Friday, November 16, 2012

Visualizing A Photo, Graphics and Marketing Studio


I haven't been able to write so often these days because I have shifted my focus to creating the rewards pages for our upcoming KickStarter Project, which you can find in my pages links to the right.

Every step of the way, the work is more than one realizes.  At first I thought we would have half a dozen rewards based on the model of other KickStarter projects but then realized that we should be out own model and think of this along the lines of the New York Gift Show which we used to be preparing for at the start of each year. The concept is similar- taking advance orders to be filled in an estimated lead time. Why not offer our fundraiser supporters a similar line of selections that we offered at the NYC Gift Show ?

As I am creating the pages I am imagining the way I would like to be working - with a photography and graphics studio and office space and a team of assistants to train and develop.

Portrait of a Midcentury Tumbler. Due to Hurricane Sandy our introduction to the new York City antiques      market is postponed until next March, providing a better situation in NYC at that date

In my youth I attended Pratt Institute. After graduation I worked as a colorist at a textile corporation in NYC. There I discovered that I was always the best colorist on the team in the places where I worked. This was not a talent that I was taught but a natural talent, despite my art school education, I didn't realize it was a special talent until I worked in the textile industry.

Years later I was acquainted with a Swiss photographer who was telling of not being able to find good printers and I said that I would like to learn photography printing. Being that he was Swiss- and German Swiss at that , he told me that I would not be a good printer because I am an American and Americans can't do anything right. None the less, I prevailed and in a week he was declaring that I was the most talented printer he had ever worked with.

                                           Baby Manatee KickStarter Reward
When a person has a natural ability they also need to have an environment in which that talent is identified and valued and first of all to exercise that talent. Today there is a need for photographic and graphic talent in the micro economy as venues such as Etsy transform that marketplace. I find images on Etsy much more interesting than what I often find see in other more main stream venues in which product after product presented with out any individualistic expression.

One has to build an interactive network on Etsy  in order to produce a stream of more interesting images. This is done by joining what was at first called "circles" but is now called "following". As one builds a network of people that one follows it generates a continual stream of images created through the favorites and treasuries of the members of the circle. Etsy sells hand-crafed and vintage items. The shop owners are commonly also the photographers. Particularly in the vintage category one can see the difference a good photograph makes  A good image gives a shop an edge because  people who make treasuries are always on the lookout for those good images and favorite them and when that happens the image becomes part of the stream of activity and the chances of a sale are increased. Etsy is such a large venue that without the social networking, ones work can easily be lost in the multitude.

Etsy is a venue for millions of micro businesses. In today's political environment being small - even being micro has an advantage in not being subject to mandates and regulations that are increasingly affecting larger businesses. The micro economy is generally overlooked by "economic development" experts because those experts focus on concentrated levels of employment and capital. To use an analogy from physics, one can say that the 'economic development experts" focus within the classical domain, while the small craftsmen and other micro businesses exist in "the quantum level of accuracy"- which in physics means they are invisible to those whose focus is within the classical domain. However what goes on in the quantum domain affects what takes place within the classical limit.

                                         The Tall Pelican KickStarter Reward 

Getting back to my visualization of the way things should be for our small company. I am seeing a large space where one can maintain standard photo setups that are always ready to go and then more space where one can create unique setups as needed. I see another room where people can be working on graphics and marketing. The space will serve the needs of Andersen Studio but also be available to rent on an hourly or daily basis for others who wish to take their own photos. This would provide a valuable service to many businesses. The marketing team could potentially take on other marketing clients. Some of those clients can be represented on our website as additional lines by American designer-craftsmen.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Prayer For The Victims of Sandy

 Our stoneware Flying White Bird 

Dear Folks,

I haven't been posting here for a while since I was focusing on getting our Kickstarter project ready to launch, feeling that sense of urgency to turn that page.

But Hurricane Sandy has changed all of that. It doesn't feel right to launch our project at a time when so many of our customers are in the affected areas. I lived in NYC for many years and still have friends in that part of the country. I wrote to them after the storm but I am still waiting for news. So many of the people who have summer homes in Boothbay or just are visitors come from the affected area.

And then there is the Bounty, which was frequently docked in Samples Shipyard for repairs. Everyone here is wondering why the Bounty headed into such dangerous conditions with only a volunteer crew. The chart of their journey shows they were at first headed East and likely found the conditions mild when they turned toward the South West and soon after their journey ended forever with the death of one crew member and a missing captain.

We are fortunate that Sandy passed by Maine but we feel the loss as well and are not unaffected by the contingent effects. The antique historian who is planning to introduce our work to the New York City antiques area is located in the storm damaged regions. It seems unlikely that a show on the Pier in November will take place. The latest news is that the subways will take weeks if not months to get back into commission and the travel conditions and gas shortages in NYC are extreme.

So we say a prayer for all - that the process of recovery, especially the personal state of well being that dwells in acceptance of all that life brings will enter in the light of new dawn.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Andersen Stoneware Enters the NYC Antiques Market

Brenda started the tradition of using ceramics to express very personal art as shown in this mug designed by Weston and decorated by Brenda, circa early 1950's

Weston and Brenda Andersen are recognized as an important historical figure in the ceramic and design fields. This weekend we were visiting with a New York antique dealer and historian, who came to us with a recommendation from Eva Zeisel's daughter, At the time of our first introduction, he was looking for industrial design drawings of the fifties era and he came to our house and purchased a group of drawings which Dad had done when a student at Pratt.

On a day as I was taking photographs, Weston  engaged in an animated dialogue about the displays.

