Edith Heath

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Edith Heath
Edith Kiertzner

(1911-05-24)May 24, 1911
DiedDecember 27, 2005(2005-12-27) (aged 94)
EducationChicago Teachers College
San Francisco Art Institute
Known forCeramic art

Edith Kiertzner Heath (May 24, 1911[1] – December 27, 2005) was an American studio potter and founder of Heath Ceramics. The company, well known for its mid-century modern ceramic tableware, including "Heathware," and architectural tiles, is still operating in Sausalito, California, after being founded in 1948.[2]

Life and work[edit]

Edith Heath ceramic canister.

Kiertzner was born on May 24, 1911, in Ida Grove, Iowa, forty miles east of Sioux City, Iowa, to Danish immigrants Niels and Karoline Kiertzner. In 1931, Kiertzner enrolled at the Chicago Normal School, later renamed Chicago Teachers College, and graduated in 1934. She enrolled part-time at the Art Institute of Chicago after graduation taking her first ceramic course. In 1938, Edith married Brian Heath.

Relocating to San Francisco, Edith accepted a position as an art teacher at the Presidio Hill School and audited classes at the California School of Fine Arts. She developed a clay body in these classes which she adapted many times for her production work. Not being able to have as much access to the pottery equipment, Edith pursued her ceramic interests on her own converting a treadle sewing machine into a pottery wheel. In 1943, she studied eutectics with Willard Kahn through the University of California extension courses.[3] Heath's continued experimentation led to her becoming an expert in how different clay types affected aesthetic qualities of her wares. Her mastery of clay and glaze, combined with her modern sensibilities for proportion and form, made Heath a master ceramist.

In 1944, her first major show was at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. She also participated in the Syracuse Ceramic Nationals.[4]

A buyer from San Francisco retailer Gumps approached Edith to supply their store with her high quality hand-thrown pottery using the company's pottery studio. She accepted the opportunity, while continuing to work in her own studio.[5] Major retailers began to order tableware, and in 1948, she opened Heath Ceramics in Sausalito, California. By 1949, Heath was producing 100,000 pieces a year.[1]

Heath Ceramics was purchased by Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey in 2003.[6] Edith Heath died on December 27, 2005 at her home in Tiburon, California.

In 2019 the public television station KCET produced a biographical documentary about Edith Heath's life and work, entitled Heath Ceramics: The Making of a California Classic.[7] The film was directed by Chris Metzler and Quinn Costello, and explored the history and influence of Edith Heath, including her continuing legacy at Heath Ceramics today.[8] The film was honored by the LA Press Club at the 2019 National Arts and Entertainment Awards where the film won first-place recognition in the Documentary or Special Program Feature (over 30 minutes) category.


Edith Heath's "Coupe" line remains in demand and has been in constant production since 1948, with periodic changes to the texture and color of the glazes. Other Heath pottery lines include "Rim," designed in 1960, and "Plaza," designed in the 1980s.[9]

Architectural tile[edit]

Exterior of Norton Simon Museum highlighting Heath's tile used on the building.

The Pasadena Art Museum, now the Norton Simon Museum, in Pasadena, California and designed by Pasadena architects Thornton Ladd and John Kelsey of the firm 'Ladd + Kelsey' used the architectural tiles. The distinctive and modern curvilinear exterior facade is faced in 115,000 glazed tiles, in varying brown tones with an undulating surface, made by Edith Heath.[10] They are part of the backdrop many see when viewing the New Year's Rose Parade.


  1. ^ a b Klausner, Amos (2006). Heath Ceramics, The Complexity of Simplicity. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, LLC. p. 20. ISBN 0-8118-5560-0.
  2. ^ Marsha Ginsburg (2006-01-01). "Edith Heath -- renowned ceramicist". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-09-14. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Bray, Hazel V. (1980). The Potter's Art in California 1885-1955. Oakland, CA: The Oakland Museum Art Department. p. 62. ISBN 0-295-96200-3.
  4. ^ Evans, Paul (1990). Art Pottery of the United States : An Encyclopedia of Producers and Their Marks, Together With a Directory of Studio Potters Working in the United States Through 1960. New York: Feingold & Lewis Pub. Corp. p. 420. ISBN 0-9619577-0-0.
  5. ^ "Proposed Heath Ceramics factory · Environmental Design Archives Exhibitions". exhibits.ced.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 2017-06-30.
  6. ^ "HeathCeramics.com: About Heath". Archived from the original on 2006-08-27. Retrieved 2006-09-14. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "Heath Ceramics: The Making of a California Classic (2019)". IMDb (2019). 2019. Retrieved November 11, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "Heath Ceramics: The Making of a California Classic, Artbound Season 10, Episode 2". KCET (2019). 2019. Retrieved November 12, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ Zahid Sardar (2004-02-01). "Home Is Where the Heath Is: A Bay Area pottery tradition continues under new ownership". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-09-14. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Chang, Jade (2005). Art/Shop/Eat Los Angeles. Somerset Books. pp. 90–98. ISBN 1-905131-06-2.

Further reading[edit]

  • Klausner, Amos. Heath Ceramics, The Complexity of Simplicity. Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco (2006) ISBN 0-8118-5560-0

External links[edit]