Dates of Operation: 1947 - Present
Seller Values: Check average price on Ebay
Perhaps it isn’t such an extraordinary thing that the Heath Ceramics company has thrived producing their brand of California stoneware pottery for over 60 years. What is extraordinary is that they did it without compromising the simple, undecorated forms for which they were known. While other companies reacted against the flood of overseas imports starting in the late 60s by diversifying their lines and types of items produced, the Heath items have changed little in design. Even the colors remain mostly muted and earthy tones of brown, yellow, green, gray and white.
I’ve found a few pieces of Heath here and there at the thrifts. One note: because the company still exists (visit their website) and is producing very similar items, I have found it sometimes difficult to determine whether or not a piece is older or newer. In addition, I haven’t been to the existing store in Sausalito where I know that they actually give tours of the facillity - so I haven’t been able to see which items they are still producing, have been retired, or have changed in form and design slightly. Well, I do think that if you find a Heath ashtray there’s a pretty good chance of it being a bit older! (We later discovered that is actually not exactly true, as the company still makes ashtrays.) The quality of the newer items is very good as well, so this is one case where I’m not too concerned whether a piece is newer or older.
Edith Heath attended Chicago Art Institute and started expermenting with dinnerware in the early 40s. With her husband Brian Heath, she began the ceramics company that would produce the wonderful but simple stoneware that people are still interested in today. Although she concentrated on dinnerware, she also made vases and the company also branched out into architectural tiles. People are increasingly interested in Heath items because of the latest interest in mid-century modern dinnerware and decoration.
I feel that the style and especially the color of many Heath items reminds me a lot of Howard Pierce’s work. Both have a simple, gentle, refined design that focuses a lot of browns and white hues. I don’t think the two artists knew each other, though (I could be wrong about that but haven’t found anything written about it yet).
Most of the dinnerware that Heath produced earlier was marked, and I believe all of the modern items are marked as well. I’ve heard of certain pieces being found unmarked, especially vases and other more unusual items. The marks are either ink stamped or incised / embossed in-mold - I don’t believe they used paper or foil stamps too frequently. The stamp itself is pretty distinctive, it’s the word “Heath” with the “T” having a drop down extender on which sits a bowl. I believe that sometimes you’ll also see the N.S. Gustin name on the mark, since that company was the distrbutor for Heath.
UPDATE 12/2008: We had a chance to visit the wonderful Heath Los Angeles showroom. I should note what I said earlier about ashtrays being most likely older is not really true. At the new Heath Ceramics store, located on Beverly and Sierra Bonita in Los Angeles, I saw several ashtrays that have the same look as the old ones. I’ll be posting some more pictures of the newer items, as well as their backstamps, in a few weeks.Note: We've tried to provide as much info as possible on this pottery maker or artist. For further info, you may want to research the items they have on Ebay listed under this name. We've tried to hand tailor the searches below so they will bring up the most accurate results. If there are no results, it will list general California pottery.