ALABAMA CHANIN X HEATH JEWELRY: MATERIALS + PROCESS

On the heels of our Alabama Chanin x Heath Ceramics jewelry collaboration, we spoke with Rosalie Wild, Product Designer at Heath Ceramics, who gives us a more in-depth look at the hand-etched Alabama Chanin jewelry line, how it’s made, and how the materials are sourced.

AC: Are the bars themselves produced from ceramic “scraps”?

RW: The bars are made in a similar fashion to our field tile, cut from an extruded “ribbon” of clay. This is done in our SF tile factory using a simple jig and a cutter (it looks kind of like a dough scraper), that ensures each “bar” is the same size. Then we bring the bars back to our Sausalito factory, where the jewelry team (which is 3 people who also have other roles in the factory) drill the holes in the bars, glaze, etch, fire, and assemble the necklaces. Unfortunately these are not scraps, but I love that idea! The origin of Edith Heath’s interest in beads and buttons was as “kiln fillers.” The material wasn’t scrap, but they get fired in small areas of the kiln that would otherwise be empty, so they get sort of a “free ride” in the process, making our production more efficient.

AC: The colors and finishes convey so much depth and beauty in each piece. What can you tell us about the glazing process?

RW: They are glazed by hand. The glaze is sprayed on, as is the case for most of our dinnerware and tile. These beads take extra care and finesse since they are so small, and getting the right amount of glaze on all four surfaces of the bead is challenging. Mel and Winnie, our special glazing team, glaze all of the beads for our jewelry. Then Celeste, our lead etcher, does the etched designs on each bead by hand, one at a time, without a template. I think it’s nice to note that this kind of design, which wraps around the bead continuously, could only really be done by hand, which is what makes our small scale of production unique.

AC: We love the details. What materials are the accent and spacing beads made of?

RW: The spacer beads are made of brass. Originally I started making the necklaces with some vintage beads I got at a flea market, and once we started scaling up the production, I found a small producer in Turkey (on Etsy, believe it or not!) who makes a huge range of brass beads and was able to find a good match to what I was using. I’d love to find someone domestically someday for these beads but as of yet, no luck.

Read back on the Journal for our Q&A with Heath co-founder Cathy to see what the company is up to.

Learn more here about Heath’s manufacturing process—with a focus on design, function, and handcrafted work.

Shop the exclusive jewelry line only at AlabamaChanin.com and The Factory in Florence.

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