When I travel, I rarely buy “souvenirs” – objects or maybe t-shirts that are specifically manufactured or altered for a tourist to take home, typically with the location’s name prominently displayed. Instead I prefer to buy something that is manufactured or handcrafted locally, and something that is actually useful. In this list I would include my espresso maker from Italy, a mate gourd and silver straw from Argentina and bath towels from Turkey.
When friends come to San Francisco, they often ask for suggestions for something to take home. I answer without hesitation – Heath Ceramics. This company has been making ceramics in the Bay Area since 1948 – and their wares are as beautiful as they are functional. My favourite espresso cup and saucer (happily sharing a shelf with the Italian espresso maker in my kitchen – a model of international cooperation) are from Heath.
Their very cool and minimalist showroom is now open on 18th Street in Potrero – well worth a visit to peruse the simple and elegant dinnerware, vases, and cups, as well as other locally produced flatware, cutting boards, candles, etc. …none of them embossed with “Fisherman’s Wharf”. Heath also offers tours of the factory on the 3rd Friday of every month – see the website for details. If you are really ambitious, they also manufacture gorgeous tiles; maybe just what you need to redo your kitchen when you get home. There is also a retail location at the Ferry Building and over the bridge in Sausalito.