I remember the first piece of Heath pottery mom brought home. It was a moonstone bread and butter plate, she had bought at Laguna Pottery in Seattle, a vintage pottery store that sells American pottery. She said in that delightful sing-song voice of hers: "Oh! I just wanted to see what you all thought of the colour!" But she had, in fact, been researching this pottery for years and was on the brink of a purchasing streak that has continued even today.
I think she's always been fascinated with beautiful things, especially pottery and china. I remember going on errands with her when I was younger, and we'd always end up walking around in the Bay department store so she could look at specials on linens and china. While I was growing up, my musician parents didn't have tons of money for fancy tableware, but we had good quality dishes that were beautiful in their own way. Once they changed jobs and had little extra money, the Heath pottery started coming in.
Heath pottery isn't fancy. It's beautiful. Heath Ceramics was founded by Edith Heath (1911-2005) in the mid-forties. She designed her pottery and tiles to be timeless and outlast trends. Some of her work is still on display in museums such as the MOMA in New York, and special lines of pottery have been made for such celebrated restaurants as Chez Panisse. She also won the AIA gold medal award for her work on the exterior of the Pasedena Norton Simon Museum: 115,000 glazed tiles.
Heath Ceramics was recently purchased by a couple in 2003 who were committed to maintaining Heath's founding environmental principles. The factory is located in Sausalito, California, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Fransisco. The ceramics are made by salaried employees with benefits, some of who have been at the company for 25 years. They use California clay and environmental firing practices such as one-time firings at lower temperatures instead of the common two-time firings. They mix their own clay and glazes on site. The people at Heath Ceramics are committed to making a local product with materials from the area and for people of the area. Products that last a life time.
This pottery, as you may have guessed, is not cheap for all the reasons listed above. But as my ever-frugal father likes to say: "They are works of art, and I would rather have a few beautiful things instead of many mediocre ones." It also comes down to how much we love eating: eating off of beautiful dishes just enhances the experience. You could call us materialistic, but my family used to sit around for hours after dinner talking about which colours went the best together. Katherine and I would make the odd exclamation about what colours we wanted for our future homes, and there would be other odd interjections and disagreements, and the conversation would continue on. It has changed and shaped out little funny lives.
This summer, we went to Yosemite National Park in July for my Uncle Jeff's wedding. On the way home, we stopped in Sausalito and visited the factory. They weren't giving tours that day, but when we walked in, we must have all been grinning from ear to ear because the people behind the counter exclaimed: "Wow! You guys must be really happy to be here!" Of all the things to do in our four hours in San Fran, we picnicked up on California's brown dry hills and looked at that famous bridge, and then we went to the pottery store.
At the store, they sell a lot of seconds, which are pieces that are moderately flawed and 30% off! I bought myself some linen tea cups that I've been eying for ages. They go very well with my moonstone pottery that my parents gave to me.
And after all this talk about the beauty of pottery and eating accessories, I would like to add that I experienced the same pleasure from going to my friend Libby's grandmother's house where they've eaten off of simple, white Corningware dishes for as long as anyone can remember. The simplicity of it all seemed such a lovely contrast to the long, and sometimes complex, conversations about Heath. And there's something really refreshing about all white.