Andersen Studio Gallery - collectible ceramics designed and hand made in the USA since 1952

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Reinventing Andersen Design Can Revitalize American Slip Casting Industry

Reinventing Andersen Design Can Revitalize American Slip Casting Industry
When my father died, I became 50% owner of Andersen Design with my sister. A 50-50 ownership is far from ideal.  On the surface, my sister and I do not always see eye to eye, but I  think that we do so on a deeper level. Human communication takes mostly takes place in conscious awareness while deeper levels are subliminal. If I had to chose between agreement on one of those levels, I would choose the subliminal because it transcends the here and now, which is a for ever evolving process emergent from the subliminal. Most people have families and know that the family dynamics are unique to each family and not easily communicated to those who have not been existing within that dynamic for their whole lives- or a good part of it and it is not my intention to try to do so. Our business seeks to find other partners. I am finding the most immediately accessible connections are those that are part of the existing free enterprise system- the independent ceramic slip casting productions with which we are in  a process of  establishing relationships and Google Products and adwords, which I am just now starting to understand, which I did not when I first targeted Google Products as a solution.I feel like the plan that will transform this business is emerging as if reading a book. I know the whole plan is outlined in the book but I as I am reading it, only a part of it is revealed to me- but I know the entire plan is there and will continue to unfold.A while back someone came into our retail store and told us about crowdfunding and said that we should do it. I tried this and found that I had no network of support. We had plenty of likes and shares on Facebook but hardly any responses to the “call to action”, This is the nature of Facebook, where more people respond to images and headlines than actually click on links to read what the images and headlines are there to communicate. So I said to myself, we need to be in an environment where people are in the shopping mode and that’s how I hit upon Google Products.But even then I did not understand that Google Products is designed as a system interacting with Google adwords and that Google adwords is an online auction for ad spaces which are constantly emerging when ever a user instigates a search and Google delivers the results, Some searches take place in Google Shopping clearly identifying that the user is in shopping mode- other ads may be distributed on related websites that feature ads. The merchandiser must target his own audience through selected keywords.

Google has developed an advertising campaign system. Large companies selling many products on the internet are using the Google adwords campaign all of the time for all of their products, or at least all in stock products, although there is a pre-order option which requires a specific date when the item is anticipated to be in stock. All products sold through Google Products must be in stock.

Since Google Products is an online auction, one must plan ones bid strategically. The bid (percentage going to Google) times the quantity in stock = the dollar value of one’s bid for the ad space but Google’s explanation of the auction emphasises that quality is also a factor and that one may win the auction with a lower bid if the quality is right.

Google does not explain what constitutes quality but I think we have that factor for the search term “ceramic birds’ because we have been on the top of that search page since we launched our website and if you search “ceramic birds” on images, we are found throughout the page of displays. However if you search “ceramic birds” on shopping, we are currently not to be found and that is because we have not yet launched our adwords campaign.

We are working on launching an adwords campaign for our Chickadee. I have no idea until I try by trial and error what the magic numbers are for “unit price x quantity”  needed to win a top spot on Google adword auctions – but I know that Andersen Design has been doing catalogue sales through out our history and I extrapolate that if the in stock numbers for Google products could be maintained in the range of the quantities needed to satisfy catalogue orders, that probably is a winning number. If a catalogue can sell that quantity of stock- so can we through Google Products. We have an established record as top sellers in high profile catalogues and other retail venues. The established marketability and classic appeal of our product is our strength.


Google adwords directly links to this app on our new Ready To Ship website 

At this point our production capacity has been reduced to a fraction of what it was once was and so I will be launching the Chickadee with relatively small stock quantities. I will be running an ad campaign in which we pay whenever there is a call to action response- in other words whenever a sale is made. If results are slow at first, I will keep the price per unit constant until we meet our target for a minimum number of items in stock. At that point one can play around with changing both sets of numbers in the bid equation. We will also be paying attention to which key words are generating the highest response, which I believe is information that will be available via Google analytics. This is a very interesting process requiring talent and skill.

Our entire business is composed of interacting interesting processes. We need to establish a larger team- perhaps at first a board and then perhaps stockholders as well as independent outside contractors and of course employees.

This business can generate business for outside American slip-casting productions-I have located about three in the United States and they are interested. I feel our business has a unique capacity to revitalize American ceramic slip-casting, an industry which was one of the first to be re-located in global low cost labor markets. I believe that in terms of the way the world is turning – pointing the the way China is currently building sand castles in the sea to change the definition of international waters – that this is an opportune moment to revitalize American ceramic slip casting.

Andersen Design can work with an outside shipping and customer service providers- and all sorts of other functions, generating middle class jobs which can train unskilled workers and provide a stepping stone to high income jobs based on performance – for anyone.

