Over the last five years, our work with Cathy Bailey and Robin Petravic has been some of the most productive, exciting, and meaningful work that we’ve had the opportunity to do. Robin and Cathy are husband and wife, parents to Jasper, writers of the new book, Tile Makes the Room, and the owners and operators of Heath Ceramics. Cathy was an early member of our Makeshift initiative and has participated in almost every major Makeshift event since its inception. Our ongoing collaboration with Heath is one of our proudest (and longest lasting) joint design ventures. And throughout the process, Cathy has become a trusted friend.

Prior to her work at Heath, Cathy founded One & Co., a design consultancy with clients like Microsoft, Palm, and Apple. (Prior to THAT, she worked as a footwear designer at Nike in Portland.) In 2004, she and Robin purchased and rehabilitated Heath Ceramics, founded by Edith Heath in 1948 and run by Edith and her family until Edith was in her 80s. When they made the purchase, both were searching for more satisfying outlets for designing and making—and found that at Heath, which required hands-on work to revive and preserve, while keeping the original design aesthetic intact.


Cathy now spends her days as Heath’s creative director, vision strategist, and practical mind. She has a hand in everything—design concepts, public relations, and company vision making. Heath has become a leader in design, local manufacturing, and responsible business practices. Cathy and Robin built a holistic business model that integrated designing, making, and selling. They boosted productivity by creating a supportive community of local makers. They also streamlined offerings to re-establish classic, signature Heath pieces and product lines—and partnered with other designers and makers with similar responsible missions (like Alabama Chanin).

Cathy and Robin have worked diligently to ensure that Edith Heath’s vision of beautiful, functional products, survives. They have a great respect for craft and technique and want to preserve their industry’s maker skill set. This year, Heath Ceramics was recognized as one of the 11 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum National Design Award winners—for excellence in corporate and institutional achievement.

Lately, I have been asking myself questions about my own creative processes—what works, what doesn’t, and how to spark inspiration. As part of this exploration, I turned to Cathy—who I respect from both a design and personal perspective—with some questions about her own creative point-of-view and sources of inspiration.


AC: Do you have any creative rituals?

CB: Not really rituals, but things that I do when I need to balance my head and allow me to move forward—like the five lakes trail in the Alpine Meadows Valley, views, colors, and exertion both clear my head from the noise and fills it with colors and balance allow me to move forward.

AC: What makes you curious?

CB: Old buildings of enduring quality. From medieval fortresses to turn of the century homestead cabins and everything in-between. Why did they build it this way, what functions were intended to happen, what people spent their time there, did the space make them happy, was it appreciated, how was it built, why did it survive?

AC: What do you daydream about?

CB: My puppy, Oliver. He’s dreamy.

AC: What are your favorite things to do? What do you distinctly NOT like to do?

CB: I like to think about visions and creative possibilities; I love to work through the design process with my creative team. I love seeing shows and products take space, helping guide them to be beautiful and longstanding. I do not like to do my email…. it’s a constant distraction from a good creative flow.

AC: Who do you define as a visionary?

CB: Just having spent some time in Barcelona, I think Gaudi’s work was quite visionary. But also those who created the urban planning of the Eixample (extension of the old walled city). This plan conceived in the 1850’s truly creates one of the most functional and wonderful urban environments today.

Photos courtesy of Heath Ceramics and Rinne Allen


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  1. Kerry Ann Dame

    Loved this article….I’ve always loved the classic Heath Ceramics shapes and colors, and love the new designs too…now I see why! I’m just beginning the process of producing fabrics in the USA, working with an older mill. One of the concerns in the industry is the talent and knowledge that will be lost as mills have closed. It is amazing to meet firsthand folks who have worked in textiles their whole lives and can guess the content of a fabric by looking at it. Not everything can be replicated by machines, the continuity of knowledge is part of our strength as a country and economy. Inspiring story, thank you!