In which I go through all 63 pages of the Martha Stewart nominees so you don’t have to.
The Martha Stewart American Made Summit is coming up (last year’s recap!) and with that comes voting for the American Made Awards. I have a huge amount of respect for the time and attention devoted to promoting American made across all MSL channels and always look forward to seeing the finalists.
But, there are 63 pages of finalists, and the categories are helpful but not always clear, so I find the user experience to be a bit overwhelming.
To make it a little easier for all of you and to better support my favorite makers, I spent some time going through each and every page this week… and quickly realized many TAE A-List vendors were finalists! As a reminder, the A-list features my favorite brands – brands that I personally buy, recommend and have experienced myself. These are some of my very favorite brands and makers, and I’ll be happily voting for all of these finalists over the next month… I hope you will join me!
You can vote up to 6 times a day, but you do have to register. The A-list nominees, in alphabetical order:
Looks like voting will keep me busy this month! Let me know if you are attending the Summit this year… I haven’t decided yet, but would love to meet you if I do end up going!
*Note – Food purveyors are a huge focus for Martha Stewart but are not included on TAE. I think the craft food movement is incredible and support it as much as I can, but it is not a focus for this site. I also only included true makers as opposed to stores and resellers. If I inadvertently left an A-list brand that is also a finalist for the MSL Awards off of the list, please let me know!
I discovered Heidi Merrick a few years ago – I remember seeing the Huntington dress on Shopbop and falling in love. I don’t even know if I realized that the dress was made in America – but I still remember it, and I still wish I’d bought it. As I started to follow Heidi’s blog and instagram account, I fell more in love with the brand – and the thought and care Heidi puts into her work. I have since added several pieces to my wardrobe – each piece inevitably becomes a favorite, worn again and again.
Heidi graciously agreed to take some time out of her day to meet with me when I was in LA… I was more than a little overwhelmed as I walked into her studio – it can be scary to meet people you’ve admired for so long! But Heidi is amazing. She emanates positive energy – I could have talked to her all day (or just moved into her incredible studio!) and I think about our conversation often. Heidi is incredibly real, smart, gorgeous, funny, and thoughtful – If i didn’t like her so much, it wouldn’t seem fair. What’s more, everything she does is is done with hard work and integrity. She doesn’t pretend her work is easy, or overemphasize it’s importance, but there is a clear mission and purpose behind what she does, and she acts accordingly. I left our meeting inspired and motivated – and just wanting to be better.
I always feel good when I wear Heidi’s clothes – the beautiful fabrics, impeccable cuts, and perfect little details will make anyone look and feel beautiful. But I’m also proud to wear Heidi Merrick – and to support an amazing, inspiring woman and maker. Thank you Heidi, for all that you do, and for taking the time to share your story – and incredible advice – with us!
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND:
My dad makes surfboards – I grew up in a manufacturing family. My parents never compromised – I watched that and learned from it. We lived a beautiful, pure life that they wanted to live. I want the same thing. I want to live a nice life.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
My wedding dress was the first piece I made – my mom sewed it. We draped it and then I shredded the silk organza! Then I went to LA Trade Tech where I learned to make clothes. The collection has grown really naturally over the last 9 years.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The juxtaposition of wearable and beautiful – it can be hard to find in fashion.
WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING?
I know that I will only do this while I want to do it. Life is more important than work.
In fashion, you have a community that is working so hard to make things happen. There are people you’ve worked with over the years that are always so happy to see you – and you find so much in common with people that you wouldn’t have known otherwise. This is the place that I feel most useful – even though so much of my work is done by myself.
WHO DO YOU DESIGN FOR?
My idea of the elevated CA lifestyle. How I want the world to look. What I want women to wear. You can feel like you have a super beautiful, super relaxed life here. You can be resorty in the day and elegant at night.
It’s also always been important to me to have price points that my friends can buy.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER MAKERS & CREATIVES?
You have to be ok with carving your own path. Responsible production takes a lot of constant assessment, you are constantly making and remaking a commitment to yourself.
The best investment you can make is in your domestic life.
Never buy anything less nice than than the nicest thing you own.
While in San Francisco last month I visited the new Heath Ceramics Tile Factory with Alexandra of The Merchant Home. It was fitting that this visit would follow my day at Faribault Woolen Mill; inarguably, Heath has set the standard for reinventing American classics and preserving traditional production methods. The two iconic brands share a similar history and are alike in ethos and meaning; I’d imagine that Faribault today is in a place similar to where Heath was a few years ago.
Heath was founded in 1948 by artist Edith Heath and her husband, Brian, and became known for minimalist tableware and tiles. In 2002, Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic stumbled across the factory while walking in their new neighborhood in Sausalito. The couple were consultants, in industrial design and engineering, respectively, looking ‘to build a more satisfying and tangible design life highlighting designing and making.*‘ Though they thought the factory and the business looked interesting, they also could see that it needed some attention, so they built a plan to preserve the brand while growing the business. In 2004, they purchased the brand from Edith Heath, retaining the 24 employees working at the factory at that time*.
