Edith Heath, an indomitable innovator in her field, developed her iconic Coupe dinnerware line with a distinctly California aesthetic. She fine-tuned every aspect of her studio, from the chemical properties of her material and proprietary low-fire glazing techniques to the architecture of her Sausalito, California factory.
Designer Catherine Bailey and her family now own and operate Heath Ceramics, which has flourished under their stewardship. I spoke with Catherine on the occasion of the Oakland Museum of California’s upcoming exhibition, Edith Heath: A Life in Pottery, which highlights Heath’s work as a point of pride for California and beyond: “Durable, not delicate, simple, yet stylish, Heath Ceramics is an icon of American design.”
Kristin Farr: Heath Ceramics celebrated 70 years in 2018. Did you create special projects to celebrate that milestone?
Catherine Bailey: It felt amazing to celebrate that milestone and, just prior, Robin [Petravic] and I celebrated our 15-year anniversary of ownership. At that time, we looked back on what we had done since 2003 and decided to take another look at Edith’s classic Coupe line and refresh the glazes. We were inspired by our vast library of glazes from past and present. The collection is currently available today and emphasizes how classic those designs are.
How is your team handling these uncertain times?
Our team is amazing, resilient and creative. Unfortunately, we had to shrink the team as our business has changed so radically, but we’re settling into a new rhythm and tackling everything that comes at us. Going into this, we were fortunate to have a lot of products—this inventory allowed us to put more emphasis on our online business and the conversation with our customers, who have been incredibly supportive and a real beacon of optimism for us. Some of these people have been customers for 50 years and through many generations of their families, so we have a place in their homes and family life, where we’re all spending a lot more time right now. We’re leaning into our online business and social media to fill the void of our closed showrooms. Our creative team is working in new ways to capture ideas and tell stories, while not having access to any of our usual facilities.
What’s been the timeline of ownership for Heath, and did you and Robin have backgrounds in ceramics?
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