Ever since I moved into my new apartment, I've been on the hunt for good dinnerware. We did buy some dishes secondhand, but being local to the Bay Area, I've always been curious about Heath Ceramics. When it comes to buying new dinnerware sustainably and consciously, I've come across plenty of artisans that produce beautiful, handmade ceramic dinnerware pieces (with quite a hefty price tag as well). Yet Heath Ceramics kept coming up in my research as quality pieces that were still made in the original factory in Sausalito, so I thought what better way than to check out the factory tour (which was free), see how these pieces were made, and support the native California business if my husband and I were fully convinced?
Long story short, we weren't disappointed. The Sausalito factory is open for tours on Fridays and Saturdays, but they book up fast -- I booked my tickets 2 months in advance, knowing I'd be in the San Francisco area this particular week. It's been on my bucket list for over a year to visit the factory, which is the original building in which Edith Heath started the major production of her business. Quite a story, and a beautiful building with some of Edith's original tile work lining the outside.
What I truly wanted to see though, was the production process of these ceramic pieces. To my surprise, that the Heath Ceramics factory is very much sustainably minded, and it was evident from the start of the tour. They had announced that their factory was on their way to zero waste to landfill manufacturing operations, and were showcased at the California Academy of Sciences for their efforts. The waste water from creating the clay is recycled and reused, and all the plaster molds are repurposed by a local farmer. The second quality pieces that are also unable to make it to the store due to quality defects are also repurposed for making tiles. Would be amazing to see a fully circular model if they could take back broken pieces from customers, but maybe someday (:
As the tour guide walked us through Edith's story and craftsmanship, I not only interested and intrigued by her humble beginnings, but also the amount of care put into these quality pieces. It was easy to see that the Heath's were resourceful and creative in their work -- Brian Heath even repurposed used oil drums for the spray stations in the factory, which are still used today! I love that.
Peter (my husband) grilled our tour guide with questions regarding quality and the manufacturing process these ceramics go through. It was pretty funny to watch since he was a bit skeptical of even considering buying anything to start (knowing how expensive these pieces were) -- but we were both convinced after our hour tour that we wanted to support this local Californian business, as well as its recent sustainability efforts.
After the tour, we went into the store with a new story in our minds. Products never look the same when you find out what goes on behind the scenes, especially when there's a story tied to it! Oh, and choosing colors -- the toughest thing! Heath allows you to mix and match when you decide to purchase a set..and it's tough to go wrong. I was so conflicted, that Peter was so amused he took a picture of me as I was deep in thought. Peter also enjoyed sitting on the beautiful chairs which were being showcased in the store as well -- beautiful artisan made pieces I must say. Haha, what a happy camper.
At the end of the day, it was a successful visit. The factory store happens to have a 'second quality' line which is 20% off original pricing, so we opted for those pieces instead of the full price pieces (which looked the same, and were not too much lower in quality at all). We picked up 2 sets of the original Coupe line in the indigo/grey tone, which have a beautiful clay tone on the edge of each piece and a nice contrast between the inside and outside of each piece. These sure look mighty fine in our kitchen and elevate any meal.
Ever since I started living more consciously, especially in my consumption, I've always enjoyed supporting local artisans and businesses that have a story. Though dinnerware is something that isn't always given much of a thought in the kitchen, I'm sure glad I was able to hold my horses to save up for a potential purchase at Heath, and pair my store visit with their factory tour which gave me more insight than I would've found online, especially in regards to their recent sustainability and zero waste efforts! What a huge win.
Every time Peter and I eat a meal now in our new Heath dinnerware set, we can't help but smile in awe of the craftsmanship and quality behind the Heath brand. I can't wait to save up for a next set, perhaps in a different color. Hope that's okay for Peter, haha! (;