Edith Heath first introduced us to her understated glazed pottery in the mid-forties with a one-woman show at San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor, where her unusual pieces were picked up for sale at Gump’s of San Francisco.
It was after that success that she opened her factory in Sausalito, Calif. dedicating the past half-century of her life to the craft of ceramics and the skill of the artisan.
This passion, along with the legacy of her work in stoneware clay body and glaze development, gives Heath its unique place in ceramics today as a modern classic in home decor. As a result of Edith’s timeless and unique design sense, many of her pieces live in the permanent collections of museums such as the MOMA in New York City.
The signature ceramics also live on in our homes as mid-century design enjoys a spirited revival among collectors, modern architects and green designers.
Heath Ceramics is the real McCoy when it comes to purity and sustainability with great uses for the vintage aesthetic, from skillfully pared-down cups and bowls for the tabletop to elegant field tiles for kitchen surfaces.
San Francisco designers like Jennifer Weiss are drawn to the minimal and modern lines of Heath.
Weiss commissioned white relief tiles to use as a range backsplash in a kitchen, adding warmth to an otherwise ultra-clean environment. “The iconic shapes are modern in the true sense of the word since the ceramics date back to the 50s,” says Weiss. “I wanted artwork to stand out in the room and this is part of the art.”
Aspiring to maintain the local craftsman traditions, husband and wife team Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey bought the business in 2003. They set out to revitalize the handcrafted techniques while expanding the business to a new studio in Los Angeles last year.
The company holds open studios in both its Bay Area and L.A. locations, allowing visitors to tour the factory and kilns and see the large inventory of products produced by local craftsmen carrying on Heath’s legacy.
There is so much to see, from gorgeous field tiles in 80 glazes to organic cotton linens, design books, and of course the famous tableware that includes an understated Chez Panisse line – a collaboration between Alice Waters, Christina Kim and Heath Ceramics for use in famed restaurant.
Through its thriving To the Trade business, Heath also has customized serving dishes for Four Seasons Hotels worldwide and the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel.
In keeping up with green, the company also offers Kiln Shelves made from glazed and recycled kiln furniture to use for exterior walls and floor pavers.
Some of the new elegant and organic Heathware editions are the result of collaborations with designers like Christina Kim of Dosa, who helped craft the beautiful Phases of the Moon Tea Set inspired by Edith Heath’s hand-thrown California stoneware. Finished with a complex glaze, the tea cups come in sets of four with a tray and are offered in either dark or light glazes, representing phases of the moon observed by day as well as night.
The new owners also continue Edith Heath’s community outreach by holding sales events in which they donate a percentage of sales to Architecture for Humanity. You can find all news and events, including sales and open studio tours at the web site.
Also, check out the exhibit: Edith Heath: Tabletop Modernist May 31, 2009 – September 20, 2009, at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The opening reception is on May 30.