Karl and I toured Heath Ceramics last weekend. They’ve just finished their best year ever, producing around 275,000 pieces. They’re still in their original factory space in Sausalito. It’s an interplay of handmade work, slow chemical processes, and large-scale efficiency: It takes a piece of pottery at least a week to go from clay dust to final product.
One big innovation by Heath is low-temperature clay: They fire their pottery at around 2000 degrees, lower than the 2350 degrees of a typical kiln. Apparently it takes the same amount of time to get a kiln from room temperature to 2000 as it does to go from 2000 to 2350, so that’s a big deal. At Heath, a fully loaded kiln starts up around 6am and fires until 3pm, then cools for at least another 12-16 hours. That’s for the final firing – not the initial (lower temp) bisque firing before glaze is added.
On the wall, a quote: “First is to make people aware of the abundance of clay all over the world and to the importance of using the earth to save the earth. Second is to lower the temperature of the kiln through finding materials which help each other to melt at the lowest temperature. Someday we may be firing clay by use of the heat of the sun. That will be the potter’s greatest contribution to human kind and will be an ART.” – Edith Heath
Very San Francisco. She was looking ahead to solar power, but unfortunately they are still using gas at the Heath factory…