Earlier in the day - before Chez Panisse, we made another pilgrimage of sorts - to the Heath Ceramics factory and store in Sausalito, another place that had been on my list for quite some time. Fittingly, Heath makes the dinnerware used at Chez Panisse (they have a custom line) and their plates are also used as bread and butter plates at Hog Island Oyster Co. - my favorite first stop a trip to the City. There's nothing like that first bottle of champagne and some Acme epi bread, torn and smeared with butter, to start a vacation. That is to say nothing of the impeccable oysters and the pickled mignonette - but we're not here to talk about that now, are we?
No, we're here to talk about pottery. Lots and lots of pottery. The factory sits in an industrial area, by the Sausalito wharf, right around the corner from the Mollie Stone's grocery store that was in Albert Brooks' movie "Mother." It's been there since 1959 - and all of their pottery is still made right there in the studio - from start to finish.
The factory store sells mostly what they call factory seconds. In fact, of the entire store - ONLY the goods you see on the table above are "first quality" - all the rest - on the shelves and other tables, are seconds. Most of the seconds are indistinguishable from first quality goods - at least to my eye, and I guess they should at least be pretty close, since they're only 20% less than the first quality prices.
All of those things below? The casseroles, dishes, plates, mugs? All seconds.
The section above is stocked with overruns, samples and factory 3rds - items with obvious flaws and cracks. The glasses you see there are all made from recycled wine bottles.
They also have a nice section of books and gifts made by craftspersons and artisans - and an enormous selection of Weck jars (which can be ordered online.)
Heath is also known for their tile - perhaps even more so than for their homegoods. The tile section of the store is in the back, with samples and design boards on one side, and all the colors and sizes stacked on opposite wall. There are so many beautiful, saturated colors, with different glazes, sizes and shapes - I can see how it would be a little overwhelming to choose.
If you're interested in the tile, it's well worth a trip to the factory to check out what they have on hand in the overstock tile room. This area in the back of the factory is stacked with boxes upon boxes of tiles - most of which are perfectly usable, at a 20% (or greater) discount.
If I had any reason at all to do so, I would have snapped up some of these in a heartbeat. They can ship them home for you too.
On the way to and from the overstock tile room, you walk past the kilns, and you can actually feel the heat coming off of them.
It was fun just to walk through and see the goods in progress. They give free factory tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 (but I'd call first, just to make sure) which would be very interesting, I'm sure.
This is a little peek at their stock room, where they keep the finished goods. The circular mosaic is made of their vintage tile. I just love the muted colors with the bright blue accents.
400 Gate Five Road
Sausalito, CA 94965
They also have a Los Angeles Studio and Store
7525 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2722
And a store in the Ferry Building in San Francisco.