In late July, ceramicist Ben Medansky got a surprising phone call: his studio was on fire. Flames from a blown transformer in a Downtown LA pallet yard ripped through his space, destroying his studio.
“Most of my work was shattered by the roof caving in,” he says.
But some pottery remained. In those rescued pieces, the artist was able to see a new layer of beauty.
“Some of the pieces that I was waiting to glaze were sitting right at the heart of the flame and went through similar processes that happen in the kiln. A lot of the pieces I was able to salvage look really beautiful, like they’ve gone through a raku or a wood firing,” says Medansky.
“They sat there while the flames and the smoke and the soot and everything blew past them, creating a film of black, charcoal-y, resin-y texture on the outside of them.”
Medansky had been scheduled to display his pots and cups and sculptures in a show at the Craft and Folk Art Museum called Clay LA, but the fire meant he couldn’t participate.
“The space is completely destroyed,” he says.
Now, he’s focused on rebuilding his business and finding a new space, perhaps elsewhere in downtown LA or in Frogtown. He’s getting a little help from friends and fans, who’ve been supporting him through a GoFundMe campaign.
When he first entered the studio, his phone’s memory was too full to shoot video, so he turned on Facebook Live.
“I didn’t realize that 15,000 people are going to be watching this thing right away,” he says. “I started getting calls from around the world of people hearing of this, and reaching out to see if I needed any support.”
The campaign has garnered support from all over the world, giving Medansky a bit of hope.
“Nothing happens for a reason, but everything happens as it should. And somehow, something great is going to come out of this,” he says.
The process to go through his insurance company “is taking forever,” he says, and the help from crowdsourced funding allows him to keep his business operating in the interim.
He expects to hold a “fire sale” of some of his remaining pieces at LAXART in the next month or two.