Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Last Open House of 2011--This Saturday!

So, I am a bit hesitant to even say anything about this Saturday because the last two Saturdays have been so busy, but many of you have emailed me to ask, and so yes, this Saturday will conclude the open house for the year.
The first Saturday of my sale is traditionally my biggest, but after people toured the house on the 3rd, they must have gone home and told all their friends and then brought them back on the 10th because last Saturday was by far the biggest Studio Sale I have ever had. It is likely we will do this again in the Spring at our Mother's Day open house and I hope there will be even more tile and happiness to share by then.
Last week at this time, I found myself looking forward to a week without any firings after firing my kiln fourteen times in the past three weeks, but alas, I sold so many pots on Saturday that I had to get busy yesterday and make a bunch more. I am not a morning person, but I was in the studio by 7:30 and didn't go to bed until 1:30 am. I got a lot done, so there will be forget-me-not mugs and lots of bowls coming out of the kiln in the next few days. Normally, it takes two weeks to finish a pot from start to finish. This includes making it, letting it dry for several days, bisque firing, glazing and high firing, with appropriate cool downs in between the firings. My new kiln is amazing. It is firing quickly, can, when forced, cool down quickly, and it produces some really fabulous colors. It will be pushing it, but I think I can get two high fires done in the next few days so we can have fresh pots on Saturday.
The Sale and Home Tour will run from 9-5 on Saturday. 1150 East 800 South in Salt Lake City. The pottery sale will continue through December, but Lynnette wants her house back so this will be the last chance to see our cool, new addition in 2011.
Just to let you know--I am writing again on the funeral book and I am very excited. I can't wait to be able to devote more time to it. Cheers, Ben

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Studio Sale Continues Dec 10 and 17th

Wow, this past weekend was the biggest turnout I have ever had at my studio sale. I think it must have had something to do with the home tour. Apparently people like our crazy house. If you missed last Saturday, you still have two more chances at the home tour on the next two Saturdays from 9-5. The studio sale continues everyday except Sundays until Christmas (and maybe after if you say the magic word.) I still have a few copies of the new Forget-me-notes available, too. Come and see. I have two more firings to do before Saturday so there will be lots of fresh pots. I hope to see you soon. Cheers, Ben

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Forget-me-notes From Niederbipp With Love to be released Dec 3

I have put off this announcement because I was not sure I would be able to get it done in time, but my printer promised me last Thursday that they would be delivered in time for the open house on Saturday. The idea for this book came to me slowly over the past year or so as I have heard from so many readers who were interested in a quote book from the Niederbipp Trilogy. I have always been a collector of quotes and the last two books gave me an opportunity to share some of those with you. This new book, Forget-me-notes, is a collection of quotes from both the text of the the books as well as some of the chapter heads. Like the other books in the series, this one is also full of funky art that begs for interaction and is hopefully done in a way that will inspire thought and reflection. These books will likely never be available in bookstores as I am only printing a limited quantity for readers who come to my studio or invite me to speak at book clubs. I will likely make them available on Amazon as well. I will be selling these for $10 at the studio open house throughout December and likely over the course of the next several months.
Needing a break from the construction mess in October, I took my family to Moab for a quick getaway over UEA weekend. I asked Lynnette to drive so I could play with some ideas for this book. Instead of going to bed at night, I stayed up very late, sketching and planning and laying things out. When we got back home, I continued staying up late for a couple of weeks, trying to make this happen. Bert Compton, my good friend and the graphic designer of my books, was willing to put things together. It took a lot longer than either of us imagined, but we pulled it off in the time frame we needed to do it and you all will get to see it next weekend.
I am really excited about this book. It is beautiful, both inside and out, and the messages within its pages are thought-provoking and meaningful. I look forward to sharing it with all of you. Just a reminder, the studio sale and home tour will begin this next weekend and run through Dec 17.
Wild Rooster Studio Sale and Home Tour
December 3, 10, 17
1150 East 800 South
Salt Lake City, Utah

I also wanted to mention the Remembering Isaac is now available as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple Store.The other books in the series should be available soon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Studio Sale and Home Tour, December 3, 10, & 17

That's right. We are finally back in our house after more than six months. There have been so many times that I've wished I could update my blog, but in the past six months, I have not had even one day, except Sundays, that I have not worked less than 14 hours, and usually fell into my bed, exhausted. But the work has finally paid off and I want to show you all. So, come to one of the open houses. Consider this your invitation. But if you would like to receive the newsletter, just click on my email and drop me a line, just letting me know you would like to be added to the email list.
So, here's the deal.

