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On Being An Anomaly In The Age of The Creative Economy

Introduction: The Cultural Context

Every organization and every business is its own culture. Andersen Stoneware is a cultural environment that places a distinct and unique value on the process of making things. The Creative Economy is a culture that places value on designing (innovating) things. Andersen Stoneware designs what it makes and so Andersen Stoneware also values innovation.

Arguably, the Creative Economy is  a response to the loss of manufacturing (making things) in the United States and the rise of manufacturing in what was once called third world nations. As such the ideology of the Creative Economy movement glorifies designers over makers as it separates the act of designing from the act of making (also  repairing and maintaining which are qualified as "lesser skilled work " according to the "creative economy" system of measurement) (example) In the marketing of the Creative Economy, those that design, do not make, while those that make things do so because they lack higher skills and creative capabilities. According to this world view it is low skilled jobs that are exported to low wage labor markets. * The Creative Economy ideology has created a master class with an alleged superior set of skills and methods of evolving new ideas. In the era of the American Creative Economy movement, Andersen Stoneware exists as a cultural anomaly, which may well be a precursor of things to come to those who pay attention to the changes afoot in the global context. This is Andersen Studio’s story, told in a way that it has never been told before, in the context of a transforming world. And so it is also the story of the world told from our perspective of interacting within it.

Andersen Stoneware was established in the era of the plastics revolution with a founding philosophy dedicated to creating an American hand made product affordable to the middle classes. Andersen Stoneware was founded in 1952 as Ceramics by Andersen during the golden age of America’s middle class . At the time of our founding, the distribution of wealth in the United States took the form of a bell curve with the largest concentration of wealth dispersed among the largest number of people.

Contemporary America is joined at the hip to China and other manufacturing nations. As China grew its manufacturing, American manufacturing declined and as this transformation occurred Communist China led the way in creating a ravine of separation between the working classes and the bureaucracy and/or ownership classes. In both contemporary China and the USA the gap between the rich and the poor is growing as a global investors class exploits the low-wage labor market. A large portion of that market is located in China- a country once dominated by the “workers party”. In 1980’s The Chinese Constitution was amended to allow private ownership of property excepting the ownership of land. As Chinese private enterprise developed, the size of the privately owned business sector equaled or surpassed the dept ridden state owned enterprises. Uproar occurred in 2002 when the People’s Republic of China allowed private capitalists into the Communist Party.

Unconscionable Capitalism

In the twenty first century, the Chinese Communist Party has merged with private capitalism in a reverse process of the transformation occurring in Maine during the same time period. The Maine State Constitution has been superseded by statutory laws, which have entrenched a dominent network of state capitalism, operating with a funds accumulated from taxpayers and gifts from private sources which together comprise a concentrated capital power which merges government, private and non-profit sectors as one continuous system. At the onset of the 21st century, the conflation of public and private sectors emerged as a de facto political party, identifying itself in the popular terms of the moment as “the creative class”, the next generation of owners of the means of production, be those means located in Maine or in China or any other part of the globe

"Over the ensuing decades, particularly in the 1990s when massive investment poured into China, the families of CCP bureaucrats utilised political power and links with foreign capital to transform themselves into a new property-owning capitalist elite. CCP-connected entrepreneurs, executives, outsourcing contractors, import and export traders and professionals have emerged as the junior partners of major transnational corporations in ruthlessly exploiting the working class."

World Socialst Website -Chinese regime amends constitution to protect private ownership- 2004


In China there exists a huge divide between the rich and the poor with only a sliver of a middle class between them and America is not far behind China’s lead.

China ranks #53 worst worldwide in terms of income inequality, with a Gini index (measuring wealth inequality) of 41.5. In comparison, the U.S. ranks #40 worst with a Gini index of 40.[ CIA World Factbook, accessed March 2011 ]

Factsabout China: RICH, POOR & INEQUALITY

Although Communism was born in response to exploitative working conditions of 19th century factories, the conditions for the contemporary worker in China remains notoriously poor, discouraging unions, and wages so low that China has become one of the most competitive manufacturing nations on the globe. Sparse environmental regulations have resulted in making China of the most polluted nations on Planet Earth.

The Chinese Symbol of the Yin-Yang

Everything Is Everything

Once China was home to a sophisticated culture of art and philosophy producing finely crafted and beautifully designed ceramics along side the philosophical master works such as the Tao de Ching, a philosophy which I have come to know through the western version of the I Ching translated by Carl Jung. The I Ching is part of an esoteric tradition in which the maker and creator are complementary parts of an inseparable whole - a cultural tradition harmonious with that upon which Andersen Stoneware was built, which in modern day jargon of the business world might be called in-sourcing.

