Touring the Heath Ceramics Factory and Store on Gate 5 Road in Sausalito is a little like stepping back in time. And Heath’s owners and employees like it that way. This is the original factory started in 1959 in a re-purposed manufacturing building from the WWII ship-building industry. They still use many of the same processes, materials and machinery as they did 50 years ago.
Case in point, the giant kiln to the left. It looks like shelves of unfired pottery, but the box-like structure above drops down and covers everything right down to the floor, including the massive gas jets that run under the firing shelves. Then the temperature inside is raised to over 2,000 degrees. Ouch!
The tour (did I mention it’s free!) is absolutely fascinating, and covers every step of the ceramic-making process, from the giant bags of clay powder waiting to be mixed into clay to the boxes packed with dinnerware for delivery to buyers like The Slanted Door and Chez Panisse.
Since the factory is union, the weekend tours take place without workers present. However, there is a Friday morning tour for visitors who want to see everything in action. Be sure to call ahead for reservations, and no children under 5.
Save some time for browsing through the store, too. There are wonderful “firsts” and a lot of really attractively priced “seconds” too.
Where: 400 Gate 5 Road, Sausalito (map)
Tour Hours: Friday 11:15, Saturday and Sunday 11:45 and 2:30
Store Hours: Monday – Thursday & Saturday: 10-6, Friday 10-7, Sunday 11-6
Phone: 415.332.3732 x113