Founded in 1948, Bay-area-based Heath Ceramics is one of America’s most notable ceramics companies. Founded by Edith Heath, a ceramics teacher-turned-shop-owner, the San Francisco store is now run by Hong Kong-born Tung Chiang, the studio’s Director. Ranging from kitchenware to jewelry to vases, Chiang offers a multitude of ceramic uses to shoppers. Now in four locations around California and online, Chiang’s handmade, sustainable pieces are a modern rendition of a historic legacy. Meet Chiang and peek into the Heath studio in this week’s Maker Monday.
This table at Heath Ceramics is a trip to the zoo- Chiang’s clay tchotchkes include animal statuettes, filling the store with everything from birds to bud vases.
Andrew Joseph: How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Tung Chiang: Mentally, I don’t separate work and life anymore. I used to try hard to not think of work in my free time, but I realized I can’t, and I don’t have to. I enjoy my work so much and I’ve always loved design, so there is no reason to separate them. But physically, I do set boundaries. My body needs fresh air and nature, so I try to go for a hike in my free time. I also enjoy spending time with family and my dogs. That is the best thing.
Andrew: What’s your favorite time of day?
Chiang: At work, my favorite hour is between 6-8pm in summer. The light is long and it fills the room with magical shades. I love working at that hour. At home, I love the morning when the birds sing outside my bedroom window.
Andrew: Vintage or new?
Chiang: I’ve always loved vintage, and if the same product has a vintage and a new version, I typically go for the vintage. There is a layer of patina and a story added onto it that cannot be replicated. I do have a new appreciation for classic design, though. I visited Artek in Finland a few years ago and I realized they are still making Alvar Aalto furniture pretty much the same way. I like the idea that I am the one adding the patina and story onto the piece, so I start getting new Alvar Aalto designs, too.
Shoppers across California and online can stop by Heath to add one of Chiang’s handmade vases to their own collection.
Andrew: How would you define your work in three words?
Chiang: soul; heart; hand
Andrew: Favorite piece of clothing you own?
Chiang: An old pair of pants from Yohji Yamamoto
Andrew: Best advice you’d give your teenage self?
Chiang: Never worry about what people say about you.
Photos courtesy of Heath Ceramics.
About The Maker | Tung Chiang, a gifted designer and ceramist, is the Director of the Clay Studio. With a career that spans graphic design and advertising in Hong Kong, studying furniture design at Art Center in Pasadena, and industrial design in San Francisco, his skills cover an impressive arc of 2D to 3D, fusing thinking, designing, and making. Tung’s work for Heath, and on his own is immensely popular, and has found a place in the hearts and collections of discerning ceramics fans. He works with design and manufacturing teams on shapes, glazes, and processes, mentors the design team, and works on collaborations with artists near and far.
Like what you see? Get it first with a subscription to ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine.