SF Tour: Heath Ceramics Factory

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When Heath Ceramics owners Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic offered to personally take us through their factory in Sausalito, we jumped at the chance. We were especially impressed by their passion for their products and the artisanal, old-fashioned way by which their tiles and dinnerware are still produced. More pictures and details of the factory, as well as information on an upcoming Heath store-wide sale, are below the jump.

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The company mixes the white and brown clay on-site. For complex and hollow pieces, such as teapots and vases, the slipcast method is used. Above is the room where they pour the liquid clay (a.k.a. slip) into the molds and allow them to dry. When the dry clay reaches a certain thickness, the wet clay is then poured out. The dry clay that is still in the mold is the future Heath product.

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Heath also makes their own plaster molds. Each one can be used to make 100-200 pieces before it wears out.

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The dinnerware is all trimmed by hand. In the photo above, the dishes on the left have not been trimmed yet. The dishes on the right, which are clearly smoother, have been finished.

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This is the drying room, which is bigger than some San Francisco studio apartments.

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This is what the dinnerware looks like after it's been glazed.

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The slabs of clay are placed in a press, with a plate that is specific to the tile being produced. The plate cuts the clay into the proper shape. And voila! You've got your super-cool tiles.

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Just outside the tile overstock and seconds room, is a board showing the Heath tile palette.

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In their own dining room and kitchen, shown above, Catherine and Robin tiled the fireplace backdrop and backsplash themselves. (Pssst ... Their lovely home was the subject of an AT House Tour last year.)

Although we highly recommend taking the tour for yourself — our pictures really don't do the process justice — we realize that the trip to Sausalito isn't possible for all AT readers out there. Luckily, Heath as put together virtual tours on how they make their dinnerware and their tiles.

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All Heath goods can be purchased on their website. But if you're local, mark your calendars: May 2-4, everything in the factory store will be 15% off. And on May 3 and 4, the company will be hosting an Open Studio. The tours that weekend will be extra special because employees will actually be on hand to show visitors how all of the equipment works. (Usually, the guide walks you through and verbally explains, but you don't see any products being made.) There will also be a vintage Heath sale, tile glazing activity and BBQ. A silent auction will include one-of-a-kind jewelry and decorative plates and tiles.

Images: Photo of Catherine and Robin by Thomas J. Story for Sunset. Photo of trio of vases courtesy of Heath.