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Finally, Heathware® and Heath Ceramicsis getting its due. Edith Heath, a pioneer ceramic artist and Modern Designer, has become noticed again and it’s about time, even if she is gone, at least some people with design vision have carried it on.
Heath Ceramics is a touchstone to my youth. One of my earliest design inquiries surrounded Heath as I remember asking my mother, “who made these plates?”
“Made by a small studio in California” I was told. Designed in 1947, a year before my parent’s marriage, they were ten years old by the time I got to them. My mom picked them out for their first apartment, pretty cool and ultra-hip for both the times and suburban Michigan.
Growing up with a set of Heath “Coupe” plates and mugs, beautifully speckled stoneware brown with a robin’s egg blue interior that was like eating from a piece of the Arizona Sky. I ate countless bowls of cereal from them, drank gallons of percolated coffee from them and best of all, it was the plate of choice used for cooling off buttery sugary home-made chocolate fudge. So you see, I have a very strong and happy memory anchor tied to all things Heath.
Later, as the set slowly dwindled to a couple of mugs, and saucers, we bid farewell to the Heath as everyday design, but we kept the bits and pieces stashed, too good to say goodbye to. As a ceramic artist, the shape and glazes always intrigued me. Then, by shear luck Debbie and I found a complete early set of Heath “Coupe” in a shop in California. An early light-weight issue, the color combo, a matte green with opaque black interior, was told to me by Heath some time later was one of Edith Heath’s personal favorites. Fairly rare and unusual, she called it Black Olive. The name suits it perfectly.
DWR has picked up on the Heathware® line, so we’ll start seeing some around now and that’s a good thing. Edith Heath fought all odds to launch and successfully create a studio business based on two tough fields for women; design and ceramics. Personally, I find the shapes perfectly fitted to the hand. Form combining with the rich texture of the glazes and the visual compliment of color make them timeless, a perfect hallmark of design that is as functional today as it was in its 1940’s debut. Some restaurants have discovered it; notably The Slanted Door in San Francisco and even locally, we spotted some at Olive & Ivy.
I heard of the salvation of this iconic company a few years back and vowed to drop in next time we got a chance to get to the Bay Area. As if one needs any extra reasons to go to Sausalito, the Heath studio and store was amazing. A working ceramic studio combined with a humble shop that is firmly rooted in its funky artist/MCM past, the intact originality was comfort food for my soul. If you can, shop at the store just for the experience.
In addition to a full line of plates and dishes offered, there were a few one-of creations made by the shop artisans. The big secret, the one I’m almost hesitant to share, is the TILE. Incorporating Heath Tile into your life in any way is a visual luxury, the glaze textures and colors difficult to give justice to unless you actually touch them.
The visionary savior/new owners since 2003, Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey, have been getting some much deserved press on their endeavor and also on their own home, which was recently featured in Publication. I’m grateful that this line lives on; it’s like an Eames® chair for your table, I hope that these designs and colors are around for another 60 years!