But this time around the antique dealer was looking for pieces to display in the upcoming antique show at the pier in New York City scheduled for this November. It is an international antique show. Our dealer is going to have a display case devoted to Dad's work, which is what we decided should be the focus in introducing Andersen to that market.

These days, we are seeing a slow stream of professionals of various fields spotting our company- some in the antiques business and some interested in contemporary business development. The recurring theme is that we should be doing limited editions, targeted at a higher end of the market place This is a point that we take seriously but I often feel that "living" legacy - the importance of carrying on, not just the work, but the process that makes the work possible, is not understood. That "living" legacy is what we are trying to realize in our Kckstarter project. At the heart of the living legacy is a love for the process itself- the ceramic process and the business process, which are both part of my father's achievement, and the responsibility of our generation to persevere into the future.

In the 1930's when  Viktor Shreckengost was creating the Jazz Bowl, 
Dad was creating creating his first animal sculpture

To illustrate his point, the antiques dealer brought up the work of  Viktor Schreckengost,
a designer of ceramics and other cultural icons and a contemporary of Dad's ,who died in 2008 at the age of 101. He brought up Viktor Schreckengost's Jazz bowl, which, when it was produced as a limited edition in the 1930's , sold for $50.00 . In 2004 Sotheby sold one of the original limited edition bowls for $254,400.00.

According to unconfirmed hear-say the reissue series of the Jazz Bowl sold for S75000.00. The website does not list the price and so I repeat- the price is based on hear-say that seems consistent with the selling price of the original

The antiques dealer held this pitcher in his hand as he conceptualized the modern line 

When Dad was in the first recovery stage after his brain injury., he was talking about "systems management" and in that moment, It clarified his genius. Dad always had his mind on "systems management" and here he was using the same facility to "system manage" his recovery after a brain injury. Fascinating! We have always understood that Dad is into systems management but when one grows up in the midst of it, one takes it for granted as something that is always present and as such one does not necessarily identify it.

In the course of the dialogue with the antiques historian, I was aiming to interject the importance of preserving the living process and I mentioned that the small birds can go into every kiln and fill up the spaces around the larger pieces making a denser and better kiln firing environment. This could be an advantage to any budding ceramic slip casting shop. Not only does the addition of small birds help the kiln firing environment , but it also helps the economic bottom line.

That is when the antiques dealer got it, and as he did so, he conceptualized a theme for an article about our enterprise targeted for an important publication - and that is as much as I should say about that because it is not for me to leak his idea.

The antique's historian suggested a very inspiring project that fits into the "limited editions" theme - a limited edition re-issue of early functional forms, suggesting that it could be called "the modern line" We could re-issue it with a specially designed glaze.

 I am very inspired by such a project but it is not one that we can easily realize in our current small space which accommodates only a limited staff. Such a project, to be done well, needs a team that specifically focuses on the project and a space where the pieces can be developed as a line in which each individual element complements the group.

Such a project could be realized in our current space but it would take a very long time because it is not the only thing we are working on- and that same limitation is also the reason why our Kickstarter project is currently on hold indefinitely, The individual best suited to write a the introduction is currently working on a very large order for a very significant  customer, and that is what they need to prioritize at this time. When one works with a small staff, jobs are done consecutively. With a larger team, jobs can be simultaneously orchestrated .

Our first Kickstarter project has to be one that we can realize with currently available resources. We have provisionally decided that the Sparrow will be one of the project rewards and that the project will include creating a rubber mold of our Sparrow, which will mean that production molds can be produced quite easily as needed. This is the best way to preserve the designs and to insure that the molds are always fresh. Worn molds create a lot of unnecessary work.

And on that note the Loon is a serious contender for our project and rewards. With all the white spots which are carved into the Loon's back, there is no other piece that is as work intensive as the Loon when the mold becomes worn.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ceramics Slipcasting: Art Meets Business As A Way Of Life

This is the current Introduction to our soon to be launched KickStarter project- still a Work in Progress

A Ceramic Slip-Casting Studio: An Art, A Business, A Philosophy and A Way of Life

by Susan Mackenzie Andersen
Andersen Studio's Mold Making Kickstarter Project is a foundational process  for kickstarting  our envisioned evolution of a historical family run ceramic design and production studio, established in mid-century by our esteemed parents, the twentieth century ceramic designers, Weston and Brenda Andersen.  Our dream is to pass on the creative lifestyle and a living legacy in the form of the Great American Ceramic Designers Craftsman Network built on our brand, Andersen Studio- Andersen Design Stoneware established in 1952.

A page from Images of America showing Andersen Studio Andersen Design
in the early 1950's when we were known as Ceramics by Andersen.
Click to see more.
Andersen Studio is a local historical landmark on the Boothbay Peninsula on the coast of Maine. Our lines of wildlife sculpture and functional design are established classics which the local people and summer visitors began collecting in the mid-century days when Weston and Brenda opened their first gallery in a 200 year old barn on Southport Island Maine.  Today there exist many collections that date back to the 1950’s, handed down from one family generation to the next. We receive many correspondence from art lovers who have rediscovered our work after many years and connect with it as a icon from their own personal history

Weston Neil Andersen in 2012

Brenda died in 1994 and Weston is 90 years old, seemingly with nine lives as the medical profession has told us  many times over that Dad has barely a chance to survive  A few years ago Weston fell down and suffered a serious brain injury. The prognosis was convincing when we were told "multiple system failures, what is good for the heart is bad for the brain, and that he would never be off the oxygen" - convincing until Weston woke up and ripped off the oxygen mask. He lives with us today in the house that he purchased in the fifties containing, in addition to a home, the business that Weston built as part of the architecture and life lived within it. The brain injury brings the heart into focus and re-arranges time so that we have come to know our father at many ages of his life. Weston's mind is still very much on the business as he made very clear, in his typical manner on a morning when I greeted him as he was waking ,and  he said  "The whole thing would work better on a larger scale"- and that is what we are hoping to achieve with our Kickstarter project.

