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Ben&Banjee

Ceramicist Ben Medansky and his sidekick Banjee
takes us behind the scenes of their Los Angeles studio.

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Ben&Banjee

In the movie Paris is Burning, there is a scene dedicated to Banjee Girls. These women are the realest of the real, the street corner lurker who speaks her mind and doesn’t hold back when it comes to defending herself. These girls simply don’t give a fuck: they cannot be bothered by petty nonsense.

To ceramicist Ben Medansky, Banjee Girl is a dog. She is a little medium sized Basenji with a sharp, beak-like muzzle and ellipsoidal ears that flop up and down at any sound. She lays in a homemade bed underneath racks of pots in Ben’s Downtown Los Angeles studio. She’s unfazed by the constant activity around her—unless it is affecting her well being. In the right light, her slick black coat reveals schools of shiny golden hairs (like the ones on her feet). She’s the kind of pup who is content keeping herself company or stirring some shit, demanding attention from those around her. After all, she is a Banjee Girl.

“Banjee—the word—comes from a combination of New Yorker and Puerto Rican, which is ‘Newyorican’ or something,” Ben says, seated at a table in his studio. He works on a small pot as he speaks. “Banjee—the dog—is like a black girl that looks like a boy and everyone thinks she’s a boy, which is fine because she’s a Banjee Girl. She’s a little thuggish. She can be any gender she wants.”

“She’s definitely a bitch,” he adds. “I mean, she’s technically a bitch but she also can be a brat.”

Ben attributes Banjee’s personality and occasional difficulties to her breed. The Basenji—which Banjee is in addition to Dachshund—is an ancient Egyptian breed that has become so intelligent to the point of annoying obstinance. “Being an old dog breed, they are difficult to train,” he says. “They’ve evolved so much that they want something in return when we ask them to do something. I’ve had to deal with that by carrying food with me all the time and training her.”

Banjee and Ben are an unlikely pair too because he didn’t set out to get a dog: they met as a result of his sister wanting a dog. The two had a dog growing up and, while the two lived in Los Angeles, something was missing without a pet. She started sending Ben dog listings and pound puppies and eventually they found Banjee. He and his sister immediately felt a connection.

“She was the only puppy we saw. Basenji puppies are very rare and very expensive and really special. This dog had a deep, weird energy that we felt immediately—and we couldn’t pass her up.”

Banjee’s presence has also inspired Ben to make for dogs. In 2013, he created a dog bowl as an alternative to the unsightly options on the market. He often makes dog bowls as gifts for friends and for housewarmings. He experiments with different forms too, making spoons for scooping out dog food and large dishes for wide faced dogs. He’s learned a few tricks from studying dogs, too. “If a dog is hungry or wants something, they’ll flip over the bowl,” he explains. “With a metal bowl, that’s fine—with a ceramic bowl? It’ll break. I created a bowl with walls at an angle so a dog can’t get a grasp on it. It’s a more stable bowl.”

“I would also love another dog at some point,” he says. “If I were to get one, I’d want a big dog since I grew up with a Mastiff and a Rottweiler. Right now it’s very convenient to have a dog Banjee’s size. I love being able to carry her around or toss her into my backpack and into the car and go to the studio or stores or even the movie theatre.”


Images courtesy of Kyle Fitzpatrick
benmedansky.com

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