Ultimately we would like to develop training centers to pass on the special glazes and decorating techniques needed to produce our line of American ceramic nature art. We can easily work with  outside American ceramic slip casting productions to produce our functional designs. Functional designs are attractive in may different glazes. However of line of American Ceramic Nature Art is inseparable from our own original art glazes. To pass this on we need to work with slip casting productions in close proximity to us  that will have their own management team with Andersen Design functioning as professional consultants. Once we have passed on our understanding to a manager, that manager may also become a professional consultant for Andersen Design art glazes and other processes.

We welcome inquiries from anyone with an interest in becoming part of this project.


Honor Thy Father : Remembering Weston Neil Andersen

Honor Thy Father : Remembering Weston Neil Andersen

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Weston Neil Andersen was an American ceramic designer, craftsman and entrepreneur who in 1952, established Andersen Design Stoneware with his wife Brenda in the coast of Maine, USA, . He was also my father whom I loved and cared for and was cared for by during the latter years of his life. This is the story about the last five years in which he suffered from a brain injury. Weston was known throughout his life for his analytical mind, which was not affected by the brain injury but it compromised his ability to express his thoughts in complete sentences. During the last five years of his life, Weston spent many hours in deep reflection, seldom seeming to be bored. At times he would sleep for a very long time and when he awoke , he would say that he gotten a lot of work done. In mild weather, he spent many hours of the day sitting on the front porch taking in the natural surroundings and the community walking up and down the street which usually left him in a very good mood.

During his younger days, both Weston and his wife Brenda professed to be agnostics but both in their own unique ways came to accept the existence of God.

Brenda died in 1994.  Before her death, Brenda was in a coma for many hours with the family gathered around her. I was at a turn of holding her hand when suddenly I felt a spiraling motion swoop down. encompass and transport me into an open sky colored pink and filled with gold rimmed clouds. I felt an indescribably deep love and then just as suddenly l was back in the room and Brenda was conscious and calling for Weston. Brenda told Weston that she loved him, not words that came easily to her during her life and then she died.

Some will surely find the telling of this experience unbelievable but I can only testify to what happened as I experienced it, which seemed an experience in which there was no separation between my mother and myself as she/we were embraced by God’s love. My Mother’s encounter with death as revealed to me through the experience was as emotional as the way that she lived her life. As Dad used to say, she was always emoting. The visual imagery that I experienced was consistent with the Catholic background in which my mother was raised as a young English girl in London before and during World War II.

Weston & Brenda in the 1950’s – photograph by unknown

During the years after Brenda’s death and before Weston suffered macular degeneration which interfered with his ability to read, we shared many common reading interests uncommonly found in our larger community. Dad and I both read extensively in esoteric wisdom and quantum theory- which is to say the philosophy emergent from quantum physics, which does not prove the existence of God but which is consistent with the teaching of esoteric wisdom. Dad read Carlos Castaneda and I read Christian Hermeticism and we both read David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order and The Non-Local Universe by Menas Kafatos and Robert Nadeau among many other books. When he could no longer read, Weston listened to the entirety of the New Testament on tape.

These three early wine decanters display Dad’s approach to ceramic design and glazes

Through out his life Dad was accustomed to seeing ghosts in our very old house in Maine. This did not frighten him, nor did he consider it to be anything unusual. The ghosts were as much a part of the natural world as any other phenomenon  He often spoke of the Sea Captain in the living room. Once he told me that the woman in the other room was very up set and that I needed to go and talk to her. I did so, although I could not see the woman.

Weston was a man of great intellectual and analytical capacity but with the brain injury limiting his ability to express his thoughts, his heart took on a stronger presence. He spent hours contemplating his life and often spoke of his wife, his mother, father, siblings and others he had known in his life. At his age he was aware that his days on this earth were numbered and it appeared to be that he was preparing himself for his own judgment day as he spent hours upon hours in contemplation of his life, past present and the future when he was gone.

During the period after his brain injury, Weston relived his life chronologically and so we came to know him at many different stages of life As a boy.Weston lived on a chicken farm. One day, as an elderly man he suffered a seizure. When we entered the hospital we heard someone screaming  “Chicken” . It was Dad, who appeared to be reliving an early memory when he first realized that the chickens were destined to be killed. and was very upset by it.

When World War II broke out.Weston considered declaring conscientious objection but realized that if someone were trying to kill his family, he would kill them and so he enlisted. One day during his latter years he was in tears over a recollection of a man who had returned from the war missing his legs.

The morning that I took this picture of Weston, the expression on his  face was clear and innocent. I probably told him that he looked so handsome. Many of the caretakers who saw Dad over the years would say the same. At many times he had a engaging  and gentlemanly nature that charmed the people around him.

On other days he looked like this:

I am thinking thoughts too intense for words !

When my parents started their ceramics business in 1952, they did so on a shoe string budget and so they took their own photographs and published their own catalog

Years later I followed in their tradition designing our website and taking the photographs of the ceramic work. I set a makeshift studio up on the kitchen table where my father usually sat.

In this picture Dad is sitting at the table on which my makeshift photography studio is being constructed. The bright sunlight comes streaming in through the window as father is sleeping in his chair.  Weston designed and constructed The kitchen table in the 1950’s when we first moved into the house and it became the center of many different activities.

