The sky was orange when Ben Medansky saw the leaning tower of smoke from the freeway. Driving towards his ceramic studio, the 28-year-old artist uploaded a picture of a smoke plume to Instagram with the caption, “Shit. I hope that’s not me.” Minutes later, Medansky arrived on Kohler Street to find his 3,000 square foot studio engulfed by flames. Watching his ceramic empire burn in front of him, Medansky did what anybody would do; he posted on social media.
Inside the newly designed studio, doubling as a showroom and office, Medanksy’s bedecked his ceramic sanctuary with heirlooms, including his grandfather’s mid-century couch and childhood vinyl. “I was surrounded by my past, and was making my future,” says Medanksy. Hours before the fire started, Medanksy’s studio lit up for another reason: his first studio party of the year. Guests were invited to mix, mingle, and shop ceramics in the studio-turned-smoking salon. The irony? They were calling it, the "Up in Smoke" party.
The first of many celebrations, business was booming for Ben Medansky Ceramics and his close-knit team before the fire halted all production on Saturday, July 23rd. One of T Magazine's "New Ceramicists," Medansky is a trendsetter for his stylish peace pipes, wares, and mug designs that are sold online at high-end retailers like Tetra and Tokyo Smoke. His name carries in the design world of handcrafted, small-bath ceramics. In light of his fast commercial success, Medansky moved studios in 2015 to build a man-made ceramics sanctuary a few blocks away from Skid Row.
In retrospect of the fire, Medansky describes his state of mind, “I was uncomfortably numb.” In efforts to remain calm, he recalls counting how many puns about fire he could think of to lighten the gravity of the situation: "I got that skylight I always wanted!", "I got fired from my job!", or his personal favorite, "I guess I'm having a fire sale!" True to his personality, Medanksy continues to find the silver lining in the unfortunate irony of his situation. Using social media to share his story, the ceramic artist has caught the attention of thousands of viewers across the country.
Generating over 11K views in a live Facebook video, the artist films the aftermath, explaining that the cause of the fire reportedly started from the palette yard behind his studio. The roof, now collapsed, exposes the grim details of broken wood, smashed clay, soaked furniture and debris. The homepage image of Medanksy’s website has been updated with a picture of his former kitchen table, a beautiful ceramic mug lying sideways in a layer of ash. The visuals are powerful, sadly heartbreaking.
True to his reputation, Medanksy is a force to be reckoned with. Thanks to Kyle Branch, a devoted fan of Medansky Ceramics, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help Ben rebuild his studio, generating over $27k to-date. All money donated will go towards the restoration of Ben Medanksy Studio 2.0.