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Last weekend, I took a quick trip to San Francisco, and was lucky enough to fit in a side jaunt to Sausalito to visit the Heath Ceramics factory for a tour. Peeking behind the scenes at this legendary mid-century pottery house was an amazing experience, which I really recommend you check out if you get the chance. (If you’re not familiar with Heath Ceramics, read up on them here.)
Edith Heath was a leader of the midcentury California pottery movement, who started the factory with her husband Brian in 1959. The tour is full of fun stories about the couple, the craftspeople, and especially about Edith and her headstrong, artsy ways.
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Edith was a child of the Depression, which definitely informed the Heath philosophies of limiting waste and using local materials whenever possible, a tradition which continues today. The clay is all sourced locally, the clays are fired using a proprietary low-fire method which uses less energy–and our tour guide even described how leftover glaze is scraped off the walls of the glazing areas and the pigment is re-used to make another batch. Heath was into “reduce, reuse, recycle” long before it was a trendy motto splashed on tote bags sold at Wal-Mart.
Even the blue manual jigger pictured above left is a perfect example of how thrifty Heath Ceramics could be–this machine was acquired secondhand when Edith’s husband Brian dumpster-dived it (with permission!) from the legendary Wedgwood China Factory in England and shipped it back to Sausalito. Can you imagine?!
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Heath Ceramics was purchased by new owners Robin Petravic and his wife, Catherine Bailey, shortly before Edith’s passing in 2005. By all accounts, they’ve done a fantastic job helping to revitalize the company while honoring the traditions of craft Heath is known for. After taking the tour, I defy you not to snap up at least one piece of Heath in the adjoining factory store–especially considering the large selection of seconds and bargain-priced items available. If you’d like to check out the tour virtually, my Flickr photset is here.
Heath Factory
400 Gate Five Road
Sausalito, CA 94965
ph: (415) 332-3732
For store and general inquiries, please call x13
Open daily, 10am-5pm
Tours: Sat-Sun, 11am
(Call ahead for tour reservations)