We have followed in our parents footsteps in doing our own marketing. In the fifties that meant taking black and white photos of the work and publishing a hand crafted catalog. Today that means taking our own photos, creating our own website and developing our own seo, while engaging the social networks.

We focused our online presence on our line of ceramic birds in order to capture prime real estate on the Google search engine for the search term "ceramic birds". Once attained it is effortlessly maintained as there is little competition for the depth of our line of ceramic birds developed over the course of decades, and classically popular for all those years.

We focused on our Ceramic Birds but we have several other lines such as our Marine Life Sculpture

However marketing is only one piece of the picture. We are currently doing our production in the small studio attached to our house which was intended to be our personal design studio. We have put a temporary stop on active pursuit of  internet marketing while it continues to grow organically. The marketability of our line is solidly established but the internet demands instant delivery. With such a large line being produced in such a small space and with a minimal staff, we need to shift our focus to expanding our production and order fulfillment capabilities- which is the first plateau of the ultimate goal of  our KickStarter project. The project - creating rubber master molds of  items offered as rewards, enabling production molds to be easily made by anyone with a minimal amount of training  - will facilitate the ability to transfer production to other ceramic slip casters, once we have an adequate production facility where we can train the skills and attract the talent that is uniquely suited to carry Andersen Studio into the future as a living legacy.

Since Andersen Ceramics was born in the early fifties we have been committed to being an American made hand crafted product.

Today , due to our history and the unique path taken by our parents, Weston and Brenda Andersen when they set out not only to design but also to produce their designs in a hand crafted process and then added a line of wild life sculptures to their line of functional forms, Andersen Design -Andersen Studio has carved its own unique place in ceramic history. Our small company is in a unique position to move into the limited editions market which opens up an inspiring new creative direction and lucrative opportunities for our company. our collaborators and our collectors.

Andersen's classic Sea Urchin Bowl decorated as a one of a kind by Mackenzie Andersen

As a small family business producing a product which became a collectible through a grass roots movement we are ideally suited for Kickstarter and Kickstarter is ideally suited for us. Our family would like to shepard what we have built into the future to ensure that the values with which this business is started are preserved. This includes not only the beautiful products that we produce which are treasured by so many but as importantly, preserving the living working process into the future. Andersen ceramics does not fit neatly into any pre-existing mold. The creative process blends the attributes of repetition and spontaneity. When functioning optimally one side enhances the other. Thus along with our standard production line - the basis of a successful wholesale business, we have always been creating off beat variations along side the standard. Sometimes this takes the form of glazing a bluebird green and at other times it may manifest as cutting and pasting our forms together in unexpected ways.

Cutting and Pasting in the midcentury- A collaboration by Weston and Brenda Andersen

The discipline of the repetitive work perfects the craft in a zen like rhythm of productivity, while the playful latitude results in an unexpected variation of a form which keeps the spirit and interest alive in eager anticipation of opening the next kiln. This is a process that one has to be immersed in to fully appreciate. Those looking from the outside in do not necessarily perceive the value of an internalized meaning in the work process itself. Andersen Stoneware is not your usual corporate culture and so the Andersen family is grateful to the opportunity that Kickstarter provides to capitalize a birth of a new era for our company without giving up control and ownership in the process. We could use some "corporate management" help in some areas- such as office work, data management, order and delivery, but we feel the areas of design and production need the personal attention of those who have lived the process.

As a private enterprise, we cannot offer a tax deduction for contributions to our fundraiser but we can offer art, which has an intrinsic in-the-moment value to its collector as evidenced in the many letters of appreciation which we have received over the decades- and another "collectibles" value which may increase in value in unexpected ways over time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Andersen Studio Kickstarter Preview

Andersen Studio's Preview of our upcoming Kickstarter project. This will be a mold making project which is needed to kick start our ultimate vision of transforming the ceramic art and design, wholesale and retail, handcrafted production business that we built, into the future as the great American Ceramic Designer- Craftsmen network built on our internationally recognized brand, Andersen Studio- Andersen Design Stoneware established in 1952. Help to kick start an evolution and to keep the great traditional art of ceramics alive and well in the USA and Maine.

The Andersen Studio Kickstarter Project- Coming Soon!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Andersen Studio's Preview Video of Our upcoming Kickstarter Mold making Project

Greetings after a long break. I have completed my first animated video for our Kickstarter project. which I am currently publishing as a preview.
I wanted to embed it here so that it instantly displays- which is supposedly as easy as inserting any other image- except one uses the video function- but alas, Blogger keeps rejecting my fla file.

And so for the meantime , i have published it as a web page which you can view by clicking

Andersen Studio's Preview of Our Upcoming Kickstarter Project.

I hope you will enjoy the video and SHARE it to help us spread the word around since the success of our project depends on the base that we are able to reach.

Thanks for your support.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ceramic Silpcasting and Mold Making - An Endangered Art in America?

One day  a mysterious object landed  on the table, wrapped in rubber bands.

I occasionally get inquiries from other ceramic designers looking for slip casters to produce their work. When the network that I envision manifests we can pass the request along to  production studios in the network.

