overdosed with flocculants, a water cleansing agent. The property where we reside has enough acerage to accommodate building a ceramic studio and training center. 
In order to do so, we must first take on city hall, aka the Boothbay Town rulers, both elected and unelected. According to Title 30 
financial assistance to municipalities is to be tied to conformity with State goals:
§4345. Purpose; department to administer program Under the provisions of this article, a municipality or multimunicipal region may request financial or technical assistance from the department for the purpose of planning and implementing a growth management program. A municipality or multimunicipal region that requests and receives a financial assistance grant shall develop and implement its growth management program in cooperation with the department and in a manner consistent with the procedures, goals and guidelines established in this subchapter.  
State Goals are inevitably tied to the system described by Senator Rubio in his Report. Made in China 2025 and the Future of American Industry, in which there are high value and low value industries at the global scale. High value industries are designated for developed nations and low valued industries for emerging economies. Most things hand crafted are low value industry, according to this system which actually is "only about the money". This way of thinking is consistent with Maine's definition of a "quality job", exclusively measured by higher than average wages and benefits, as arranged by the State for corporate benefits.

There is also this in Title 30:

§4326. Growth management program elements 1. Inventory and analysis.  A comprehensive plan must include an inventory and analysis section addressing state goals under this subchapter and issues of regional or local significance that the municipality or multimunicipal region considers important. The inventory must be based on information provided by the State, regional councils and other relevant local sources. The analysis must include 10-year projections of local and regional growth in population and residential, commercial and industrial activity; the projected need for public facilities; and the vulnerability of and potential impacts on natural resources. (emphasis added)The inventory and analysis section must include, but is not limited to:

B. Significant water resources such as lakes, aquifers, estuaries, rivers and coastal areas and, when applicable, their vulnerability to degradation; [2001, c. 578, §15 (AMD)

For the purposes of inventory and analysis, the degradation of the Knickerbocker Lake water supply, pursuant to the purpose of mixing our casting slip, should be included in the inventory and analysis of significant water resources and fairly incorporated into the zoning ordinances. Our long established local industry requires a property with well water. I submit that "other relevant local sources" includes all inhabitants of the community. The planning board should be talking to the people and businesses affected by their regulations- during the planning process, not only a short time before a vote. There is no way for the planning board to understand our issue with town water unless there is an open avenue of communication.

If the planning board completely ends the current tyranny against home businesses, our water issue will be solved. They may be calculating access to State grants in this policy. However the balancing factor is that by encouraging growth at the roots of the economy, incalculable initial conditions could 
create a significantly different and more diversified outcome for the region's economy and culture. The quality of measurement should not be only about the money.

Think globally, Act locally!

Please Support Andersen Design's Vintage Products Fundraiser!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

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 Chapter Two by signing up for our email list!

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

An Object of Beingness

One of a kind object, viscerally carved in pattern that evolves as the bowl turns

I think of this bowl as being masculine in gender because of the strength and boldness of the carving.

At every turn a new face appears. This bowls defies regimentation and yet works as an integrated whole.
In today's world of ever expanding cultural grids, this bowl is an act of defiance!

Don't be afraid, Don't question your instincts, just carve it as you feel it.

Live in the strength of confidence your own beingness, Its very primitive and very timelessly now!


Monday, August 12, 2019

The Andersen Design Brand- An New American Evolution in the Making.

Rare One of A Kind Heron Sculpture by Weston Neil Andersen is being offered as part of our estate sale of  rare vintage work - a funding project for a new production and training facility for Andersen Design

Pictured above is a very rare heron sculpture, hand decorated by Weston. It would be an engaging creative project to produce the heron as a limited edition series working in collaboration with talented artisans creating unique redititions.

Alas, we do not have a fully functioning production facility. We need to fund one. We have the line and we have the brand, unique assets that came about through pursuing a work process over the course of sixty seven years. Such assets can seed creative opportunities in meaningful engaging work, for future generations. In our view it is a great economic development asset that would attract an even greater designer craftsmen community, young people, and most important provide not just jobs in meaningful and engaging work, training ceramic skills on the job, if we can find an affordable means to do so in Maine, and opportunities for growth in a sector of the economy where there is a need to replenish in Maine- the middle of the economy.

This is a difficult post to write, not knowing how much to say. One option is to ignore the problem and pretend all is as usual, but that is hard to do with the onset of the most active season of the year and still showing no new stock.

The process of producing anything beautiful and well crafted confers dignity upon the makers. 

For the past months during which I started this blog series, some may have noticed there has been very little new inventory posted on our ecommerce store, excepting our rare vintage work inventory. This is due to circumstance connected to our production which we have been expecting to resolve. Unfortunately today it looks like those difficulties are permanent and we need to relocate our production before we can produce more work. 

