Weston N. Andersen, 93

EAST BOOTHBAY — Weston Neil Andersen, 93, pioneering Maine craftsman and founder of the ceramics business that bore his name, died on Sunday, March 1, 2015, at his home in East Boothbay.

He was born on Jan. 19, 1922, in Primghar, Iowa, to Isoline (Bell) and Arthur Peter Anderson, a self-taught electrician, who ran a large chicken hatchery and had overseen the electrification of the town and construction of its power plant. While his family and town were relatively secure during the Great Depression, a near-constant train of desperate refugees from the Dakotas passed through on US-18, “families in old wrecks with machinery piled up on a trailer behind them who were just looking for some place to get a new start,” he once recalled. “It made a very deep impression on me.”

An artistic soul in a community of pioneering agriculturalists, he was unsure of how to make a living from his calling. But in his senior year, he read a magazine feature on Donald Dohner, a pioneer of a new field called “industrial design,” which combined art and engineering to improve the beauty and utility of products, from toasters to locomotives. He became a student of Dohner’s at the Pratt Institute in distant Brooklyn, where he became personal friends with the celebrated Hungarian-born ceramicist Eva Ziesel, whose work — inspired by the natural world and human body and intended to be used in real life — his would later be compared to.

World War II interrupted his studies. He served at an Army Air Forces bomb depot in England, using his draftsmen’s skills to create daily charts of the staggering flows of munitions passing through the base. While on leave, he met Brenda Nash, a working class girl who’d been awarded a rare scholarship to an elite finishing school, at a London ballroom. When air raid sirens sounded, they ignored them to finish their dance and were married a few months later. Their first child was born a year after that and shortly after the atom bombing of Hiroshima. The Japanese surrendered and Weston boarded a ship for New York instead of Okinawa.

He graduated from Pratt and taught at the Akron Art Institute, but the couple wanted to design and produce their own work. Short on capital and with a growing family, in 1952 they bought a home on Southport Island, Maine and took up ceramics because both were affordable. They built what became Andersen Design from their swallow-infested barn, moving to East Boothbay a few years later. Weston designed a new production wing off the house and, by the 1980s, was overseeing a second facility on the Portland waterfront, over 25 employees, and a high-profile wholesale trade. The Smithsonian’s gift shops ordered Andersen sandpipers by the thousands, and their stoneware pieces appeared in the catalogs of the Museum of Natural History and Mystic Seaport. An Andersen seagull perched on Governor John McKernan’s Blaine House bookcase, while state officials gave other pieces to foreign dignitaries.

Weston continued working into his late 80s. A voracious reader, he also loved jazz and sailing.

He was predeceased by his wife of 50 years, Brenda Andersen, who died in 1994.

He is survived by daughters, Karen Andersen Woodard of Wiscasset, Susan Andersen of East Boothbay, Gerda Andersen Dupree of North Waterford, Elise Andersen of East Boothby and Christine Andersen Tupper of Damariscotta; his son, Iain Andersen of Portland; two grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Visitation was held on Friday, March 6, at Hall’s of Boothbay, 975 Wiscasset Road. Condolences may be shared by visiting www.hallfuneralhomes.com

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Weston’s memory may be made to the Community Energy Fund of Lincoln County, P.O. Box 40, Bristol, ME 04539.

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