Beautiful, broken bud vases.
Tung’s ceramics collection.
The collection of Heath bud vases.
The entrance to the studio.
Today Heath Ceramics employs over 100 people, and along with the original Sausalito factory, has opened an LA store and design studio, a shop in the Ferry Building, and most recently, a state of the art tile factory, retail space, and design studio in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco.
Alexandra and I had the opportunity to speak with Tung Chiang, the San Francisco Studio Director, in his incredible, light-filled workspace. The Heath Studio serves as a creative space to explore what Heath is and what it can be. The studio is self sufficient but set within the factory to increase interaction between the artistic, manufacturing, and selling processes. Heath is a perfect example of an end-to-end and wholly vertical process – there is no distance between making and selling.
Brand new, state-of-the-art machinery. Donna is petite, but that kiln is enormous. And this tile cutting machine reminded me of a transformer!
Working in the factory. Though the space and machinery is brand new, the process is still primarily the same as it was many years ago. The employees were methodical, attentive, and clearly happy and proud of their work. Likewise, Heath is equally as proud of their people.
Moving the tiles to the drying rack.
Smoothing the edges of the tile. Heath tiles are a little trickier to use than your typical tile due to the inconsistency inherent in hand-finished pieces and are typically installed by experts. Tile specialists at the retail space are available to help customers choose the right tile for their space. Edith Heath hated consistency, particularly in glazing, as it took away from the handmade effect.
Although new colors are the norm for the traditional Heath ceramics (per Tung, color is Heath’s modus operandi), the brand is cautious to add new products. After seeing an opportunity to add candle holders due to the amount of handmade candles sold in Heath shops, Tung worked for an entire year developing candle holders, merging traditional Heath aesthetics with contemporary techniques. At the end of the year, the products were reviewed as an exhibit, in order to evaluate which items worked within the context of the Heath assortment. Along with the new products, prototype sets were also sold to the consumer, as a way to explain what exactly it takes to get to a final, sellable product. To me, this is the absolute fulfillment of Catherine and Robin’s quest to make design tangible. As someone who once worked on monthly product launches and refreshes that were focused on newness and trend as opposed to viability and sustainability, this attention to detail and focus on doing the right thing is astounding and amazing – and likely a driving factor in why Heath has become the incredibly innovative yet still classic brand it is today.
The shop carries the entire Heath line and an incredible assortment of products from like-minded brands : Faribault, Commune, Matteo, Non-Perishable Goods, Iacoli and McAlister, Ladies & Gentleman Studio, Lodge, etc. While you are shopping, or drinking a cup of coffee at the Blue Bottle, you can see the light-filled factory through glass walls, allowing you, the consumer, to feel in touch with the maker and the process.
My favorites from the shop… Garza Marfa leather chairs, test vases by Adam Silverman, the Los Angeles studio Creative Director, traditional white Heath vases. That grey Adam Silverman vase absolutely came home with me.
The San Francisco Factory will also be home to a new, exciting aspect of Heath – a creative campus for artists and makers. Heath has plans to fill the block with creative businesses (currently, Small Trades, an ethical apparel line, The Aesthetic Union, a letterpress studio, and Blue Bottle Coffee have opened); it is designed to foster collaboration and facilitate communication, not unlike the relationship between the design studio and the factory. For this campus, for collaboration opportunities, and for retail products, Heath seeks out brands and businesses that not only fit aesthetically but are also run with a sense of integrity and value-driven goals. This, to me, was one of the most interesting takeaways from this exciting visit – it’s incredible to see a brand like Heath, which can and has aligned with some of the best brands in the world, focusing on developing the community of makers and designers at large.
Heath is an incredible example of what can be – if Faribault served to remind me why focusing on conscious design, production and commerce matter, Heath’s purpose is to teach us all that is possible and what can be. Ten years ago, Catherine and Robin did not intend to turn Heath into what it is today – they thought it was an interesting opportunity that would allow them to make design more tangible. Today, Heath is at the forefront of this movement, and instead of sitting back, the team is focusing it’s collective efforts on strengthening and building the community. That’s pretty amazing. And I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Thank you to Donna Suh and Tung Chiang for taking the time to meet with us, and to Alexandra for setting up this visit!
So excited to share one of my new favorite online shops with you today!
Tina Burgos launched Covet and Lou last fall, after owning a celebrated Boston boutique for ten years. Today, Tina is focused on apparel and home, championing independent designers and giving us access to an incredible collection of vintage goods.
Covet + Lou just released their Spring collection, featuring some A-list labels (giejo!) and several new-to-me favorites… I’m honored to be curating a collection for Tina – check out some of my favorite items (it was not easy to narrow down my selections!) and, if you are interested in knowing whether or not I’ve ever been arrested, read my answers to The Covet + Lou Questionnaire!