Edith Heath created ceramics that combined modern design with the hand-made aesthetics of studio pottery. Initially, Heath aspired to teach and completed her credential in art education at Chicago Teachers College. She moved west in the early 1940s and took classes in ceramics at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) and the University of California, Berkeley. Heath converted the laundry room of her Filbert Street residence into a pottery studio, and by 1944, she exhibited at the Legion of Honor and sold to the high-end San Francisco retailer Gump’s. When national department stores including Marshall Field’s and Neiman-Marcus carried Heath Ceramics, production moved to a factory in Sausalito, California, that incorporated manufacturing equipment designed by Edith’s husband Brian Heath.
Innovative combinations of natural materials were at the core of Heath Ceramics’ success. Unimpressed with lightly colored, commercially available clays, Edith Heath formulated clay bodies from rich deposits left by a prehistoric inland sea near Lincoln, California, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains foothills. Glazes that contained metallic oxides were perfected to chemically react at low temperatures. Some of her distinctive finishes created speckled effects when fired in the kiln, such as the two-toned “Sea and Sand.” Heath introduced Coupe in 1948, which is still in production and was their first original dinnerware line. Coupe pioneered manufacturing at Heath Ceramics. Plates and shallow bowls were formed on mechanized jigger wheels developed by Brian, while Edith and her artisans used slip casting and other traditional methods for more complex shapes.