The I Ching is based on complementary opposites such as creative and receptive, male and female, superior and inferior, within a framework in which the whole is revealed through the interaction of opposites rather than segmented as echelons within a class structure. The creative is synonymous with the masculine and superior while the receptive is feminine and inferior but superior and inferior, male and female, creative and receptive, do not have the same connotations as those words signify within a class-structured context. Jung conceptualized the complementary opposites of the I Ching as the anima and animus – opposing but complementary forces of the human psyche- which is an indivisible whole as visualized by the famous iconic symbol of the Tau de Ching  - a state of Oneness in which the dark and the light taken separately imply its completion through the other.

In the esoteric model, the masculine is the creative seed, which impregnates the feminine, which does the work of nurturing the seed into the manifest world. The process of creating and that of bringing the form into manifestation within the material world (making) are mutually dependent upon each other. There is no finite line of demarcation where the one begins and the other ends, as each is needed to bring the whole into being.

The ideology of the Creative Economy is one of separations, divisions and special interests. As I tell this story I intend to reveal that the Creative Economy is worthy of the common street language interpretation where in bad is good, good is bad and the creative is the destructive and the destructive creative. The Creative Economy destroys, dismisses and refuses to recognize the existence of everything in its path that does not serve its chosen special interests. As the creative economy posits material wealth as the measure of all “social benefit”, current events defy their standard of measure in the emergence of well-educated terrorists materialistically living the American dream but inexplicably motivated by forces immeasurable by materialism.

Our Story: The Local Reality

Pre-screening Requests for Applications For Public Funding

At some time in the early days of the Baldacci administration I thought about applying for an apprenticeship grant for mold making in the Traditional Arts category offered by the Maine Arts Commission. I called by phone to request an application where upon I was told by the director of the Traditional Arts Program at the Maine Arts Commission that I would have to make the case that ceramics is a traditional art. I was taken aback by this request since ceramics is commonly recognized as one of civilizations oldest art forms. In substance the request might seem reasonable but if so, one would expect to find the question on the application and not as a response to the request for the application. This communicated a message of its own and since I didn’t have a firm commitment from one interested in learning the mold making process, it discouraged spending further time on that pursuit.

Andersen Studio has been innovating new designs for the market since 1952. This is a wax model of a new bird sculpture that I am currently developing. The next step is to create the original mold, at which point a few pieces can be cast so that I can develop the decoration of the piece while the master and production molds are being created.
Later when the creative economy list-serve had become discussion forums on the Maine Arts Commission web site, I explored the Traditional Arts Forum where I found that the ability to start a topic was delegated exclusively to the Director of the Traditional Arts Program, who had created only one topic. I requested a description of the qualifications for traditional arts and the Director went through a list which included passing down the tradition from one family generation to the next. I said that our ceramic business met all the qualifications to which the Director said that I was off topic- this in a conversation in which there was one other person in addition to myself and the Director. This exchange re-enforced my instinctual conclusion that I would be wasting my time to fill out the application.

This interaction is consistent with the general rapport that exists between myself as a representative of Andersen Stoneware and the Maine Art Commission and Maine Crafts Association. There are many stories I could relay but the following demonstrates the “leveraging” methodology generally practiced and promoted by Maine State Inc. In the interview with Alan Hinsey by ChannelSix (to which I linked in my previous post), Alan Hinsey states that Textech had received seven wealth transfusions (“grants”) from the Maine Technology Institute and so “leveraged” additional capital in the form of a federal defense contract. I wonder why a company that has three manufacturing facilities, one in Maine, one in China, and one in Thailand, needs tax payer subsidization in order to obtain a national defense contract from the federal government but such details are never explained- the key phrase is always that the redistributed wealth “leveraged” more capital- and that means money making more money- not to be confused with new wealth created through work and productivity- but rather a creative manipulation of wealth redistribution. Once the leveraging has occurred, the capitalization may create new wealth for those whom are the beneficiaries of redistribution but it decreases the value of money held by the general public as the funds coming from the federal government are merely printed on presses, not wealth created through increased productivity. The printed paper money decreases value of all wealth across the land, as the federal government distributes freshly printed new capital in a thinly hidden method of transferring the ownership of the means of production to the members of the party – in this case the party is the so-called creative class. As commonly practiced by Maine State Inc, the end game of leveraging is to obtain federal money, and they use this end to encourage the public to approve “economic development” bonds by a public vote.

When Capitalism becomes the Alpha and Omega.

