New owners mold revamped firm from same classic clay
04 November 2013
Image: Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle
In 2003, Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic stumbled upon the Heath Ceramics factory in Sausalito, CA and purchased the stoneware line from founder Edith Heath, sold on the company’s designer-maker philosophy of designing and manufacturing their own products from start to finish.
Edith Heath, a Bay Area ceramicist recognized internationally for her respect for natural materials and artisan skill, started her business in 1948 to make simple, modern mid-century crafts. Heath has a longstanding history with UC Berkeley, and the Environmental Design Archives currently house the Brian and Edith Heath Collection documenting the progression of Heath Ceramics.
Heath Ceramics’ new owners made the shift from wholesale to retail, turning the artisan stoneware company into a profitable venture. The enduring tableware and tile pieces have become sought after by restaurants, museums and homeowners alike. Bailey and Petravic have reached out to chefs and restaurants across the Bay Area, and a decade later, Heath dishes are used in over 100 restaurants such as Chez Panisse, Pizzaiolo, Nopa, The Slanted Door, Coi, and Aziza, among others.
Because the pieces double as works of art, the owners opened three curated showrooms to share with customers the artisanship backstory of the pottery, which averages $38 for a dinner plate. The new owners have maintained Edith Heath’s original mission of producing quality ceramics while also creating a model for sustainable local manufacturing. To keep up with demand and to continue the tradition of creating locally made ceramics, the company has expanded from 24 to 150 employees, including designers, potters, distributors, and a production crew.
"My rule is to make sure everything in the store has the same integrity and values," Bailey said. "Everything has to be manufactured ... close to where it's designed or the designer has to have a strong relationship with its manufacturer.”