There once was a slip-casting studio in Maine, which, I had been recommending, but I looked for the website yesterday to find that it is no longer active. leading to the conclusion that the production studio is no longer in business.

 Suddenly the rubber bands came off and the pod fell open.

Back in 2009 when I entered the competition for what I took to be a modest grant  appropriate to the micro economy. the same slip casting studio was then looking to expand to a new facility. It needed a specified amount of advance work orders to get off the ground. My Vision at that point had been published on-line for a  number of years, wherein I state that the development of a ceramic designer-craftsmen network is responsive to the interests of the participants in the network, -  an organizational process. that grows organically. The fact that the slip casting production was looking to expand at a moment co-coinciding with the competition, seemed like a God-sent first step in the process that I envisioned. The amount of the award was enough to capitalize the marketing costs needed to procure the necessary production orders.

Such an opportunity. waiting in the works, did not strike a chords with Mr John Burns of the Small Enterprise Growth Fund (a tax-payer subsidized investors group that I have written about here) The amount of the investment was suitable to the scale of the project  that I presented but Mr Burns was interested only in the entire network and declined my application, saying that I did not have a "plan for my vision", although my plan has long been that the development of the network has to proceed from the people who process a genuine interest in ceramic slip-casting and associated ceramic arts. To my point of view, if the marketing capitalization had been available at that time, the proposed slip-casting production might have materialized, which would have been the first concrete step in the direction of establishing a working ceramic designer-craftsmen network

Slowly an inner intent is revealed

Instead the new production studio did not launch and now it appears that the original production studio has closed as well. I have been unsuccessful in contacting the owner who in the past has been enthusiastically  engaged in the art of the ceramic slip-casting  and mold making  His first introduction to ceramic slip-casting was when he worked in our Portland, Maine production studio and learned the slip casting skills from my father, Weston Neil Andersen, and later went on to study at Alfred University.

Our story portrays of the state of the contemporary Maine economy, dominated by the vast "economic development" network of Maine State Inc., which collects capital from state and federal taxpayers and from non-profit gifts and redistributes that capital to their targeted sectors. Maine Inc, for all its hoop-lah about "creating jobs" has eyes only for the largest companies. or companies with "high growth" investment potential, and perhaps some smaller companies that relate to the green agenda. Most of the people with whom I am in contact function within the micro-to small business sector.  Businesses such as Andersen Studio are  not recognized as contributing to the "public benefit" goals of Maine State Inc. In fact, short of becoming a non-profit organization, we do not exist on Maine Inc.'s map for the future of Maine- even as we are in the manufacturing sector , which our nation needs so badly,

                                               A beaked form emerges

And along comes KickStarter, which is quite revolutionary in concept as for the first time the tide turns in the other direction. As the number of non-profits multiplies in Maine and in the nation, the competition for non-profit funding has driven non-profits to compete in the private sector and as they do so, they have been changing long-existent standard private sector rules of business to their advantage.

Such a case in point is when the Maine Crafts Association took over management of the Maine Crafts Center, operated by the Maine Turnpike Authority. MCA sent out a general announcement that those wishing to have their merchandise considered for the retail store could show up at a scheduled time and scheduled location and pay a S65.00 jury fee.

Andersen Studio has been selling wholesale to fine stores and catalogs for over half a century. Never have we been asked to pay a fee to buyers to consider our work. Jury fees are for art gallery shows and not appropriate in the retail marketplace.

This event took place during the coldest days of winter at a time when gas prices were at high tide. Just at that moment, I had been considering joining the Maine Crafts Association but I was quickly dissuaded from doing so. I called the Maine Crafts Association and asked why they were charging craftsmen to present their work to a buyer for a retail store. I was told it was because the Maine Crafts Association exists to serve the public benefit. I asked who the "panel of experts" were. I never received an answer.

And transforms into the Great White Heron

There is no question that Andersen stonework would sell exceedingly well at a store on the Maine Turnpike but fair business practices are important to uphold and so we are not there.

Now KickStarter makes it possible for a small private sector arts business such as Andersen Studio to participate in fundraising projects, a venue formerly exclusive to the non-profit sector- and so the tide changes.

Kickstarter is an opportunity for a private sector business such as Andersen Studio to bridge the internet marketing and order fulfillment gulf. Our current production studio is too small to accommodate the market potential that is available to a distinctive small craft business in the era of the internet and social networking. The expectations for usual online purchasing is  instant delivery. KickStarter allows us to take orders with a delayed delivery schedule on a first order- first serve basis. The beauty is that the greater the number of orders we generate, the more people will will need and be able to hire and so creating jobs and opportunities is one of the contingent rewards.. As we build a staff and a new facility to accommodate production, order fulfillment, and marketing, we will then be able to expand our marketing through the usual internet and other channels knowing that we have the organization in place to meet the demand.

Our most valuable business asset are our designs and the perpetual marketability of those designs as established over sixty years. Our project will be the creation of rubber master molds for the designs and our rewards will be the artwork produced with those molds. The Great White Heron featured here has barely been produced since it was created in the 1980's due to some mold and support issues that need to be resolved. It is likely to be on ef our mold projects and rewards offered in our upcoming KickStarter project.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


You may have noticed that I haven't posted here for a while. That is because in order to start the KickStarter project we have to include a video, which we have not worked with so I have been busy learning animation using Adobe Flash CS6, which may or may not be faster than learning to make a more movie style video- but being that I didn't know how to do either, I had to choose one or the other and I chose animation.

I will get back to posting here but I need to keep my focus there for the moment. I hope to get back to writing this blog again soon.

