“We love tile,” Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic write in their new book, Tile Makes the Room: Good Design from Heath Ceramics.”
And you will likely feel the same way (if you don’t already) with even a single flip through the book’s 250 pages of tiled rooms from around the world.
Bailey and Petravic are the husband-wife team behind Heath Ceramics, founded in 1948 by another husband-wife team, Brian and Edith Heath. Bailey and Petravic bought Heath Ceramics a little more than a decade ago and have since then been building on and extending the legacy.
The Heaths opened their first pottery studio in 1948 in Sausalito, just north of San Francisco, after Edith had spent a decade perfecting the art of wheel-thrown pottery. Over the next 50 years, Heath built a reputation for distinctive dinnerware and ceramic tile, catering mostly to a wholesale clientele. Many of her pieces are held in museums such as the MoMA and can be readily found on Etsy and eBay.
The story may have ended there with Heath fading away. But in 2003, Bailey and Petravic, industrial and package designers, happened upon the old factory with only a vague knowledge of the Heath history. They tracked down Edith Heath, who was in her 90s, negotiated the purchase and set about “re-founding” the company, aiming to adhere to the Heath’s philosophy of locally and artisanally produced ceramics while adding their own ideas of controlling the whole process of production, from design through sales.
The result has been a growing reputation for integrity of design and manufacture that has won many awards, including a 2015 National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. The award is being given and celebrated Thursday at a special dinner for Heath and other recipients.
“Heath Ceramics,” the museum notes, “is committed to quality over quantity, production at a human scale, local manufacturing, social and environmental responsibility, and thoughtfully designed spaces that don’t just reflect its values, but also create them.”
They continue to manufacture many of the dinnerware pieces designed by Edith Heath and design new work. A collaboration with chef Alice Waters produced a signature dinnerware collection for her Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley.
In the tile business, they have moved away from selling wholesale and now sell only through a retail path at four large showrooms in California.
An overwhelming portion of the book is dedicated to showing interiors decorated with tile, both residential and commercial, some with Heath and some not.
“The following spaces inspired us for many reasons,” they write in the introduction. “They showcase a multitude of tile and architectural styles, but in all of them, tile makes the room.”