Wild Rooster Studio Sale and Home Tour
December 3, 10, 17
1150 East 800 South
Salt Lake City, Utah

For the past ten years, I have been holding an annual studio sale here at my studio.
This year, we decided to try something we have never done before and open our home to those
who come to look at the pots. One of the coolest new features in our home is the 500 square feet
of handmade tile that I have just installed. It includes tiles made over the past ten year--quite
literally thousands of pieces. It took me nearly a month to lay all the tile in our home. Why, you
might ask would I do such a thing? Well, I'm an artist. I'm crazy and I really love it when people
spend a little extra time making the otherwise mundane, beautiful. The picture above is one of the
back splashes in the kitchen, but I have also made tile for the fireplace and hearth, the showers
the floors, the stairs, an entire bathroom we call the "Potter's Potty", the laundry, etc, etc. There
are lots of people who live with art, but not many people get to live in the middle of art. Taking
my inspiration from artists like Hundertwasser, Gaudi, and Rodier, and such places as Watts Towers
and Gilgal Gardens, I have turned my home into a living piece of art that I hope will inspire creative
Since we have never done such an open house before, we don't know how it will go and don't
know if this is a good idea or not, so we are going to go for it and see if we need to change plans
in the future. Our purpose for doing this is to try to inspire people to be a bit more creative and
imaginative. You may not be able to do what we have done, but we are all capable of doing
something that will add charm to this old world. I feel that the creation of beauty is one of the
most important things we can do in this life.
Our project has taken six months of labor, several years of planning and a decent amount
of money, and though it took us longer than we thought it would, we are still under budget.
This would definitely not be the case had I not done much of the work myself. The project is still
not complete. Some of this will take place in the next week. Much more of it will have to take
place in the next year, but the house is livable and we have been living here for just over a week.
I am falling asleep and will finish this tomorrow, which is really today, just later. Remind me
about the big announcement I've been dying to make.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Napoleon Dynamite, here I come.

Some people are big in Hollywood. I am not an actor and never will be, but I might just be big in Preston, Idaho. I will be speaking at the Oakwood School in Preston on Wednesday night at 7 if any of you care to attend. Preston is, of course, the setting for the cult film, Napoleon Dynamite, so while you're there, you can also say hi the Tina, Napoleon's fat lard llama. Or you might be lucky enough to run into Uncle Rico. I am thinking about wearing my Vote for Pedro t-shirt.
All kidding aside, the nice folks in Preston have invited me to come and tell my story because, as they say, probably half the county has read my books. One woman, whom I affectionately call the "the bookrunner of Preston", has purchased close to 200 books for people in her community. Thanks, Candy. A few months ago when I went to Panguitch to speak to the high school and then the larger community that evening, I had several people tell me they felt I had written about their town. I get the feeling many people in Preston feel the same way about Niederbipp. It makes me feel like I might just bump into Mayor Jim or Sam the baker while I am up there. I hope I do. To the nice people in Preston, thanks for spreading Niederbipp. I look forward to meeting you.
Just an update on the house...I am tiling, the painter is painting...when he shows up. The trim is mostly done, the hardwood has been installed, the cabinets are a month late, we are slightly ahead of schedule and still under budget. The stone mason showed up today and began his work on the rock veneer. We should have electricity this week. I fired the last of my tiles, I think, today. Within a couple of weeks, I ought to have something to show you and I am very anxious to get back to my writing. I can't wait. See you in Preston!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Last of the Concrete

Today was a glorious day! It was the last concrete pour for our remodel in which we created the front steps and walks. It was also the last day of drywall work. The project-the last four months- has kicked my butt. I have lost 20 lbs and spent every night in my dreams either pounding nails or walking the aisles of Home Depot looking for lumber, tools, etc. I am hoping to be done soon. I actually spent a significant amount of time in the studio this week and it was awesome to have my hands back in the mud. I feel like I am centered again.
This house project has been a great learning experience for me, one that I should never like to repeat...at least not for a long, long time. I have gained a great deal of respect for those who work construction. I have really missed the autonomy I have enjoyed in working alone over the past 10+ years. Having to rely on others to get things done has been a real bear. I am at least a month behind where I could have been because I have had to wait on inspectors, contractors and friends to do their part so I could move forward with mine. The fun part is yet to come--the mosaics and tiles I have been planning for years. I can hardly wait. Their will be tile throughout our home, about 500 square feet of tile that I have been making over the past ten years. I am very excited about putting it all together in a meaningful way. I am excited to be able to share it with all of you at my open house in December. I am excited to get this project done so I can sleep better and so I can get back to my writing. I am anxious to continue my writing. My mind has been filled with great stories as I have worked and I am anxious to share them with all of you.
So, the house still looks like it might be a ghetto house and there are still a million and one things to do before we're finished, but today was a good day. I never have to build another concrete form for my house. I can start cleaning up the drywall mess. I can start the finish work and paint and the house might start looking like a home again. I can't wait!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Confessions of a tired potter

