Heath Ceramics’ Stan Bitters collection is a line of sculptural tiles that highlight sculptor Stan Bitters’ unique, rugged style. The offerings shine a light on the aesthetic appeal of clay and the versatility of the raw material in creating a striking final product. The rougher relief in each piece allows every user to interpret the tile on their own, whether it be a reminder of the cracks in a natural stone wall or varying heights in a city skyline. The tile allows for the creation of a work of art—not just means for covering a wall. In an exclusive Q+A with i+s, Heath Ceramics’ creative director Catherine Bailey goes into detail about the distinct Bitters style that shines through in the collection.
When was the collection developed?
The seed for the Stan Bitters Tile Collection was planted when we did a large show of Stan’s work at Heath San Francisco in 2014. We worked with Stan over the next few years to ensure the spirit of his work was captured in our tiles. To do this we needed to develop a thicker tile and also wanted to incorporate our new recycled clay into the project. We did early production in late 2017 and the tiles are now ready to order.
What was the inspiration behind the Stan bitters Collection?
We admire Stan’s career, his legacy in defining ceramics as an art form, his shaping of the organic modernist movement of the 1960s, and helping to solidify its place in California’s architecture. From the monolithic scale of his installations seen throughout California to his incredibly tactile approach to materials, Stan’s design approach complements ours: celebrating the characteristics of material and applying a process that creates something equally beautiful and functional. This rugged and bold collection inspires new, artistic ways of thinking about tile and enables wildly creative installations, indoors and out.
We have history with Stan. In 2014, we hosted his first solo show in 35 years, “Modern Primitive,” in our Boiler Room. You’ve seen his work in our showrooms, from large thumb pots (named for the visible finger impressions he leaves) to iconic ceramic bird feeders. With our strong ties to California and desire to push the boundaries of ceramics, it was certain our paths would cross again.
What was the biggest hurdle in bringing this collection to life?
It was all about figuring out the perfect pattern and size to capture the essence of Stan’s jagged aesthetic. Our design and production teams were incredibly (and many times literally) hands-on when making this tile. Taking cues from Stan’s use of wooden beams to manually apply texture to the clay, we got physical: experimenting with hammering techniques, stepping on frames on top of soft clay, and pressing and cutting on our tile cookie cutter.
How was the initial response?
Great. We’re excited that architects and interior designers are planning some projects around the new tiles; we can’t wait to see the finished designs.
What is the most impressive project featuring the tile?
We love our first installation at designer Adam Brosley’s home. The project features a stunning floor-to-ceiling installation of a fireplace completely clad in the textured tile. It is the central design feature in the designer’s living space.
What is your hope for the Stan Bitters collection?
We look forward to seeing adventurous installations with this tile given its size, thickness, and texture. We hope it brings broader appreciation to the work and style that Stan Bitters has achieved through his large installations and art pieces. We think an indoor/outdoor living space would be an exciting application.
What’s something people don’t know about the line?
Many of the tile colors are produced on our new Recycled Clay body, which is comprised of recycled clay and reclaimed waste material from our San Francisco tile factory. It’s important for our sustainability goals and results in great variation which, when designed into a project, can be beautiful.