The 2022 Winter Seasonal collection is a particularly special one, designed by Heath’s most veteran glazer, a master of her craft, Winnie Crittenden. Winnie is the niece of the company’s founder, Edith Heath, and began working at Heath nearly half a century ago, apprenticing by Edith’s side.
Today, she is a legend within the small company—a warm, spirited creative leader with unparalleled expertise in the art and science of glaze. She works closely with her team—specialists Mel Danico and Rie Dion, who have learned from her experience, while also bringing their own training and artistic perspectives.
We talked with Winnie about learning to glaze—and so much more—from Edith, and about her inspiration and process for the 2022 Winter Seasonal collection.
You began working at Heath in 1974. Did you start out glazing right away or did you work in other areas first?
I started out cup handling and I loved it. I jumped around to various jobs. I also trimmed for a while and worked on the tile press. In the early days of making tile, we had to sand the edges of every tile, so as they came off the press, you would take a stack and then run it up against a vertical belt sander. It was a crazy way to make tile. And on and off, I learned glazing from Edith.
Edith Heath, the company founder, was your aunt and a mentor to you as a young craftsperson. What are some key things you learned from her in those early days?
I started working with Edith on various projects. We began with what we called landscapes, where we reused seconds plates and reglazed them. One of the easiest ways is to pour glaze across the plate so it makes kind of a landscape effect. I worked with Edith on that kind of thing and also beads and buttons, and did some tile murals with her. I did the 12x12 tile that you see on the screens at the front of the Sausalito showroom today.
I really caught Edith’s excitement about exploring new combinations of glazes and discovering different effects you can get by applying the glaze in different ways. That became really exciting to me. There was a while where we were freezing slices of clay to see what the moisture pattern was in them. When you would freeze it, it would be like a tree ring, and you could see how the clay had moved around in a circle caused by the auger of the pugmill, and where the patterns of moisture were.
In developing the Winter Seasonal collection, what were some of the experiments or ideas you began with as you built out the palette and techniques?
My initial inspiration came from a line blend (a ceramic sample piece used for glaze testing) that we had in our studio archive. I love research, and to learn as much as I can about glaze chemistry and clay chemistry, discovering which glazes make interesting effects when layered. In this particular glaze sample, you can see the breakup that’s happening—an effect that occurs naturally during firing as a result of the particular chemistry of all those ingredients. I developed that glaze into what we call Blue Agate for this collection. And I knew that if I put a matte glaze over that, it would really accentuate that natural breakup effect. So I layered Emerald over Blue Agate and that became our Silver Spruce special technique.
After that initial inspiration with the Blue Agate, my mind started going toward creating an all-green seasonal collection, drawing on the colors of the evergreen. I knew I wanted to have some of that bright green that’s so much like the new growth at the tips of the trees. I did a number of tests to come up with a range of greens that would represent the different seasons and phases.
You chose trees as your theme for the season. Can you talk a little bit about why that theme felt important to you and what you hope people will feel or understand when they see this collection?
The evergreen tree has significant meaning through time and across cultures. It’s important as a symbol of hope, because it stays bright green in the middle of winter. I also love how they smell. I have a really wonderful memory of being a kid in northern Idaho, and sunshine on pine needles is the sweetest, loveliest smell. Occasionally I catch it when I’m out at Point Reyes National Seashore and it takes me right back to my childhood.
Sometimes when we see these trees, they are so still and solid we forget that they are living beings, constantly pumping large amounts of water and nutrients up—in some cases hundreds of feet—and out to every little leaf and needle. How great is it that they can use the carbon dioxide that I breathe out, and that I can use the oxygen that they breathe out through their leaves and needles. When I'm around them, I soak up not only their oxygen but their majesty, their strength, their solid groundedness, their experience of time, their calm, their peacefulness.