I can't sleep. That is unusual considering that I have been spending far too many hours at work on the house. It is taking shape. The shake siding is up, I finished most of the electrical tonight, the plumbing should be done tomorrow and the HVAC will be done by the weekend. Oh, and the insulation begins tomorrow as soon as the inspection is taken care of. A lot has happened in the past few weeks, considering that my house was flooded on Father's Day due to my lack of any roof. I am excited to have it done so I can get back to my clay work.
I'm pretty sure this is a project I will never do again, at least not the way I am doing it. It may not be so bad if I subbed out more of the work or if it wasn't my house, or if I wasn't living with my awesome in-laws. But as it is, I am beat. I am tired. I have lost 20 pounds. I dream about pulling electrical wires, nailing stubborn nails, framing the houses, etc, etc. I would rather be dreaming about other things. So, after this is done, I plan to hang up the tool belt and get working again on that next book and spend more time with my kids and just make pots. I have a lot to do, but it is great to have something to look forward to. The chaos is decreasing and you are always welcome to stop by. I still have visitors everyday. I will look forward to seeing you. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ode to Fire!

The virgin firing of the new kiln took place ten days ago. It was a bisque firing. That was followed two days later with another bisque firing. Today, I completed my sixth firing and my fourth glaze firings and to my great relief, it is firing amazingly well. The glazes look great. The pots are turning out beautifully. I have fire again, and it is wonderful.
I went a whole 6 weeks without electricity in the studio. It has made me appreciate the little things in life. This remodel thing has been anything but convenient, but I have enjoyed nearly every aspect of it. It has been a long time since I have worked less than 14 hours in a day, except Sundays, which are always a welcome relief from the week's work. The house is really beginning to take shape. I was promised shingles would be on the roof by Friday. We won't make it. But we do have 3 walls on the third floor and it is beginning to be a little easier to imagine what this is going to look like when it is all done. Already I am a bit in shock by how tall it is, but the finishes and the roofing will hopefully make it look a little squattier. is that a word?
Normally, this week every year, I am stressed out of my mind, frantically trying to get ready for the Utah Arts Festival. This year, I decided to do the best I could and let things happen. I just returned from setting up for this years show and I am feeling calm, easy and peaceful. I have done my best and I can't stress over what I don't have. This house project has forced me to find times of meditation among the chaos, and it has been good medicine. Who knew that sweeping the floor could be such great meditation? I have sought and found a spiritual aspect of all my daily activities and that feels good.
This Sunday, we stopped by the house after church to check on the house and were shocked to find our basement full of water and the the ceiling leaking badly from all the rain. We had covered the floors with tarps, but that doesn't mean much when you receive a months worth of rain in 16 hours. We made a couple of calls and within a half hours had nearly two dozen people come to help clean up the mess and throw a makeshift roof on our house. So the drywall ceiling was a total loss, but we got most of our stuff out of harms way and all was well. And now we have easier access to the stuff in the ceiling. This has been a blessing in many ways and all is well.
So, the Arts Festival runs all weekend downtown Salt Lake City at Library Square. I am in booth 126. Hours are from noon to 11pm, starting tomorrow. Hope to see you this weekend. Keep your chin up-- above the clouds, the sun is always shining.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living on reds, vitamin C and Rogaine

