Heath Ceramics – Factory Tour (Sausalito, California)
By: Anh-Minh Le, decor8 west coast contributor
I have long been a fan of Heath Ceramics and was joyful beyond words when I realized that they have a factory store in the Bay Area. And, even better, they offer free factory tours.
For those not familiar with the company, here?s a little background info: In 1948, Edith Heath ? an industrial designer and potter ? founded her own ceramics studio. She specialized in tableware and tiles, eventually making her way into museums and stores across the country.
Even after half a century in business, all of the pottery is still made by skilled artisans in Sausalito, Calif., using the methods that Edith herself developed (she passed away in December). About three years ago, Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey purchased the company. The husband-and-wife team brought some of Edith?s old designs out of retirement and have managed to maintain her high level of quality as well as her wonderfully simple aesthetic. (We?re talking about pieces that you can pass down from generation to generation.)
The factory tour takes about 30-45 minutes ? depending on how many questions you ask ? and covers the entire building. Since tours are only given on the weekends, you don?t actually get to see any of the work being done, but you get detailed descriptions of how everything works. And you can get up close and personal here; there are no red lines that you aren?t allowed to cross.
It is amazing to me, in this day and age of outsourcing and mass production, that there is still this successful ceramics studio churning out beautiful products that require very skilled hands. Heath actually makes its own clay! And their own glazes! And all of the glazes are sprayed on by hand! That takes a pretty steady hand.
Any pieces that aren?t quite up to snuff are considered ?seconds,? and you can purchase them at the factory. The tour ends in the overstock tile room ? which is filled with firsts and seconds. Heath tiles are only available for purchase at the factory and in Ann Sacks showrooms.
The factory store also offers plenty of tableware, as well as books and textiles (like Lotta Jansdotter aprons). The table pieces can be deeply discounted, and there?s even a clearance section where saucers were marked 10 for $1. Yes, you read right ? 10 for $1!
Since the tours take place at 11am, you may arrive in Sausalito a little hungry. No problem. The staff puts out some tea and light snacks (I think it was a coffeecake when I went). Go ahead and test out that tea cup before you decide to purchase it!
Throughout the entire factory, Heath tiles are all over the place ? as a backsplash, as a decorative work of art ? providing plenty of inspiration for visitors. If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend stopping in and seeing it all for yourself. (In case you can?t, I took plenty of pictures!)