Meanwhile- more pictures of the classic designs we have created in over 60 years. These are production pieces that retain their market appeal over the decades and are the basis for both productivity and a brand identity foundational to an American marketing enterprise.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A New Model of "Public Benefit", Learning Institutions, and the "Creative Economy"

 We will be offering the large Fish as a reward in our KickStarter project, as a signed and dated One of A Kind series. The large fish was modeled by Weston Neil Andersen, after he developed macular degeneration. The stoneware fish is based on a Carp but is primarily an archetypical Fish, assembled, carved and decorated with artistic imagination by yours truly, Susan Mackenzie Andersen

Going back to the post on the British Pottery Industry, I introduced this research paper  The Strategic Management of Outsourcing in the UK Ceramics Industry, published by by The Manchester School Of Management in 2001. The paper represents industry thinking on outsourcing at that time, which advised outsource all activities except the core business activity.

However, as valuable a paper as this is, there are no set rules for which activities a company should outsource,and no set rules on what motivates the thinking process that leads one to such conclusions. The article merely discusses the state of the art on thinking about outsourcing for large ceramic potteries in Briton in the year 2001.The primary motivation for out-sourcing as many activities as possible that the paper encorages, is the financial profit motive. However most people are not motivated by a singular goal, and furthermore, a straight path is not necessarily the best route to get to where ever one is going.

A few years back I heard similar advice from Donna McNeal at the Maine Art Commission as she told the assembled group at an art marketing workshop, that one should always have a professional photographer take the photos of one's work. That's fine if you are a fine artist with a relatively small amount of work to photograph, and if you have the means to hire a professional photographer at whatever the going rate is.  When I heard this, I thought to myself that if my parents had followed Ms McNeal's advice, our company would not even be here today. Back in the days of black and white photography, they produced their first catalog themselves, which is not uncommon within the bootstrap economy, then and now. If you are familiar with Etsy, you will find that part of its networking culture is driven by the images created by global hand-crafted manufacturers, themselvesr

Later, after my encounter with the SEGF at the Juice Conference, I  began exploring the economic development legislation passed in Maine over the last thirty years,and reporting what I learned on my blog, Preserving the American Political Philosophy. My research has led to the understanding that the government designers of Maine's socioeconomic culture exist to serve the upper third of Maine's economy. The Maine state government's "targeted sector" is capitalized by the funds that the Maine government collects in it's network of state corporations, The Maine government has delegated it's "targeted sector" as the "creative and innovative" economy of Maine. Correspondingly, a name to identify the un-targeted sector in Maine's economy is called for and since this sector creates its own capital resources, I call this sector the "Bootstrap Economy" .

As you might notice - I have broken the rules as defined by the Maine Art Commission by not only by taking the photographs of our work myself, but also by designing our website. Over the years I have explored the possibility of working with an outside web designer but the inevitable response when web designers learn that I have designed our website is that they will have to throw the whole thing out and start from scratch and for this they will charge us in the neighbor hood of $120.00 an hour. It would not have been necessary to state the the first reaction as the cost of their services precludes the possibility of a working relationship, especially considering the size of the line of products that we have to market, which even today are not yet represented on line in its entirety. The prices that I have encountered for outside consultants are tailored to the economy of the a fore- mentioned "targeted sector", which is to be expected when the government is directing large amounts of capital to that sector. However, considering such factors as the reduced cost of taking and developing photographs, I believe that there is a new emerging potential for photography and related services affordable to to the micro-economy.

I bring this up as one of the "public benefits" that our business is capable of providing.  I learned to design the website myself through various online resources, most notably, and as it stands in our current business model , photography, and webdesign and marketing skills are activities that we do in house, following in the tradition that originally built Andersen Stoneware to prominence. Rather than look to outside technical resources with which to work, I have developed enough knowledge on my own to work with apprentices and to teach them not only the skills that I have learned but to teach them how to learn- or encourage them to continue to do so. Our ideal new production facility would also include a marketing space where photography setups can be maintained and which has the potential to become a side business offering services affordable to other makers and manufacturers  in the bootstrap economy.

The government designers of Maine's socioeconomic culture state that one of their goals is attracting and/or retaining young people in Maine, and true to format, seem to think that what is needed to attract youth to Maine are high paying jobs with all the best benefits. Conversely in the bootstrap economy, this is something that one earns through building an enterprise since most enterprises in the bootstrap economy do not bloom fully grown with all the benefits as are conferred (or mandated)  upon Maine's "targeted sector", in place. This does not mean that there is not a desire to offer the best benefits- that is why I cited Whole Foods as a model in my Vision, having heard that Whole Foods offers top of the line health care services to its employees. However, in the current state of affairs in this country, the entire health care situation is too uncertain to make any plans, but at least the size of business that I envision- or I should say individual businesses in the network that I envision, would unlikely hire greater than fifty people and not be subject to current government mandates. How much of an advantage that may or may not be remains to be seen, since the cost of private insurance is relative to the number of people in the pool.

Young people, and for that matter all people, are motivated by multifarious reasons Ceramics has historically been attractive to youth. In these days when a college degree usually guarantees a large debt but no longer guarantees a high paid position enabling one to pay back the debt, the smart young person will consider other alternatives. With the right amount of capitalization. Andersen Studio - Andersen Design, can potentially be such an alternative  A ceramic slip-casting business that teaches the skills of ceramic slip casting, glazing and decorative techniques, and also has an in-house marketing department that also develops photography, graphic, and website design, and a business office and development strategy, is a viable alternative to the type of environment that one finds on college campuses. It would also be a community of all ages and if it successfully works together as a team, it offers some of the same spiritual benefits that we find in sports.