The title of this blog is kind of a twist on some lyrics from a Grateful Dead song. The reds, in this case would refer to my gatorade, which I really prefer lemon lime. The vitamin C is self explanatory and the Rogaine is necessary for all the hair I've been pulling out.
Have you ever pulled off the roof of your house and then wondered if you might be stupid. I have. Tuesday, my roof came off and the last of it left for the city dump yesterday--all 4 layers of shingles (2 wooden shake layers and 2 layers of asphalt shingles). Needless to say, the load was very heavy. It took 3 dump trucks loaded to the gills to haul it all off. The dump said it weighed in at 11 tons! Its crazy how much stuff weighs. I don't think my addition will weigh anything close to that--at least not anything above the concrete.
I have learned to enjoy the meditation of hard, physical labor. Pottery is hard work too, but these past 4 1/2 weeks have really been the hardest I have ever worked in my life. I have bruises and scratches over my whole body to prove it. A friend of mine is out of work and so I have hired him to help me with this project. We have spent the last three weeks building concrete forms, moving dirt, digging holes, grading dirt, ripping the roof off, making lots of mistakes, working on basic plumbing, etc, etc. I'm glad he has come to help me because I have been able to have someone to blame for most of my mistakes. Things are moving along. Framing begins Monday if all goes as planned. Tomorrow will be consumed with finishing the kiln, stripping concrete forms and making new ones for the bond beam on top of our walls. As it turns out, this project is kicking my butt. Today was the first day that I wondered what the heck I was thinking. I'm sure tomorrow will be better.
Throughout all of this chaos, people have continued to drop by and visit the studio. It has been nice to have so many visitors that have both questioned my sanity and insured me that the worst is over. I'm not entirely sure that is true. A portion of the roof fell off on Tuesday and hit the gas meter, breaking the pipes in a couple of locations. But a nice, unemployed plumber came over today and put it all back together, better than before. It only cost money, right. Over all, we are still under budget, which is exciting, but I find myself bracing for disaster. Rains yesterday were a little scary. This morning found me trying to avoid the puddles on top of the blue tarps we nailed to the hardwood floors. It will get better. Hopefully we will have some better cover by the time the the rains come again. The art festival starts in less than two weeks and I am freaking out. Pickins this year may be slim, depending on how this weekends firing goes. This is the fourth Kiln I have built, but the first on with these configurations. I worked on the floor tonight until I could not longer see my tools in the darkness. Tomorrow I will organize the chimney stack. Saturday I hope to do a bisque fire. I have said a lot of very earnest and sincere prayers and hope all will be well. Wish me luck.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Past the Point of No Return

No, I'm not in Hell, but there have been days where I have felt like I might be. After ten years of planning, scrimping and saving all our pennies, we have finally done it. We have ripped apart our house and are in the midst of putting it all back together. The kiln--gone. The front porch--gone. The back porch--gone, gone, gone. We poured 26 cubic yards of concrete on Saturday to form the new footings for the addition. Lynnette, my very patient wife, will finally get the new kitchen I promised her eleven years ago when we bought the place. Since that time, we have dug out the basement, built the studio, mosaiced the gazeebo, and now, we are doing the mother of all overhauls. It is mostly exciting, except when it rains 17 days in a row. I've been wondering lately why I don't just move to Seattle--there certainly wouldn't be any less rain.
In the midst of my complaints last week about the weather and the delays it was forcing upon my project, I was hit in the head with a big slice of perspective. I realized I'm a wuss. I have a house, and though it is rather in a strange state at the present time, at least it and its contents aren't scattered across the state after tornado force winds. I am tired of the rain, but if that is all I have to deal with, I am happy for it, no matter the delays. Perspective seems to change a lot of things and most of these are lessons I find myself revisiting often and I tend to forget.
I have not been writing, but I have been thinking about writing and in many ways, at least for me, that is equally important. I have found that in the quiet of the jack hammer and skill saw, I am finding the answers that I need for the story that is coming together in my head--if not on the paper. But I am taking notes and I am anxious to get this project done so I can get back to my writing. Pottery has also been on hold for the past three weeks, but after a weekend show at the Cottonwood Club, I realized the stock I thought I had set aside for the Utah Arts Festival next month will not last until then, so I got back to work today, making more garden art and platter. I also picked up the ceramic fiber for the new kiln which I hope to install tomorrow, bringing me one step closer to having a kiln again.

I am not sure why I waited so long to finish this kiln. I built it last fall, at least the frame for it, and it has done little but collect dust since then. Perhaps I am still dealing with fear of the flame--something no potter should have. I built my last kiln over ten years ago and it took me almost a full year to get it to fire the way I wanted it to. I know more now, but each kiln in different and this new one will be significantly smaller than my last one, enabling me to fire more frequently and do more test fires and more glass--or so the plan goes. So, here's to fear, and trying to overcome it. It seems my life is a never ending battle with the fear mongers inside my soul. Somedays I think I'm winning, but you never know.

