December 19, 2019 –January 13, 2020
We got an early start the next morning for what would be an eight-hour plus drive back down to Oakland. Around lunch time we decided to stop in at Bartels Giant Burger where we had enjoyed a really good meal in 2016 traveling down the same route (https://3jmann.com/2016/07/20/west-coast-spring-swing-part-three/). As is sometimes the case, a repeat of an event or place does not live up to the first one and although the food was good, the overall experience was less than great, as detailed in my review in Trip Advisor:
We stopped in driving south to the Bay Area looking forward to a repeat of the positive experiences we’ve had here in the past. This time, although the food was still good, was negated by a ordering snafu the ended up costing me an almost a quarter more of my order. I won’t get into the specifics, but it seemed that the counter person wasn’t that focused and didn’t hear me order or ended up writing it down wrong. We’ll be sure to stop back though in the future for what is usually a very good time
The rest of the journey was uneventful, and we arrived safely in Oakland, happy to spend time with Jessica and Kris, the last nights they would enjoy as a childless couple. During the course of our stay we’d visit a number of our favorite haunts, including Drakes Dealership for beer and snacks on the patio, another superb meal at Corso in Berkeley and a sustaining breakfast at Sconehenge on our way out of town.
In between we spent a fun day out in Sausalito starting with a tour of Heath Ceramics, known for their handcrafted ceramic tableware and architectural tile in distinctive glazes. Founded in Sausalito, California, by Edith Heath (1911–2005) and her husband Brian Heath (1911–2001) in 1948, Heath Ceramics is now owned and run by Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic, who purchased the company in 2003.
Not sure about the traffic we’d encounter on the way we gave ourselves plenty of time for the drive and encountering no delays, arrived about 30 minutes early. Feeling a little hungry we drove around the neighborhood and discovered the Sausalito Bakery & Cafe, a storefront facing the water with views of Alcatraz and Angels Island. Joanna ran inside while I parked across the street and when she returned, we demolished the two items she’d brought back for us.
The first was an incredibly good breakfast sandwich on my favorite bread in the world, a sourdough baguette with a delightful chewy crust surrounding a soft interior. Filled with scrambled egg and country ham it was more than enough for the two of us and under normal circumstances would have finished us off except for the other item, a Blueberry Bread Pudding that once one started on it, was compelled to finish it with gusto.
Near the appointed time we returned to Heath and killed some time waiting for the tour by checking out items for sale in the store; a fun but fruitless exercise as this unique and beautiful dish ware is well out of our price range. But, if one can afford it you are literally buying works of art as Heath has won numerous awards for design, and in 2015 received the National Design Award for Institutional Achievement, awarded by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, in recognition of Heath’s commitment to business by design.
After Edith Heath exhibited her work at her first solo show at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco in 1944, a buyer from San Francisco retailer Gump’s approached her to supply their store with her hand-thrown pottery using the company’s pottery studio in San Francisco. In 1947, Edith began to design and execute a limited hand-thrown production of her pottery and tableware with four apprentices in her own studio and other retailers, such as Neiman Marcus, Marshall Field’s, Bullocks, and the City of Paris began to order her tableware.
In 1948 she opened Heath Ceramics in Sausalito where she designed the pieces and formulated the clays and glazes and where, notably, she formulated the clay base for a single kiln-firing at a lower-than-normal temperature, one closer to that associated with earthenware bodies rather than stoneware. This reduced energy usage while producing a durable product.
In addition to running the business side of Heath, husband Brian Heath also oversaw engineering (inventing numerous pieces of equipment) and managed the business. As the volume of orders increased, Edith designed the Sausalito factory space with the architecture firm Marquis & Stoller, which was completed in 1959.
It was a very good and comprehensive tour, starting in the room where the raw clay is delivered and processed. Heath uses two types of clay, one of which, the white Heath obtains from a company in Sacramento. It arrives in powder form and at 600 pounds per bag, mixing it with gray water in the enormous blender is no easy feat. After this mixing comes a filter press, where excess water is squeezed from the clay.
The raw clay finds its way into molds for plates, mug handles, platters and all the other items they produce. Clay is trimmed away from the molds and all of it is eventually reused; according to the company it is at a point where they produce almost zero actual waste. After trimming and some drying, each piece goes to the glazing area; Heath makes all of their glazes in-house, and the amount of time it takes to become a fully trained Heath glazer takes around six months.
Anything that’s a 3-D vessel, like a coffee cup, is dipped in the glaze rather than sprayed on. This is because applying a consistent glaze via a spray gun to the inside of a cup will not yield the desired level of consistency. Rim lines are left exposed, wiped bare and clean with a damp sponge.
We finished up and managed to leave without buying too much in the factory shop, just a few small items to use as gifts in the future. We made our way a short distance to our next stop, the Bay Model Visitor Center, which would provide us with yet another fascinating tour. Stay tuned for that one.
Bartels Giant Burger: http://www.bartelsgiantburger.com/
Drakes Dealership: https://drinkdrakes.com/places/dealership/
Heath Ceramics: https://www.heathceramics.com/
Sausalito Baker & Cafe: https://www.yelp.com/biz/sausalito-bakery-and-cafe-sausalito-2