Tung Chiang, a gifted designer and ceramist, is the director of the Heath Clay Studio in San Francisco. With a career that spans graphic design and advertising in Hong Kong, studying furniture design at Art Center in Pasadena, and industrial design in San Francisco, Tung’s career has been an evolution from 2D to 3D, toward a fusion of thinking, designing, and making.
All along, he nurtured his long-standing interest in ceramics and built his skills as a potter, throwing pots late into the night whenever he could. Tung's work for Heath and on his own is immensely popular, and has found a place in the hearts and collections of discerning ceramics fans.
Tung works with our design and manufacturing teams on shapes, glazes, and processes, mentors the design team, and works on collaborations with artists near and far. In addition, he continues his own explorations, creating work that’s displayed and sold at Heath’s San Francisco showroom and the Boiler Room SF.
For example, every year since 2013, Heath Clay Studio Director Tung Chiang has explored a single subject in depth — through form, glaze technique, color, and even the way objects relate to one another. In 2018, he presented a collection called: How Big is Small? These 140 mini treasures, no more than six inches tall, were extracted from molds in basic form, with pieces are hand-altered and individually enhanced, resulting in a collection of related, yet one-of-a-kind objects that celebrate the skillful art of mold-making, while examining the boundary between one-offs and editions. Each piece is both miniature and gigantic, embodying personality that far outweighs its size, with nuance that delights — and functions that surprise.
Chiang’s most recent show in SF is a union between Finnish-American furniture designers Artek and Heath. Their Limited Edition Collection invokes Tung’s passion for designs that move seamlessly between museum and household and, not surprisingly, famous architect and designer Alvar Aalto, whose furniture is at the heart of the Artek range, designed many of his pieces just like this.
The collection includes the Stool 60 Nesting Set, which combines Alvar Aalto's iconic Stool 60 with colors inspired by Heath. "The beauty of color, central to both Heath and Artek, ties together two companies, two continents, and the resulting collaboration," says Chiang. "With 2018 marking 70 years of Heath, the three stools, in three heights, have been brought to life in three colors — rosemary, pumpkin, and moonstone — inspired by our classic and refreshed 2018 Coupe dinnerware palette."
Another product of the collaboration is the Tea Trolley, originally designed in 1937 by Alvar Aalto. "The Tea Trolley 900 is a distinctive, functional, and versatile marriage of material and form: the circular wheels and square top, the richness of the Finnish birch wood, and the woven basket," Chiang explains. "With typical emphasis on the wheel, we excitedly went to the top, highlighting an area that celebrates something we know very well: ceramic tile. We have over 30 tile sizes and over 100 glazes. Respecting the original 16-tile design of the Tea Trolley, we chose the shape (very close to Artek’s original size), and thought we’d bring a range of glazes forward that represent the history of Heath — past and present." Chiang designed a total of 36 trolleys with varying gorgeous colors of tile work for this collection.