As in the past, I enjoy having people visit the studio, but because of the chaos that is my current life, please call ahead to make sure I am around. 801-883-0146. I can't wait to show you the finished product. Cheers and Viva Niederbipp!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mother's Day Comes but once a year, but the open house continues

It was great to see so many of you this last weekend at the studio. Thanks for coming to visit Niederbipp and take some treasures home to your house, or mom's. Many have been emailing and calling to see if I will be around this week so they might continue to shop. The simple answer is yes and no.
We are moving out of our house this week so we can begin our long awaited house remodel. So, I will for sure be around every morning as I have one more firing to complete before we move the kiln and I need to be glazing and firing in the a.m. But I will also be around much of afternoon as well, though likely not as regularly, as I will be moving things to the in-laws where we will be living. The long story short, Call Me! especially if you are coming from any distance. I still have lots of flowers and flower pots and garden art and bowls, mugs, platters, tiles, etc, so give me a call and we can see what we can do about being at the same place at the right time. Oh, and I also have all three books in stock. 801-883-0146. Leave a message as we will be checking our messages several times a day so we don't miss you. Viva Niederbipp! and Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mother's Day Open House Coming Soon!

So, it might be kind of hard to see, but I am writing this blog to announce the upcoming Mother's Day Open House and Sale,
April 28, 29, 30
9 am to 5 pm
At my studio, 1150 East 800 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84102
I have not updated my blog for several weeks because, in part, I have been crazy busy getting ready for this open house. I will have lots of pottery including bowls, mugs, journey jars, planters, lots of garden art and lots of other fun things.

Eleven years ago, when we purchased our home, I promised Lynnette we would remodel the old kitchen. For years we scrimped and saved to set aside funds to do this. Well, instead of getting a kitchen, two years ago, I spent our savings on printing the first 1500 copies of Remembering Isaac, hoping the money would someday be returned so we could do the kitchen project. There were many days that I wondered if the books weren't the stupidest financial decision I ever made. But slowly, the money began to come back in. I have learned the lessons of casting one's bread upon the waters. We are in need of a new roof, too, so we have reasoned that if we are going to go to the expense of taking off the four layers of shingles that are up there, we might as well finish the house like we would like, so the roof is coming off and a master bedroom/ office is going up on top. We will be chopping into the house right after Mother's Day if all goes as planned. We will be living with Lynnette's folks while this construction is going on--something we anticipate taking several months to compete. When we are done, we will be having an open house to show you all the tile work I have been working on for years.

I say this now because after Mother's Day weekend, I will not be working in the studio regularly until the project is complete. I will still be here everyday and will likely be working with clay every day too, but I am the general contractor for my house project and the thought of living with the in-laws has given me a lot of motivation to get things rolling as quickly as we can. So, I will still be available by appointment, but for at least the first two months, the house will be the priority. I have been working hard to get a lot of pottery made and set aside for the arts festival which will take place at the end of June, but this summer is going to be an adventure. Come and see the "before" so you can appreciate the "after."

Call me if you would like to come before or after the normal show hours. Otherwise, I will hope to see you in two weeks. Cheers 801-883-0146

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Horror! The Horror! Free shards!

I had a total Jake moment today, and most of yesterday, and a big part of Tuesday. I suppose it all started on Tuesday night. I went out to the kiln to turn it off after the firing had been going for 11 hours. I had just checked it 45 minutes before and cone 9 was falling nicely. (Potters use pyrometric cones to determine duration of temperature. The cones are made of the same ingredients as the glazes and therefore melt and bend over when the temperature has been reached. These are viewed through a small hole in the door called the Peep Hole. ) Anyway, I anticipated that cone 10 or 11 would be down, but as I checked the peep hole, I saw nothing but the back of the kiln. My heart sunk. This meant that something went terribly wrong because just 45 minutes earlier I could see the cones and a bunch of the pots through the same hole. This is the kind of thing that conjures up all the swear words I know and a few more that get made up out of desperation.

I went around to the back side of the kiln to where the burner ports are and looked into the kiln to see bricks, potshards and broken shelves everywhere. I turned off the kiln and walked away, so stunned I couldn't even cuss. My mind began to review everything that was in there--the hours--the pots--the waste. The worst thing was not knowing what, if anything, might make it through. Besides the pottery, there were also the shelves--every kiln shelf I owned was in that kiln because I had was firing a lot of tiles and tiles take up a lot of shelf space.