This is not to say it would be easy but its a new model suited to today's emerging reality.

Another version of the Large Fish

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Precison Manufacturing VS Organic Production

When my parents decided to create a handcrafted product, affordable to the middle class, they "innovated " their own category which existed somewhere between factory made table top ceramics and handcrafted art ceramics sold in high-end art galleries. There has always been a great deal taking place in ceramics that does not fall into any of these categories because ceramics attracts so many individual artists working in many different ways, and so this statement is made  within the frame work of larger categories, which are used by galleries, organizations, competitions, shows and governments.

For instance design shows tend to focus on designs that are reproduced in a factory setting. For some, factory settings have a bad name  as a throwback to the days of the "sweat shops" but that is not what I intend here. Factory reproduction uses "precision methods" which often involve the use of jiggering machines to create the desired uniformity. They usually have temperature and humidity controlled environments and use glazes that are consistent, producing an even and predictable service. Decoration is often applied with decals and if hand-painted, maintain a set pattern and brush stroke. The results can be very attractive. In the 1950's designers like Eva Zeisel and Russel Wright and others were producing what has become the signature lines of the mid-century movement for the American dinnerware companies. A few of these companies are still existing today, such as:
Homer Laughlin China Company, "By 2002, ownership of the company was shared by third, fourth and fifth generation members of the Wells and Aaron families and others.  Many of the shareholders were scattered throughout the country and had little involvement with the business.  In an effort to consolidate resources and provide improved direction for the company, Joe Wells III, together with his sisters, Jean Wicks and Elizabeth McIlvain, purchased the interests of the other stockholders.  In June, 2002, Joe Wells III was elected president and chief executive officer.
Since the re-organization, the company has experienced continued growth and is poised to move forward with the Wells Family’s pledge to continue producing quality, American-made china and provide jobs for potters of the Ohio Valley. " quoted from Homer Laughlin websight
Heath Ceramics is part of the California tradition. Heath uses the slip casting method and has an impressive production studio. If you look at their process slide show, you will see a picture of the mug molds which look very similar to our mug molds , except the designs are different. See Heath Mugs here ** Heath makes their own glazes, which appear to be of the consistent nature preferred by dinnerware productions. Andersen Studio also makes our own original glazes which are categorized as "art glazes" because they are not so predictable, using more fluxing materials than production glazes which cause the glaze to flow, creating interesting effects. Since we started our line in the 1950's our original glazes have distinguished our signature identity, creating a unique Andersen style. Dad also made the decision, early on, before environmentalism was a popular movement, to avoid using toxic materials such as cadmium red. That decision contributed to and encouraged the soft marine and beach tones for which Andersen Studio is known.

Many of the American Dinnerware companies have gone out of business as you will find on which maintains a record of the American Dinnerware Industry

Andersen mugs could be made using standard dinnerware factory techniques,and be very attractive while still producing a hand made version of the same mug using art glazes and decorative techniques. Yves Saint Laurent, the fashion designer created the rive gauche line as a simpler, less expensive and sportier alternative to his couture line.

This slip-cast stoneware mug was hand-carved and then glazed. The glaze flows over the carving with a natural quality- not perfectly as in "precision manufacturing" but with an occasional skip that fills in the carved lines in a manner that is in keeping with an organic quality.  the carved design can be hand carved in to the mold without losing its natural characteristic. Mug copyrighted by Andersen Studio on or about 1995.

By serendipity, as I am writing this blog , I am interrupted by customers from Virginia . He works for Homer Laughlin and tells me that they produce 35,000 pieces a week of which 80% is flatware. He says they used to slip cast mugs, but now jigger them. As far as production is concerned, he says it is all robotics, embellishing that by saying that our work is much prettier, representing the kind of product that brings them to Maine. I am thinking that Homer Laughlin with its huge production and "precision" process is the kind of manufacturing that Maine's government management of our economy seeks for Maine.

I have to get some other work done and so for now I'll close this post with some quotes from

Decorating with the Objects you Love 

              Christine Churchill, published by Harper Collins

"Responsible for changes good and bad in architecture and design, the industrial Revolution changed the manufacturing process of pottery for good. New factories spat out thousands of pieces of pottery per day – their goal to stock kitchens and dining rooms of middle-class Europe and America quickly and inexpensively.

The Scandinavians were the first to rebel. The y began to address the need for “good design for every day use” around 1916. For Swedish artist and alchemist Wilhem Kage, that meant inventing hundreds of new glazes.
Also thumbing their noses at machine-made perfection were Weston and Brenda Andersen of  East Boothbay Maine ( many of their pieces are seen in this spread)" ristine Churchill, published by Harper Collins
"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” and the same would be said about their favorite objects-not to mention the way they have decorated their home.”

*Dad was both a student and colleague of Eva and was invited twice to apprentice for Russel Wright, which he perceived as a position he could not afford to take if he were to be able to support his family,

** The link to the Heath Ceramics Process that I posted above did not connect to the slide show, which is to be found under the Art Of Making and includes a picture of production slip casting mug molds, which you can see includes the handle. The picture that the link opens shows a handle being attached by hand to the form of the mug. Such a handle could be incorporated into a slip-casting mold. I suspect that the body of the mug pictured was produced with a jiggering machine, which, to my understanding is a mechanized throwing machine  that spins the liquid clay with centrifugal  force as the mold is mechanically rotated beneath it..

