Why We Love Heath Ceramics
Owners Robin and Cathy view objects like we view travel. It’s the relationship you have to it, and shared experience, that foster a lasting, meaningful bond.
“There’s an honesty in allowing materials to come through without additional adornment.” – Robin Petravic
“We’re not looking at sales, but what feels current and classic.” – Cathy Bailey
Can you describe the Heath aesthetic?
Cathy: The thing that’s interesting is it spans such a long period of time. It was started by Edith Heath, and what she defined was a Bauhaus aesthetic driven by function, and at the time it was very modern, distinctive and different. It was natural and earthy and used color and material in a design-savvy way. Today it’s evolved in that everything we do is about being honest to the original material. It’s unadorned and pure.
How did your backgrounds lead you to Heath?
Cathy: We were both in the design world, and I was trained as an industrial designer. When you’re a designer, you’re supposed to be able to design in any material and solve any problem. Heath was already about a very specific material, but there were so many problems at Heath to solve with design, that it felt like a great opportunity to jump in and be able to balance this kind of design problem-solving with a product that had a history and legacy already—building upon that.
Did it resonate with you to take over a business with history as opposed to making a new brand?
Cathy: The history of Heath resonated with and excited us so much. Starting fresh, for us, was not nearly as interesting as building a layer on something from the past. The other thing that was really interesting was that Heath was making their own product. They were making it in this factory in Sausalito and it had been going for 60 years at the time, and that was super exciting. It wasn’t successful anymore and wasn’t working, but we thought it should still work. We just had to make sure people understood and saw the value in it.
Do you think other people respond to this ideology?
Robin: There seems to be an over-emphasis on creating things that are new all the time—do something new, create something from scratch. But just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. It felt like there was pressure to do new for new’s sake. This forced cycle doesn’t necessarily produce something better. The Heath product was already good, so we wanted to make it better. Keeping that core feels more meaningful than starting from scratch.
What kinds of details do you put emphasis in for products that will stand the test of time?
Robin: I think really paying attention to the material and using that to inform the form. Clay wants to do certain things, it wants to behave in certain ways. And that’s something that I really appreciate because it helps guide the forms you create with it. So, I think that intentionality and being in tune with the material is really important. Sometimes you see pieces made from clay that look like they wanted to be made from something else. I think that gets to the craftsmanship.
You say, ‘Does it make you happy? Is it made well? Will it be part of your life for years to come?’ What Heath Ceramics piece is that for each of you?
Robin: It’s a lot of different pieces. But I think for me, Heath has such a strong connection with food, cooking and eating. It’s there for you three meals a day and becomes such a part of your life. So, if I had to choose, it would probably be one of our large serving bowls.
Cathy: I’ve got two. One’s the original Studio Mug. It’s got a low handle and feels great to drink out of, and looks clearly from a different time period, so represents that moment. But we also make pieces in our studio outside of our regular production. We did this sculptural, functional piece that’s a cat sitting in a bowl, that’s super fun and unique. So these pieces are one-of-a-kind that are awesome and timeless and special.
Explore Upcoming Trips with our Tastemakers
Portugal with Jamie Malone
We'll go deep into Portuguese culture and cuisine: azulejo tiles, Fado music, sparkling wines and vintage ports. Explore taverns and markets, vineyards and farms, and sail through the world’s most gorgeous wine country.
Mexico City with Jonathan Zaragoza
A five-day journey through one of the world's great art, cultural and culinary destinations. Climb pyramids, ride hot-air balloons, go ringside at a luchadores wrestling match, meet graffiti artists, and eat very, very well.
Kentucky: Bourbon Discovery
This adventure with Multnomah Whiskey Library along Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail goes well beyond a cocktail. We’ll see that at historic distilleries, chic restaurants and the site of the Kentucky Derby!