I had been working on tiles for my home remodel. I must have spent close to a hundred hours over the last two months working on those tiles. Over 100 6" tiles were my biggest concern. I had spent more than 20 hours glazing these and they were going to be amazing--lots of color, with glass, very cool. You can't open a hot kiln, so I had to wait and wait and wait for the kiln to cool down. I finally cracked it open last night before I headed to Scouts. The front row of shelves was leaning against the door and I had to place a barrel in front of the door to keep all the stuff from spilling out because it was still too hot for me to touch, even with leather gloves.

This morning, my mom came over to help me with the unload. It was devastating. All of the glass on the tiles ran terribly, sealing the tiles to the kiln shelves and pouring onto other pieces. I lost 50 bowls, many of which had been a special order that was supposed to ship out tomorrow. I lost thousands of dollars worth of tiles and every shelf was either destroyed or badly damaged. In all, I figure it was close to a $5ooo disaster. I spent the day grinding off the shelves I think I can salvage. The rest of it went to the dumpster.

So, here's the good news! I had two bowls survive and they were at the very bottom. Also, I have a lot of really beautiful shards, so if any of you are working on a mosaic project and would like some lovely shards, my garbage day isn't till Monday, so if you want them, come on over before then. I think I might take some and stick them in my rock tumbler to see what I can come up with. Maybe I can invent a new line of jewelry.

Why did this happen? I have no idea. It couldn't have happened at a worse possible time in the firing process. This has happened a couple of times before over the years, each of them nearly as devastating. I have made a smaller kiln which I hope to complete soon so if this happens again, I will only lose have as much stuff.

On days like this, I have to remember, it's only dirt. I still have my health and a beautiful family, and I have more clay. I feel awful about the waste, but it could have been worse--it could have torn the kiln apart. Tonight I feel like maybe the universe is trying to tell me that I need to be writing more. It's been tough lately. When I make pottery, I feel like I should be writing. When I write, I feel guilty that I am stepping into the dark again with a new story that may never work out. I feel like I should be making pottery--something that is safe and pays the bills and provides for my family. Man, I really need to find an agent. I feel like if I had an agent, it would give me something sure to hold onto--to somehow legitimize the time I spend writing--as if the 18,000+ books I've sold isn't enough. Faith is a difficult journey, isn't it? My fear of failure, the same fears I have faced since I was a boy, they tend to try to swallow me at times like this. I don't like that. I feel like I have enough ideas for books to keep me busy for the next five years, but I am insecure and weak and faithless. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is so terribly weak sometimes. I wish I had answers, but since I don't, I will carry on, one way or the other, anxious to grasp onto any and every sunbeam that breaks through the clouds of doubt.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Mugs--fresh from the kiln.

I just came in from unloading the kiln. Many of you have asked from time to time to be notified when I have fresh pots. Well, today is the day! I just unloaded nearly 100 mugs in a huge range of colors. My shelves are full of these beauties. I also did a bunch this time with forget-me-nots on them. I will be around most of next week if you would like to stop by. Call first just to make sure. 801-883-0146. I also unloaded about 25 journey jars. I still need to finish lashing on the handles, and with the need to do another glaze firing, I may not have those done until Thursday.

My son had a Pinewood Derby this morning with the cub scouts. My daughter made a car too. She came in third. He came in twelfth. Any good ideas about teaching boys to be better losers would be greatly appreciated. This has not been my proudest fathering moment. I have a really hard time putting up with poor sportsmanship.

Writing did not go very well this week. I think I am in a bit of a funk, but I am trying to kick it. Looking over my journals from previous years, I realize I don't do February in Utah very well. It makes my wanderlust flair up something fierce. I've got to kick my butt back into gear.

Anyway, happy Saturday. Cheers,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Signing/Art Opening this Weekend

I just wanted to let folks know that I will be having a book signing and showing some of my recent pottery work at Evergreen Gallery this Friday, Feb 18th from 6-9 pm. Evergreen Gallery is on 2000 East and almost 3300 South in Salt Lake. It is a beautiful gallery. This friday is Gallery Stroll, so start there and make it a fun, cheap date.