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Historical Future

This is an image of the last sculpture that my father, Weston Neil Andersen, did before the day he fell down on the pavement  and suffered a brain injury. The sculpture, in my view is the most gentle and tender sculpture that Dad ever did. It invites one to enter into the intimate activity of looking for food. It seems quite daring to do a sculpture in which the beak is not complete as it is buried in the sand, the form of the belly is so round, full and sensuous. the curve of the neck so natural and our brown slip treatment of the surface seems to melt, lifelike, into the form.

The last sculpture that Dad is likely to do, is actually a new direction for him and it is interesting in respect to the fact that the brain injury prioritized a different aspect of Dad's personality. It brought his own gentleness and tenderness to the surface, and it rearranged his experience of time so that we get to know our father at many different ages of his life. As a child he was raised on a chicken farm. He probably witnessed the chickens in a similar pose as is seen the sculpture, on many occasions. Realizing that the chickens would be killed was one of the most traumatic experiences of his life.

Dad knows I am writing this. He always experienced dimensions in a slightly different way than others, accepting the ghosts that he encountered wandering around our 200 year old house as a natural and non-threatening occurrence. Now when I write a blog, I am unsurprised when I encounter my father and he continues my train of thought. Although I can no longer tap my father's wealth of information about clay bodies and glazes, Dad remains actively concerned with the welfare of the unique and creative business that he built. He is often deep in thought and when one asks him how he is, he will say something like "the whole thing would work much better on a larger scale"- which is what we hope to capitalize with our KickStarter project.

Right now, I am wondering if we should produce this piece as a limited edition. My first thoughts are that I do not want to price out our loyal clientele of our line of ceramics which began with the philosophy of creating a hand made product affordable to the middle classes, but my second thought is that we will not be out-pricing our base because we still be in an affordable price range within the collectibles limited edition market. The difference is that a limited edition establishes a degree of rarity, and rarity increases the investment value of a collectible. The way the rewards are listed on KickStarter is that at the upper end the suggested price is stated as  "X amount of dollars or more". In theory a supporter could elect to pay more than the requested price, which would then potentially increase the value of all the pieces in the limited edition - an interesting concept because such a generous act would not only benefit us but all those who purchase the item, as it would establish a  higher value than others paid for the item. We can reward the highest contributors by offering them first choice out of the total number sold during the project, because every piece that we create is unique in its own right as a result of the hand-crafted process.

To our point of view it would be ideal to develop a limited edition sculpture, sell the entire run in advance, as KickStarter allows one to do, and then be able to contract with other slip-casters to produce the piece and possibly the decoration as well, though I expect that initially we will do the decoration in house- but one of our goals is to develop the ceramic design and crafts business that our family has established in such a way that it can be carried  on by future generations beyond our own family. Therefore to be able to subcontract all aspects of production advances us further on that goal and as we achieve that goal it opens up our own time so that we can concentrate on sculpture, designing, and the fascinating art of glazing and decorating.

However we never want to stop producing a line that is affordable to the middle classes. Over the years we have received so many personal letters of appreciation from our base in the middle. While galleries, organizations and shows honor or reject work as as art or not art, craft or not craft, often opinions formed on the basis of using a re-productive process, our collectors who send us personal letters have formed a consistent consensus , they identify our handcrafted affordable sculpture as "art".

In fact I attribute the decision to re-produce art work using the slip-casting reproductive process as the source of our ability to maintain prime Google search engine positioning for our key search terms. When I set out to create our website, I read up on search engine optimization and decided to focus, initially, on the search term "ceramic birds". I created a stand alone page that displays our collection of ceramic birds (still not yet complete but more so than other categories) . I watched as our website went from not being found in a search for "ceramic birds" to making its way from the bottom the first page to the top. For a while we maintained the number one position but now that belongs to Etsy, (after a paid ad for Pottery Barn) which includes among the ceramic birds it offers, our own ceramic birds. We now maintain the number two position, with ease, thanks to our unusual number of bird sculptures that we have developed over sixty years. Since we have never created our work as a limited edition line in the past, our classic sculptures keep on selling and the number of ceramic birds we have to offer has grown to a level for which we have little competition. Our classic line has a proven marketability consistently established over the course of sixty years, as popular today as ever.

Our classic chickadee sculpture is three inches long and fits in spaces around other objects in the kiln. Most kiln firings contain some chickadees. The chickadee has been a perennial favorite since it was first created and retails at the affordable price of $35.00.

We are targeting the beginning of August as the time to launch our KickStarter project. Success depends on the ability to reach a large base of supporters. We know we have a large base but reaching them all to let them know about our project is why I am writing this blog. If you would like to see Andersen Studio succeed, not only in reaching our project goal , which will be relatively modest but in developing the capitalization to obtain a new production space and the equipment, and resources to hire a small staff, then please help us by sharing this blog and spreading the word.

An advance Thank You for your support.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ceramic Productive Traditions


Andersen Studio is not a school but it is a place of learning. When Weston and Brenda  brought their ceramic slip casting studio to Maine, there were no other slip casting studios in the area and so they taught the skills of ceramic slip casting, glazing, and decorative techniques to local women who had formerly worked in the fish-packing industry.

Weston and Brenda also created their own marketing brochures. We still create our marketing in house but today it includes web design, social networking and related skills which we can also teach to others. as we encourage them to learn on their own.

This historic Maine Coon Cat was modeled by Brenda Andersen probably in the late fifties. It is featured in Images Of America. There were a few pieces cast but the mold was retired early on because the Coon would split in the mold. As you can see, this Maine Coon has places at both ends that hold the mold in place. As the clay dries in the mold , in shrinks in size. If a mold is anchored at both ends it will split at the middle.

