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Designer Talks: Andrew Pickard Morgan

For Andrew Pickard Morgan leading the family business was always in the cards. As the fourth-generation family member to direct Pickard China, he navigated the company through the turbulent economic crash of 2008 and has steered its collection launches toward innovative and creative partnerships and designs. As a teen, Andy would work at the Pickard factory during the summers. So, when he officially joined the company in 2001 and eventually became President and CEO in 2006 after his father Eben Morgan retired, the role did not feel like a new job, but rather something he had been doing and had a deep understanding of for a long time.

Was there a defining moment in your career, and if so, how did it shape you as a designer?

I would say that my most defining professional moment was toward the end of 2006 when my father had to step down as the company's president to focus on his health as he continued to fight cancer. Sadly, he lost the battle in the spring of 2008, and the company was soon hit by the great recession. The next two years were the most challenging years I have ever faced in my career.

Pickard China has been a proud small family business since 1893, but I have to admit that there were a number of days in 2008 and 2009 when I found myself wondering if I could get the company through the economic storm that was ravaging our country. During this time, I often steeled my nerves by looking at a picture of my grandfather, Austin Pickard, who had run the family business from the mid-1920s to the early 1960s. I would remind myself of his perseverance and determination as he had successfully reinvented the company from a gift-oriented decorating company into a fine china dinnerware manufacturing company during the midst of the Great Depression. He even went on to secure a U.S. Navy contract in the summer of 1942 to produce gravy boats for our country's growing naval fleet. The Navy contract, and the fuel oil rationing that came with it, were secured just in the nick of time and saved Pickard from closing. My grandfather's vision and business savvy motivated me during those tough years. Thanks to the incredible effort made by every employee, we were able to make it through the recession and Pickard China began to flourish once again by 2012.

I used my grandfather's determination and lessons in my decision process to push Pickard into a newer and more contemporary design direction and to take, head on, the challenges of the endlessly changing tabletop market.

What is the basis of your design strategy?

The challenges of 2008 and 2009 had a major impact on my approach to design at Pickard China. During this time, Pickard was required to cut back and control spending very carefully. This included cutting back a marketing budget that was already too thin. Unrelated to the economy, I also believed Pickard had a serious design problem as the brand seemed to be pigeonholed by only offering gold and platinum-based banded patterns. To combat these problems, I decided the company needed to partner with a top tier designer who could breathe some life back into Pickard's retail pattern assortment as well as create a marketing buzz with their name and brand.

In 2008, the designer we found to fulfill this need was Charlotte Moss. Pickard was thrilled and honored to work with Charlotte and we proudly introduced the Charlotte Moss for Pickard China line in 2008. In 2009, Pickard was fortunate enough to launch a new designer line with Kelly Wearstler. The Kelly Wearstler for Pickard China collection was critically acclaimed and helped to redefine how stores and consumers viewed the Pickard China brand.

How do you know when to stick it out and when to let go of an idea?

The decision process of "go" or "no go" on a potential new design is a tough challenge for everyone in the tabletop industry. I personally like to gather opinions on a potential new pattern from multiple sources including retail store owners as well as direct consumer feedback.

Is it difficult to strike a balance between your personal design aesthetic and the objective for commercial success?

Not particularly - I have personally designed some of Pickard's current china pattern offerings, e.g. Wind, Wind and Wings and the new Union Station pattern. However, as the president of the company I am always looking at new designs from the perspective of whether they will be commercially successful. My own patterns are no exception to this review.

On the day my father retired, he looked at me and said, "Congratulations son, you're the new president of the company which means you're also the new head janitor."

Outside of design, what things inspire you and influence your work?

I am very interested and inspired by the technical side of ceramics. For example, Union Station, which was just introduced at the New York Fall Tabletop Show, is a play on subway tile, and the design was created through the use of a new reactive material that was recently introduced in the tabletop industry.

If you were not a designer, is there another career path that intrigues you?

Running a small business allows me to have a career of sorts as a designer as well as a career in HR, Legal, Marketing and Sales, Production and Purchasing. On the day my father retired, he looked at me and said, "Congratulations son, you're the new president of the company which means you're also the new head janitor."

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Is there one person who you admire or consider to be your greatest mentor or design inspiration?

I have been personally inspired by having the fantastic opportunity to work with both Charlotte Moss and Kelly Wearstler whom I would consider two of the finest designers in the world.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us regarding design and your career as a designer?

I am really just a part time designer. However, finding inspiration is not just key to being a designer but really a key to any job you may be asked to perform.

What advice would you give to young designers who are just starting out in a commercial marketplace?

How about a quote from Bob Dylan: "There is no success like failure, and failure is no success at all."