This is a photo that I took  in one of the kitchen table photography sessions of of the ceramic Blue Jay designed by Weston,

This Portrait of an Eating Dick is the last sculpture that Dad created in his life time.

The bright afternoon light streams in the window interacting with the shadows and light of the makeshift photography studio on the kitchen table. Suddenly Dad became very animated and was in a verbal rhapsody describing the rhythms and forms in the display and counting them.

After Dad’s brain injury counting and the spelling of words took on particular significance, used for emphasis or explanation. If in pain, the word “ow” was spelled. Once when we called the paramedics because Dad had fallen out of bed, Dad explained everything to them by spelling the words as if spelling the words clarified the meaning, a curious phenomenon indeed. Spelling has to do with the ability to express thoughts to others involving the part of Dad’s brain, which never fully recovered. leading one to wonder if the actual process of thinking is primordial to the process of communicating in language. Did spelling take on such meaning because of its function as a tool of communication?

Despite the brain injury and despite the fact that cameras had changed dramatically in appearance since the days when Dad took photographs, he understood the process of taking pictures from within and without. Once, when the afternoon sunlight was particularly bright, he said “I hope you know what you are doing !” It amazed me that he grasped the process of taking a picture and how such a bright light might affect the results. In this picture he is smiling for the camera,  So sweet !

In the years after Brenda died, Dad worked on this sculpture. After his brain injury he spent time observing it. One day while sitting on the front porch as he often like to do, he turned to me and asked that I would make a sculpture of him.

Dad would become involved when I worked on a sculpture, turning it as I worked and always letting me know what he thought. Here he is touching some wax sculptures in the works.

Here Dad sits in the morning having his coffee. The mug on the table with the funky tear drop designs is a form created by Weston, who designed a series of original mugs and a large line of functional forms  in addition to a line of wild life sculptures.

The day Dad fell and injured his brain, he was working on a project to have the mugs produced for the commercial market. I have now taken over the project. This is one of my favorites. Dad hand scraffitoed the spiral on the mug himself. I have to figure out how to translate this decorative technique into a commercial process. I understand his thinking on this project, not just in terms of the mug but in terms of the evolution of our family ceramic business.

Two hand cast stoneware steines, one decorated by Brenda and the other decorated by Weston

 One day Dad was looking sad and said that he had nothing to do. A few weeks later he said, “There are three people here and so there a three musicians.” (This was said as a full sentence which was extremely rare.) I gathered up all the instruments I could find and we all played. Dad took to the keyboards. As a young man Dad’s mother had wanted him to learn to play the piano but he refused. He did not play in a learned way but he played with deliberation, He preferred to play when no one was around but we could hear him in the other room.

Throughout his life Weston enjoyed classical jazz. As a young adult he went to Chicago and New York and listened to the greats playing in small venues.

One day we put on Sade and he listened to her for several hours. He said it is very involved. We introduced him to Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan and Mazzy Star, He stayed up late into the night listening to trance like music of Mazzy Star over  and over again.

A few days before Dad died I was picking out the notes to Sweet Georgia Brown. I asked Dad if it sounded right and he looked at me and smiled his sweet smile.


During his life Dad was in the hospital on many occasions and we became accustomed to hearing the  lectures about how he may not make it this time around. The most convincing time was when he fell down and suffered the brain injury. The doctors said that what was good for the heart was bad for the brain and that Dad would never be off the breathing tube. That night as I drove from Portland to Boothbay with my nephew we both agreed that although Dad had had many miraculous recoveries this time it sounded much more challenging and then we both said at about the same time- But this is Weston! The next day Dad woke up and removed the breathing tube. By the time I returned to the hospital he was already walking around the place in his walker although he had a giant bruise on his head. The older doctor looked at the younger doctor and said “Forget your ever saw that MRI !”

In the days afterwards, while recovering from the brain injury Dad was speaking over and over again about system management. That is when it hit me how that Dad’s unique talents were as much about system management as about art and design. He was system managing his own brain recovery. He was also speaking a great deal about fishermen and fishing, It did not escape me, with the common interest I shared with my father in esoteric wisdom, that the fish is an ancient symbol of Christianity.

Dad survived that injury to live five more years, dying at the age of 93. Three days prior to his death he was sleeping deeply and as peacefully as I had ever seen him sleep. Around five in the morning of the day that he died, my sister checked on him and found him sleeping with a large smile on his face. Dad often worried during his life time and I would tell him, you just have to have faith. I think he found that faith. He chose when to go. Of course I wanted him to stay longer but I have accepted the wisdom of his decision. People say the are sorry for our loss, which I appreciate, but I really do not feel a loss because I do not feel my father is gone, he just went on to another stage of his journey, like the ghosts he used to see in our house and consistent with the nature of time in quantum theory and esoteric wisdom, Dad is still very much with us.

And still enjoying the view from our front porch.