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One of a Kind Vintage Portrait Bowls by Brenda Andersen

Andersen Design is an American Designer Craftsmen Studio established by Weston and Brenda Andersen in 1952 on Southport Island, Maine, USA. The studio was established with a philosophy of creating hand crafted products affordable to the middle class. It designed original glazes and decorative techniques and designed a line of contemporary functional forms and nature sculptures, using slip cast production as the medium for creating art. 

Brenda developed archetypical patterns as repeatable patterns to be rendered by the unique hand 
of individual artisans so that no two were ever exactly alike. She also used the ceramic medium to create many one-of-kind artworks. One of her favorite subjects was portraiture.

This bowl is an original one  of a kind object created by Brenda Nash Andersen

The story begins with Weston and Brenda setting out to create a unique and creative American ceramic design and slip casting company without anyone to tell them how do it. This bowl is a portrait of a journey in its beginning.

The portrait is of Susan, the second eldest daughter, which is myself, author of this description. I look to be about the age I was when our family moved to Maine, dating this bowl at 1952.

Andersen Design remained an American made ceramic studio at a time when most of the western ceramic industry moved production to foreign labor markets. The company competed successfully in a market flooded with foreign made imports, producing a hand-made art product affordable to the middle class. The work was collected by Americans of every walk of life and collections handed down through the generations.

Andersen Design stands as a singular original American design company choosing an alternative path during an era of global transformation. It is my inherited responsibility to tell the story of this unique American company. The practice of creating and making ceramics is as invaluable an aspect of what Andersen Design innovated, as are the hand-made objects created by the process.

Karen or Gerda? That is the Question.

There is a debate as to whether it is a portrait of Karen, the eldest daughter or Gerda, the third daughter. While I agree that it looks more like Gerda than Karen, the similarity of the signatures with the bowl above, which is clearly a portrait of Susan and not Elise, since Susan and Elise have distinctly different eyes and hair. Susan's hair was always curly, and Elise's hair was straight. The signature of the two bowls are almost identical.

The bowls are dated by the signatures on the bottom in which “Andersen” is spelled the Swedish way, as “Anderson”. Weston’s family is Danish but when they first migrated to America someone changed the spelling of “Andersen” to “Anderson”. Weston changed the spelling back to “Andersen” in the fifties but this bowl has the signature signed with an “O” indicating that it was done at a very early date and that the portrait is of Karen, the eldest daughter.

That point made, it can be a mistake to identify a work by the signature on the bottom. For years I thought This work of a girl jump roping was by my mother. It is true it has a child like aspect to it, but mother had such a character that it did not seem implausible that she could have created this piece and her signature is on the bottom:

However when we started reviewing pieces known to have been done by myself as a child, the theme emerged that I painted wreaths around the characters. It then became more plausible that my mother signed the bottoms of the platters before she painted them. I came along and did my own art work on a platter which my mother had already signed, making the girl jumping rope a self portrait by this author.

Andersen Design remained an American made ceramic studio when most of the western ceramic industry moved production to foreign labor markets and competed successfully in a market flooded with foreign made imports, producing a hand-made art product affordable to the middle class. Andersen Design stands as a singular American original design company taking the road less travelled during an era of global transformation.


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