Edith Heath: A Chocolate Skin

by Pasadena Adjacent


When you look at the Norton Simon you might see a museum covered in a million chocolate bars, but you’d be wrong. Don’t think Heath bars; think/thank Edith Heath. She was a pioneer in mid-century modern ceramics. Her dinnerware caught the attention of Frank Loyde Wright and her tiles the attention of top architects including Eero Saarinen (St. Louis Gateway Arch). She petitioned the University of Berkley to create a course for the sole purpose of studying the chemistry of glazes. She then went on to develop her own glazes derived from locally based clay pits. What’s unique about Heath’s glaze formulations is that they fuse to the clay body creating the distinct speckle pattern she’s known for. Compare it to this cheap imitation It’s across the street on the grounds of the Ambassador College.

* A side note; I retract my “vein” of clay statement. Clay does not show up in veins. It’s a layer of sediment; I think. Clay (of the earthenware variety) can be found in our deserts. If you find clay while digging for a swimming pool, it’s most likely the remains of a septic waste site.