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How to build a functional ceramics collection.

Perhaps you have never considered your coffee cup to be a piece of art. For Catherine Bailey, co-owner and creative director at Heath Ceramics, however, such practical, everyday pieces play a pivotal role in shaping the aesthetic of her home. “Even this small teapot by Akio Nukaga makes a big statement in defining the style of my kitchen,” she explains. “It paves the way for the contrast of color and texture that I wanted to have around me.”

Based in Sausalito, California, just a short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, Heath Ceramics has been producing locally-made homeware since 1948. When Bailey and her partner, Robin Petravic, bought the company nearly six decades later, they continued its lineage of traditional hand-glazed tiles and handcrafted ceramic pieces.

Bailey, who loves the “warmth and expression” of ceramics, encourages her customers to build collections that marry functionality with an appreciation for the art form. “For the tabletop, start with the basics: a dinner plate, cereal bowl, salad plate, and a large and medium serving bowl,” she advises. “These pieces can serve multiple uses. A good mug is also essential.”

And, for newcomers to the world of ceramics, she is pragmatic about which pieces can be overlooked. “Some of the formal functional pieces are probably not worth investing in. As much as I love a classic teacup, a whole set is seldom used and in my kitchen—there’s just not room to store them,” she says. Instead, Bailey recommends investing in a statement piece that brings flair to your home, like a bowl in a contrasting glaze or shape to your dinnerware, or a distinctive porcelain vase.

Finally, she suggests approaching your collection with the inevitabilities of life in mind: “For the functional pieces, look for a line and a company that sticks behind their style and glazes for a long time. You’ll inevitably break a few pieces over time and you don’t want to have to start over because you can’t buy pieces to replace or at least fit with your set.”

  • Words:
    Pip Usher
  • Photography:
    Cecilie Jegsen
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