Leveraging was clearly a factor in an event to which I was invited to by a local non-profit organization, which had received a matching grant from Governor Baldacci for a project that involved teaching how to make ceramic mud pies of exactly the sort that your average three year old would fashion out of clay. I can’t recall the amount of the grant but it was successfully matched- to my point of view, clearly because the governor was sponsoring it and so that signaled to the foundations and philanthropists that it was a worthy cause. It is inconceivable that either the governor or the matching contributors considered what was being taught, which in my view was absolutely nothing as there is neither skill nor esthetics involved in fashioning a crude mud pie out of clay. The motivation was clearly leveraging- using the matching grant to move more capital into the state. The money is the end game. The teaching skills involved in making things that purportedly justify the grant are merely incidental to the fundamental purpose of leveraging money to get more money. This is an instance in which the skills involved in making of things are not considered as a significant end in its self- in other words the act of making things is devalued to the point where they are nothing more than the pawn in the game.

When I made the decision to attend this event I ignored my gut instinct, which noted the two different messages on the invitation- one message to celebrate the organization’s event and the other an invitation to network.

Over the years my father has voiced the thought that all the ceramic business and organizations on the Boothbay Peninsula should form a network. The invitation was addressed to my father confirming that it was sent to us based on knowledge of who Andersen Stoneware is in the field of ceramics rather than data procured by a general mailing list that I might have joined.

One of the first ideas that the introductory speaker espoused was to encourage all in attendance to sponsor in ceramics teaching workshops at their locations. I spoke up and said that we already teach ceramic skills on the job and so what would be the point for us in conducting an additional ceramic workshop in our own space? The speaker said that Andersen is already well known so we didn’t need the publicity that a workshop would bring, seeming irritated by my question.

Next a young woman who appeared to be no older than twenty was introduced. She was the recipient of one of the teaching grants distributed individually in the amount of $500.00. She reported that she had conducted the workshop but it was not clear where she had conducted it and who had paid the overhead costs of the workshop, which would include the costs of space and electricity in addition to materials. It was also unclear if the students were being charged for the classes. However when it came to selling the products made in the workshop- little ceramic mud pies- the young woman had arrived at a marketing concept - she publicized and charged for an event and then gave the ceramic bowls away as an event prize enabling her to generate $500.00 in revenue, which she then contributed to a charity (a food bank) as was a requirement of the program (social benefit).

I was growing increasingly aghast at what I was witnessing and so when a discussion commenced about how much could be charged for the ceramic mud pies, I spoke up. I still had not managed to mentally transit from the way that I imagined things should be- i.e. -teaching skills that can help others to create an income for themselves- to the reality that was – teaching an unskilled craft in order to give money to a charity to provide food for low income people- and so I spoke from the perspective of what one would have to consider when pricing a product for the private economy market. I mentioned all the overhead expenses and I also mentioned that one has to be able to compete with low priced products being imported from nations with extremely low labor and production costs. I could see in the eyes of the audience that there was a general interest in what I was speaking about but when I finished, an older woman stood up, calling me by my name, she told me that they did not want to hear what I had to say, they were there to listen to the twenty year old novice. And at that point I left the Mad Hatters Party, having clearly worn out my welcome as well as my own patience.

This is just another story among many that exemplifies the attitude that the Creative Economy takes to people like us- small micro economy enterprises that are not seen as advancing their own agenda. Andersen Stoneware pioneered the ceramics slip-casting industry on the Boothbay Peninsula over sixty years ago, creating a “cluster industry” as an off-shoot, but our knowledge and experience was dismissed in favor of a twenty year old novice teaching the non-skills of making clay mud pies all to serve the social benefit of funding food banks for the less fortunate in the society in which the policies of the “creative class” has advanced and continues to advance as they uphold a company with manufacturing facilities in China and Thailand as their own poster child.


Video by Leslie T Chang on Ted Conversations
Conversation started by Myself in response to the above

* In this international comparison of math and science skills among 15 year olds, China takes first place in math skills - the United States is placed at 25th -China also ranks above the USA in reading and science skills

**  This post examining the special act of legislation by which the Small Enterprise Growth Fund was charted reveals that it is set up to allow government employees to profit from their positions via the fund by exempting the SEGF from a general law that prohibits the same. Exemptions from general laws constitute an additional violation against Article Iv Part Third Section 14 of the Maine State Constitution, which states that "all corporations however formed are subject to general laws". The SEGF is subsidized by the Maine Taxpayer in a manner that functions as a non-profit investment, while the private investors in the are "high growth" investors, who invest on a profit making basis. The SEGF submits its annual report exclusively to the state legislature

Facts about China: RICH, POOR & INEQUALITY

America’s vanishing middle class: Gap between rich and poor widens

Chinese regime amends constitution to protect private ownership

Wages in China

China promises rise in minimum wage to close income gap


Part One 

Part Two 

 Part Three



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