Setting up a production and training center is a large project to organize and finance, In the meantime we would like to finance smaller projects such as setting up a small line of table top items which can be produced by other American slip-casting studios using either commercial glazes and or decorating techniques created by our partner studio. A mug requires an investment of $5000.00 to set it up so that it can be produced by another studio,

We need to begin a process of finding studio partners whose way of working is consistent with our own brand.

We created our brown slip technique in midcentury. Today there is a commercial company producing a brown slip similar to our own. This has both advantages and disadvantages for us. The advantage is that we can work with other producers using the commercial version. The disadvantage is that it takes away from the individuality of our signature look. We were told we could not show our brown tree in a regional show because someone else was doing our brown tree using the commercial slip. It was quite literally our brown tree. The show manager would not allow our brown tree pattern because it competed, with the artisan most likely working with the commercial slip, and likely inspired by our work, perhaps not knowing we are still in business.
Even a small project requires financing. We are putting our collection of rare Andersen vintage and one of a kind work on the website to raise funds for creating working partnerships and establishing a new creative studio for ceramic art, design, and training. We do not know where that studio will be located as the zoning ordinances in our local community are prohibitive to what we want to do. However we have long wanted to work with a network of small independently owned slip-casting studio's which can produce segments of our line. While we are trying to figure out how and where we can setup a new production studio in which we can work creatively and train others in our techniques, we can setup partner studios. We have a large line of over two hundred designs which are a pleasure to produce and are an asset to others trying to set up or keep their own studios going.

To our point of view a community like the Boothbay Peninsula, where Andersen Design has been since 1952 could greatly benefit by such an industry, but other forces are interested in taking this community in a different direction. Andersen Design is in a unique position to create such a ceramic network because of our unique assets of over 200 designs and a brand name developed over the course of 67 years as an American made handcrafted product. We feel artist designers bring very important values to a community, needed in today's world. A interactive network of ceramic slip casting studios would also further the gathering of a larger designer craftsmen community, which is always a benefit to a brick and mortar shopping district. If Boothbay persists in its policies of prohibiting the market economy from locating any where except the most commercial of districts, then we will look at other communities. In the past, artists, designers, and craftsmen have been valued as assets which can bring economic growth and cultural value to a community. We will be looking for a community with rural values allowing the economic potential and well integrated life style that businesses in the home bring to small entrepreneurial culture. Even Microsoft began in a garage!
This Portrait of a lady with flowers cascading through her hair and down her form was likely created by Brenda in the late fifties or early sixties. The figure has a dreamy wistful look as she stands in a field with nature abounding. One wonders what is on her mind. Brenda's faces are always expressive. This one is no exception.

The platter is decorated in the greens and brown decorating colors created by Weston. The speckles in the white glaze suggest it is a early work from the early fifties. There is a small chip on the rim. It is signed on the back in Brenda's hand painted signature.

The platter is 1 inch in height, 7.5 inches in diameter, and 16 inches long.

Benefits of Acquiring a Rare Vintage Andersen Work: 
Christine Churchill The Collector’s Eye""If you’d like to know the next big thing in collecting twentieth century design, you might want to ask Sara Blumberg and James Oliveira….....
 Italian glass is one of the fields that now consumes them, particularly the stunning shapes that have been produced for hundreds of years on the fabled isle of Murano in the Venetian Lagoon. They’ve also been buying American studio pottery from the 1950’s and the 1960’s especially the simple bowls and vases made by Weston and Brenda Andersen in East Bootbay, Maine. Not to mention twentieth century Scandinavian pottery.
 What do these disparate fields have in common? Looking at the pottery shapes on display, you can see that the crosscurrents of design have flowed from Europe to America and back. But Sara has a more elemental reason: “It all comes down to form”. In relating why they love one group of Andersen pieces, she calls them “organic”

We are not a non-profit organization and so we cannot offer tax exemptions but someone purchasing one of our rare vintage works has the option of either adding it to their own collection or donating it to a museum and receiving a tax exemption that way.

Andersen Design is recognized in our field and has a long history dealing with museums. Since our company was started with the mission of creating a handcrafted product affordable to the middle class, that meant that Americans from the middle classes and upward collected our work, because they loved it, and they handed it down from one generation to the next so that it became an iconic part of the personal history of many families across the nation and the world. I am sure there are many museums which would like to have a Andersen vintage and or special one of a kind piece donated to its collection.

An added benefit is that as a value is established for Andersen work is established in the collectibles market, it benefits all of the many families who collected our work by increasing the value of their collections, who knows when that may become someone's saving grace.

We have also started a new section called Other Products. Check it out!

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 not produced as frequently 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 a 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.