While I'm blogging, I will just say that I am making good progress on my next book. I am now about 60 pages in and it is feeling good. Yesterday, as I was working in the studio, I had a new idea come to me and had to stop to outline another book that I am really excited about. I thought I was done with Niederbipp for a while, but I am really excited that this one will take me back there. I think it will be called The Matchmaker of Niederbipp. It will likely be directed to young would-be lovers, but will have lots of good stuff for those of us already married and wanting to stay that way. This is going to be fun. I am really enjoying writing and hoping to spend more time with it. Boy, I really need to find an agent. Any suggestions from my friends in cyberspace? Cheers. Ben

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Progress on the Tundra

There are few things I really enjoy doing when the world is gray and frozen solid. Writing has become one of the few things that makes me happy in such circumstances, but I found another one today which may prove to distract me from my writing. I took my kids out of school today and took them skiing at Park City. They are running an amazing deal for new local skiers--$25 for rentals, a lesson and a lift pass. We decided we couldn't afford not to go. It was cold, but clear, and a lot of fun. I grew up skiing, back when it cost $5 a day for a lift ticket and $5 for rentals. That was in 1981. I was eight when I started and I never had a lesson. My mom took us to the top of the mountain and told us she would see us at the end of the day, back at the car. My younger brothers and I learned how to ski out of desperation and by watching others, trying to keep up with people who were better than us. It worked for us. I'm not sure I would have lasted in lessons, but I also recognize I wouldn't want to teach my kids. I have patience for a lot of things, but I know myself well enough to know that teaching my kids how to ski would not be one of those. It was difficult enough for me to hang out with my wife on the bunny hills all day while she worked on her form. She took her first lesson a few weeks ago. I like steep, fast runs, covered with jumps and chutes and challenging terrain. I used to love to ski moguls, but I realized a few years ago that I am far too fat and old to handle the gut wrenching I used to relish.

I just wanted to let folks know that I am making progress on the next book. I have written about 40 pages and I am happy with what I have so far. The first fifty pages of any book are probably the hardest ones to write--laying the foundation of everything that is built upon it. I remember when I build my studio, I spent about three weeks working on digging the hole, pouring the footings, the foundation, and the slab. The rest of the structure went up in about 3 days. I anticipate that the book will require much longer than three days to finish, but now that the foundation is laid, I hope it will go much quicker. It amazes me how long it takes to research stuff you don't know enough about to make it sound believable. Because I am a potter, the last books were fairly easy to make them sound believable because I had all the info stored in my noodle. Not so with this book. I have no idea how long it might take for this next book to be ready to be released and I am not going to make any promises, but I am enjoying both the process and the research on this one tremendously. I hope you will enjoy the final product.

I mentioned in October that I finally decided to send a query letter to an agent. I waited and waited, but heard nothing despite the fact that her website said she responded within six weeks. I found out three weeks ago that she had never received my letter or the books I sent with it. I promptly sent another. Today, I heard from her assistant that they are reading the books and will get back to me soon!. Okay, so I let out a little yalp. I know that might not mean anything, but I know I have to find an agent if I am to continue this journey. I know the books need to reach a wider, broader audience and I am keenly aware that my one man show is indeed a one man show. I suppose that sounds quite conceded really, considering that I have so many readers who are doing more than amazing things, spreading Niederbipp around the country. I just had a woman last week from Preston, Idaho, home of Napoleon Dynamite, who sent me an order for 43 books. I know I am not alone in this journey and I thank all of you who have helped me to get to this point. So far, we have sold about 18,300 books. That ought to count for something. But the fact is that I am tired and wanting to write more. In addition to the book I am now writing, I have five more books outlined that I think about every day, anxious to get to them, but feeling overwhelmed with everything else I have to do. I need to buy myself some time. I need to feel like I can take the day off from my pottery and just write. As it stands right now, I feel like I need to start getting ready for the art festivals and art shows which have paid for all the books. To date, I have spent more than $85K publishing the trilogy. I have broken even and am now making some money, but I will need to spend another $20K-$60K before summer to replenish my stock. I can't continue to do all of this indefinitely. I know I need a network of publishers and publicists who can help spread the word beyond the intermountain west. I feel like I've only glimpsed the tip of the iceberg. I never wrote these books with the hope of becoming rich, but I knew from the beginning that they would reach a broad audience--and so I must continue to push and hope and pray.

The books continue to sell well on Amazon, thanks in large part to the word of mouth advertising and the positive reviews the book has received. If you enjoyed the books and have yet to review it on Amazon, I invite you to let your voice be heard. Just look up the books on Amazon, then click on the number next to the stars. This will bring up the reviews. There will be a button there that says, Create your own review. If you follow the prompts, it takes only a few minutes but can really make a difference. Thank you in advance for taking the time to do so.

