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I have a Heath Ceramics fetish. I found my people at a vase glazing workshop

A woman is attentively painting a blue bud vase on a workbench with containers labeled "WATER" and "ULTRAMARINE" nearby.
Standard reporter and self-described “Heathhead” Christina Campodonico hand glazes a bud vase at the Heath Clay Studio in the Mission District. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

My name is Christina, and I am a Heathhead. 

What started during the pandemic as a passing hobby (imagine me, alone, with a little disposable income, in a new apartment with a very empty kitchen) has since turned into an obsession. I now have enough Heath Ceramics saucers, plates, cups and mugs to serve a small, discerning army. 

So when I learned that the iconic local ceramics company hosts regular workshops that teach you how to glaze your very own Heath bud vase, you know what I had to do. I signed up—and brought The Standard’s social media team along to document the whole process

About once a month, the Heath Clay Studio—a 1,900-square-foot industrial workshop and gallery space on Alabama Street in the Mission—invites amateur ceramists and devoted Heathheads like myself to channel the brand’s namesake founder, Edith Heath. You can learn how to custom-glaze the vessel Edith herself designed in the 1980s in the same place where Heath’s highly skilled potters experiment with new forms. 

At the workshop on a recent Friday, I discovered that I was not alone in my devotion to the Sausalito-based brand. Another attendee, Heidi Quicksilver from Mountain View, signed up to celebrate her 50th birthday and “love of all things Heath Ceramics.” Her friend, Liz Bastian, traveled all the way from Minneapolis to join Quicksilver at the workshop and add to her ever-blooming collection of vases.  

“I’ve been collecting the bud vases forever,” said the former florist, who also bought a special Heath vase to hold her mother’s ashes. Heath “has always been really precious to me. … It’s timeless.”

A group of people is engaged in a pottery painting workshop, focusing on their individual pieces.
About once a month, Heath Clay Studio on Alabama Street hosts workshops that allow amateur ceramists to make a Heath bud vase of their own. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

After we ogled the glistening vessels coated in rusty red brick and zinnia hues, the studio staff began the class by demonstrating how the vase’s classic curves are cast with a plaster mold. They walked us through how to apply a range of matte and glossy glazes to create various effects—from a chaotic array of crackly-edged “craters” to an orderly display of minimalist, color-blocked hues. 

Depending on the workshop, you can choose to glaze your vase in an in-vogue custardy yellow, like sunflower, or a classic Heath hue, like moonstone or KPFA, a greenish color, which Heath herself formulated for tiles at the Berkeley radio station.

“Welcome to the big, crazy world of glazing,” said studio associate and self-described “glaze specialist” Nora Guergah. “If you want to know what to expect from your bud vase today, I’ll teach you.” 

Two women smiling, one holding a bud vase, inside a room with exposed wooden beams.
Heidi Quicksilver, left, dips a bud vase into a glaze while her friend Liz Bastian looks on. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

But Guergah also predicted that our vases might not emerge from the kiln looking the way we expected them to. Sometimes, the instructor said, even the pro ceramists are surprised by what the amateurs create—“the kind of bud vase that leaves us in a state of torture because we’re like, ‘This is amazing! How did they do this?’”

Once you learn the proper hand-dipping technique—plugging your thumb in the hole at the top of the vase, cradling its bottom with your middle fingers and dunking the vase at various angles in a bucket of glaze for a few seconds—you’re free to layer the glazes as you’d like. The final result is unforeseeable, however, because of the complex chemistry that happens in the kiln once the clay is fired.  

“We won’t be able to tell you what’s exactly going to happen,” Guergah said. “Glazing is not like painting.”

A man in a cap and vest attentively examines a small vase on a table, with an instructor and pottery nearby.
George Zhu looks at a bud vase coated in an ultramarine glaze at Heath Clay Studio during the workshop. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Then again, the bud vases are an incredible canvas for Heath, said Heath Clay Studio Director Tung Chiang. Rather than testing out a new glaze on a larger or hand-thrown piece, studio staff will often use the bud vases as test tiles for previewing a new hue or combination of colors. The workshop also allows the studio’s staff to learn from class attendees’ happy accidents.

“When you have a new audience that have never touched clay or glaze before, they are daring. They make mistakes,” Chiang said. “It’s the mistake that makes them interesting.” 

A collection of colorful ceramic vases of various colors sit on a white surface.
After firing, Heath bud vases from the Hands-on-Heath workshop are ready to go home with their Heath head creators. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

When the bud vases pop out of the kiln a few days later, the results are predictably unpredictable. One vessel has a perfectly spliced triangular design that mimics the pinwheel pattern of a beach ball. Another magically layers hues of blue, green and yellow into a double-winged Venn Diagram. 

Mine had neat slices of deep blue ultramarine and almost forest-green manzanita fading into one another. There was also an unglazed blotch on the side, or clay “peek-a-boo” in Guergah’s words, that looks like a crescent-shaped crater. To my eyes, it looked like a mistake, but to an expert’s, it was just another Heath wonder. 

A blue and green ceramic vase with red flowers sits on a wooden table against a white background.
The good side of the author's finished Heath bud vase from the “Hands-on Heath" workshop. | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

“I think the last dip of manzanita did you in,” Guergah said. But that’s OK. “If they’re perfect, you didn’t have enough fun at the bud vase workshop.”  

The next workshop, “Hands-on Heath: Making a Bud Vase,” hosted by the Heath Clay Studio, happens on April 19 at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. at 555 Alabama St. The workshop costs $150 and includes the bud vase. Visit to sign up.