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!