So, I am signing off. I am tired, but I want to write for an hour or so before fatigue overshadows me. It's probably too late to be wishing anyone a happy new year, so I will just say I hope its going well. Keep your chin up and Viva Niederbipp!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope the holidays were a joyous time for you. We dreamed about spending time away from the craziness of the holidays, but instead, jumped head first into it. This year offered some new challenges with my parents divorce last summer. But other than that, the holidays were fun, almost a wee bit relaxing, and very successful in the pottery. I want to thank all of you who made gifts of my pots and books. This was the most successful Christmas studio sale I have ever had, thanks to you. I have already had a few visits from people who received my first book for Christmas and came over to pick up the second and third. Thank you for spreading Niederbipp!

The holidays also offered me the chance to attend a few funerals. I have to be careful when I say that because whenever I do, people begin offering their condolences. If you have missed my previous blogs, my reason for attending funerals is perhaps different than for most people who attend funerals. I am doing research for my next book. The funerals I attend are generally for total strangers, at least when I arrive, but in every case so far, I leave feeling like I have lost a friend--a good person. It has been incredibly interesting becoming acquainted with people only after they have passed into eternity. I have loved it and filled notebooks with the lessons I have learned. My morning now begins with a look at the obituaries. I have been interested in attending funerals of all different faiths to learn more about their traditions. I have also attended funerals for people who have no religion at all. Since beginning this project in June, I think I have attended about 35-40 funerals. I plan on attending another 30-40 funerals before this book is written. I suppose I have become a funeral junky, but I am really enjoying it. I have already attended two funerals this week and hope to be able to find some time to hit another one on Saturday. I don't know, but I think I may have started a new hobby. I'm not sure it will catch on, but I do recommend it.

After more than eleven years of planning, I think this is the year to add onto our home and finally finish our kitchen. We purchased our home eleven years ago and I promised my wife we would work on our small, outdated kitchen from the very beginning. Nothing has changed. Still small. Still outdated. We wanted to do this two years ago, but we bought a whole bunch of books instead. :) We hope to get started in April so I am busy making pots to get ready for the arts festivals this summer so I wont be stressed out. But my heart wants to write. I tried to do some today. I went out to the studio this morning, trimmed some vases I made yesterday, and decided I should make some of my faces for my garden art GearHeads that would fit in the kiln I need to fire tomorrow. That kept me busy until just before I met a friend for lunch. Then back to the studio to write. I had just sat down to write when my phone rang. Another friend was in trouble. His hose bib had frozen and cracked and his new basement was flooded. I took my shopvac and went up to help. I got home around four and sat down to write and the phone rang--someone needed a bowl for a gift and needed to come right away. She was just leaving as a man showed up, needing another copy of Remembering Isaac. He was nearly on his way out when two women arrived, wanting a teapot for their mother. That took a half hour for them to decide and I was just walking them out when my wife called and asked me take a lasagne over to a friend whose mother was in the hospital. So I did not write today. I am frustrated.
Tomorrow is not looking hot either. Someday soon, I will sit down and write all day. I have developed an itch for writing that I cannot seem to satisfy, no matter how much I write. I am really enjoying this and feeling like I am being taught all along the way. I am glad I will be able to share this with you as I have the with the other books.

Many people have asked where they can find my books. One woman today said she had been to four bookstores looking for it, to no avail. I am not sure why my distributor is not pushing it better. I am frustrated by that. For the time being, the books are cheapest and most easily accessible from my studio here in Salt Lake City at 1150 East 800 South, or from Amazon.com. I am Abendmahl Press on Amazon, so if you order from Abendmahl, you will get new, signed books at the same price that you can buy them directly from the studio, plus only $3.99 shipping anywhere in the USA. We are shipping, on average, at least 2 box sets a day and we would be happy to send one to you or someone you love. If you don't like to deal with Amazon, give me a call. I would be happy to take your order personally. 801-883-0146. I am still speaking to book clubs regularly too, so if your book club is reading my book and would like to hear the story behind the story, I would be happy to come and speak. Or you could bring your book club here on a field trip. Just give me a call. The year fills up quickly, so please call sooner rather than later.

I wish you a happy new year. Stay warm. Drink some peppermint tea. I'll try to keep you updated about my progress on the book. Oh, and if any of you have any recommendations about contractors, plumbers or electricians, please let me know. Cheers, and Viva Niederbipp!