Heath Ceramics: Bud Vase Workshop

I never knew that I'd have a love affair with ceramics, but here I am. I love Heath Ceramics - It's as simple as that. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with Heath Ceramics, they craft the most beautiful mid-century pottery. Whether it's a casserole dish, a dinner plate, or subway tiles, their simple aesthetic and clean lines are the stuff of my fancy casual heart's dreams. I often gift their goodies to friends for hosting parties, family for holiday gifts, and to myself for no good reason at all. 

In addition to their original headquarters in Sausalito, Heath Ceramics now occupies a converted warehouse space in San Francisco's Mission district. Shortly after opening up shop, I was fortunate enough to nab a place in a Bud Vase workshop they were hosting. I spent two-hours in the Heath factory working side-by-side with a Heath artist custom glazing a bud vase. This fangirl was overjoyed. 

The Workshop

Slip Casting

Before we started glazing our bud vases, Heath demonstrated how they use slip casting to make those beautiful little buggers. 

  1. Using a two-piece slip-cast, pour the ceramic mix through the top of the cast until it is filled to the brim.
  2. Pour excess ceramic mix out and let the ceramic rest.
  3. Once the vase is set, gently move the top half of the slip cast back and forth - remove the top half of the slip cast. 
  4. Gently coax the bud vase out of the bottom half of the cast. Good luck. 
  5. Voilà! See below. And no those are not my man hands.

During step four I saw many Heath bud vases meet their maker. When a bud vase was demolished during removal, the Heath artist would toss the ceramic into a bucket. On several occasions I was tempted to rescue a bud vase, or take the bucket of liquid gold home with me. I used restraint.

Cool lava.jpg

Choosing a glaze 

Each participant in the workshop was given a pre-fired bud vase ready for glazing along with access to a dozen colors that we could mix and match to our heart's desire.

I used my "Cool Lava" bulb vase as inspiration - this particular Heath color uses a layered glaze technique that creates a unique texture every time.

My final color selection?  Glossy "Heath Red" as the first layer, combined with matte "Porcelain" for the second layer.

Dipping the vase

Vase interior:

  1. Select interior glaze color - for consistency I went with "Heath Red".
  2. Using a pitcher, pour glaze into the bud vase. Cover your hand over the vase opening and shake up down and around for 5-10 seconds until the color is well distributed.
  3. Pour excess color out and let the interior dry for 10 minutes.

Vase exterior:

  1. Pick up the vase by putting your pointer finger into the mouth of the vase. Using your other hand, place two fingers gently on the bottom of the vase.
  2. Dip the vase, with your two fingers still supporting the bottom into the bucket of glaze. Make sure the vase is inserted deep enough that color reaches the vase rim.
  3. Lift vase out of the glaze, turn it about 30 degrees and let the excess glaze drip off the bottom. Rest for 10 minutes until dry. 
  4. For layering technique - Once the first layer of color is dry, I inserted the top third of the bud vase upside down into "Porcelain".  I let the excess color drip off while still upside down.

I had to wait three weeks, three whole weeks, to find out what my creation looked like post-kiln. While it tested my patience (or lack thereof) It was well worth the wait. I couldn't be happier about how my one-of-a-kind Heath bud vase turned out.