A New Book on Edith Heath Illuminates the Life and Legacy of the Visionary Ceramicist

A New Book on Edith Heath Illuminates the Life and Legacy of the Visionary Ceramicist

By Duncan Nielsen
Peek inside the forthcoming title “Edith Heath: Philosophies,” which gives vivid shape to the woman behind the company and the clay.

Legendary ceramicist Edith Heath’s first pottery gig was making hand-thrown dinnerware out of a studio at Gump’s, a retailer in San Francisco. That was 1945—the same year she and her husband, Brian Heath, would go on to establish Heath Ceramics, Inc. In just two more years, they’d open a factory across the bridge in Sausalito, making their name synonymous with tableware and architectural tiles of the highest caliber. To this day, the company sets a high-water mark for all things kiln-fired. 

In Edith Heath: Philosophies, a new volume from Berkeley Design Books and Information Office, a stable of contributors and experts pulls focus on the elements that shaped Edith Heath’s life and work. A historical timeline, essays, images, and in-depth commentary all add to the picture. Art historian Mara Holt Skov writes, "What began with Heath’s love of forming an ancient material into pleasing and functional shapes grew into a larger mission to bring the benefits of good design to as many people as possible." 

In post–World War II America, that sentiment rang loudly. Today, it’s still ringing. Below are just a few moments from the new text, now available for preorder and out April 29.

Edith Heath: Philosophies
Edith Heath: Philosophies serves as the definitive resource on Edith Kiertzner Heath (1911–2005) and the history of Heath Ceramics, emphasizing the philosophical foundations and influences of one of the most significant creative forces in post-WWII America.

Edith Heath throws a bowl on a potter’s wheel. California, 1955.

Heath Buffet Service, 1955.

Edith Heath examines a clay-rich wall of earth with her ceramics class from the
California College of Arts and Crafts. California, 1955–1957. 

Edith Heath oversees production while wearing her Margaret De Patta wedding ring. California, 1955.

The Heath Ceramics factory was opened in 1957 in Sausalito.

Edith and Brian Heath take in the sun on their deck in 1957. 

The Heathware collection. California, 1960. 

At the Pasadena Art Museum, Edith Heath observes the installation of her tile in 1969. 

A booklet titled "A Day in the Life of Edith Heath" was created in 1985 using photographs taken by Elizabeth Stephens in the 1970s.

A 1971 poem by Edith Heath illuminates humankind’s connection to the earth.

Edith Heath tests the viscosity of a batch of Pumpkin glaze. California, 1975.

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