Heath Ceramics a Hub for Designers
After weeks of testing, the three big kilns in Heath Ceramics’ 18th and Florida streets factory opened for business last month. Racks of colorful glazed tiles now regularly slide along tracks in the floor into the ovens to be fired. Separated by a glass wall, potters and curious passersby enjoying the store’s adjacent cafО can watch the whole operation, from the glazing of the tiles to the drying ovens to their final formation in the kilns. “We believe in transparency,” said Health Ceramics’ owner Robin Petravic, “Anyone can walk in and see how our ceramics are made. Nothing is hidden from the public.”
With a manufacturing facility nestled nearby homes, offices and retail businesses, Petravic is aware of his business’ potential environmental impacts. The company follows a zero-waste policy in its new Potrero Hill facilities. Any waste material generated during the production process is put back into a recycle clay body, and used in other products.
Heath Ceramics moved into the neighborhood last summer, occupying a three-story warehouse that was previously a laundry. The company’s primary manufacturing plant is based in Sausalito, where the business was founded by Edith Heath in 1948. As the enterprise expands, more of its operations will shift to the Hill facility, which feature a retail store, a tile showroom and a factory viewing lounge that offers a Blue Bottle coffee bar. A restaurant will open in the space next year.
“We have a lot of design-savvy customers in the City, including many architects and interior designers. So we wanted to move to a more urban area to connect better with our customers.” said Petravic, who with his wife, the designer Catherine Bailey, bought the Sausalito factory from the Heath family in 2002.
Petravic and Bailey have re-envisioned the business as a hub for designers. Last winter, Heath’s factory floor became a stage for more than 30 vendors selling everything from perfume to children’s toys at the Remodelista Holiday Market. The new facility is home to several artists, including resident designer Adam Silverman, whose cobalt blue pottery — which has a texture reminiscent of volcanic rock — is featured in the store.
The businesses’ mainstay is its dinnerware and tiles. In the late-1940’s, Heath developed a clay body that retains bright colors, even when fired under the high temperatures required to produce durable ceramics. Heath continues to rely on this material to make its tiles today, sourcing local clays, mainly from the Sacramento area. Heath’s dinnerware retains many of Edith Heath’s original mid-century designs, featuring modest hues and dignified forms. Heath’s current team of designers, led by Bailey, has added new products in the same spirit, built to last through vigorous use and changing tastes.
Heath Ceramics has a new factory at 2900-18th Street.
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