As a bit of a ceramics freak (seriously, I can’t stop buying it), I recently got into Heath Ceramics. I knew there was a history behind all this vintage pottery I was coming across on Etsy and eBay, but I knew little about the woman behind the company’s legacy: Edith Heath. As an industrial designer and potter, she founded Heath Ceramics in 1948. Its iconic designs, still modern and relevant today, are still produced in Sausalito. It’s one of the few mid-century American potteries still in existence, though now run by new folks. I’ve been pining for both new and old pieces, but finding that rare old vase or set of mugs — it’s a satisfying quest.
According to the SF Gate,
It was at the San Francisco Art Institute where she made her foray into ceramics. Driven to better understand the science of clay and glazes, Mrs. Heath successfully petitioned the UC Berkeley’s extension program to host a yearlong ceramic chemistry course.
When her husband, an engineer and inventor, converted an old treadle-powered sewing machine into a potter’s wheel, and later installed a gas-fired kiln in the basement below their Filbert Street flat, Mrs. Heath was able to practice her newfound craft, developing endless glaze formulations.
Mrs. Heath became a defining influence of 20th American design by creating distinctive ceramic dinnerware and architectural tiles. She is best-known for her pioneering glazes and clay bodies made to her own formulations with an avant-garde, minimalist look.
Edith’s designs immediately captured the attention of Frank Lloyd Wright, who requested Heath dinnerware for some of his projects. (Pretty incredible, as he was so famously particular and ornery. But brilliant. Have I mentioned I’ve been to almost every house he’s built in the Midwest? Anyway.) The positive response led to the founding of the same factory where work is produced today.
And those glazes: talk about beautiful The fading blues, creams and browns… I’ve been building my collection, and I can only hope I recognize Heath when I see it in the future.