We love this wonderful Coon and
after all these years would like to re-configure the mold. We are hoping to include the making of the Coon mold in our KickStarter project and to offer the Maine Coon Cat as one of the rewards.

On the job training is costly and so a number of years ago I called the Maine Arts Commission to inquire about applying for the traditional arts apprenticeship grant

The then director of Traditional Arts, Mr Keith Ludden, said I would have to make a convincing case that ceramics is a traditional art. This took me aback since ceramics is one of mankind's oldest art forms. Most culture's have evolved their own traditions of ceramic art.

 I did not pursue the inquiry further. Later I participated in the Traditional Arts forum on the Maine Arts Commission. This forum had one topic. All topics were created by the government, none by users. Once again it was managed by Mr Ludden. I asked what qualifies a traditional art and Mr Ludden recited a list, to which I responded that all applied to our studio, including being handed down from one family generation to the next. Mr Ludden said I was off topic.

Ceramics is a traditional art form since the dawn of civilization with each culture creating its own uniquely identifiable tradition. Andersen Studio's ceramic art is intrinsically associated with Maine. At one time Maine Governors would use our wildlife sculpture as gifts. Andersen ceramics are iconic in individual family traditions. There is a familiar story that many people tell of how their grand parents discovered Andersen Stoneware and ever since their family has collected Andersen artwork. There is an intimate identification when the individual discovers a collectible, independent of external influences. Andersen Studio became a collectible through an authentic grass roots movement.

In the larger world, ceramic slip casting is a traditional craft that is endangered in Western civilization as long established potteries opt to "outsource" to countries with low priced labor, few workers rights, minimal environmental laws and low corporate taxes. The idea that I am entertaining - that this is a time when one can grow an American slip-casting industry must seem audacious on the surface, considering the rapid decline of the pottery industry in the west.

I am introducing three articles about the British Pottery Industry which hint at an emerging shift in the outsourcing trend and are also applicable to what is taking place in Maine as our economy is redesigned from the top down by state corporatism.

The first article, The Strategic Management of Outsourcing in the UK Ceramics Industry , by The Manchester School Of Management, was written in 2001. It is a comprehensive study examining the advantages and dis-advantages of outsourcing and also contrasts, with an eye toward integrating, human behavior and institutional (by the numbers) factors that impact decision making. It applies as much to government institutions and it does to the private sector, especially in the era of the "quasi" which blurs the distinction between the government, non-profit, and private sectors. I am introducing this paper as a resource for anyone who might take a serious interest in our vision for the future of Andersen Stoneware. Andersen Stoneware is distinct from the examples in this paper, which are a company producing hotel china, a company producing fine "inspirational" tabletop china, and a company producing low cost earthen ware. Of the three, only the latter had embraced overseas outsourcing at the time this paper was written. Andersen Studio produces art sculptures and inspirational functional ware and operates at a much smaller scale than the companies examined in this paper, but If I were to find myself on the verge of implementing my vision. I would want to read this paper several times over.

This paper points out that outsourcing is not new in the ceramics industry but that there is a fundamental difference between outsourcing locally and outsourcing to a foreign county.

The British identify their pottery industry as a "heritage industry". Andersen Studio has been given a similar recognition in Jim Harnedy's Images Of America, The Boothbay Region

 The second article, written in 2007, is  Once Made in England  by Elizabeth Hart - How the former pottery workers explain the decline of  the UK pottery industry focuses primarily on the workers in the British Pottery industry and tells of their feelings of loss of dignity within society that resulted from the loss of employment in the pottery industry. It also includes this inspirational quote about the philosophy of Josiah Wedgwood
Wedgwood was a Master Potter in his own right, a hard task master and strict disciplinarian: he was also a talented designer and innovator, who knew how to create markets for his ware nationally and internationally. Wedgwood and his fellow industrialists were inspired, amongst others, by the great French Philosophes. He was an Enlightenment thinker who was against slavery and believed that manufacturer was the driving force of improvements in society, including for the potters he employed. Wedgwood was a shrewd and talented businessman and his approach to manufacture, design, and marketing is used as an exemplar at Harvard Business School even today. An eighteenth century industrialist, his values, however, were those which the craftspeople I have brought to you today, would recognize, identify with and hold to. In effect they are twentieth century industrial workers whose attitudes to work, to bosses and to the clay were moulded in an age of Enlightenment.

The Third article is short and sweet, a cultural blog CharlotteHiggins ONCULTURE blog for the  Guardian wrote the following in the fall of 2011

But one of the things that has changed – indeed was in the process of changing while I was growing up – is the state of the pottery industry. When I was young in the 1970s, the small and medium-size firms were being gobbled up by the giant companies, often to the detriment of design values. Later, it seemed to many companies to make good business sense to mothball Stoke factories and outsource production to the far east. But the quality of ware thus produced could be variable, and meanwhile the industry seemed slow to second-guess the changing fashions in tableware: a trend for chic informality replacing the full-dinner-service culture of previous decades.

 Last week it was deeply heartening, then, to see that for some firms, such as Portmeirion, "insourcing" – bringing back pottery production to Stoke – was a new buzzword: that actually making things in Stoke is possible, and economically viable. At a time when one of the few things uniting Ed Miliband and George Osborne in their conference speeches is the conviction that Britain ought to be a producer, not just a consumer, of things, I hope Stoke can lead the way. 

Three mid-century Andersen mugs in teardrop pattern