Tableware for Two
Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey, Heath Ceramics
At first they tried to keep things separate. Cathy, 37, an industrial designer with her own firm and clients including Apple, Burton
Snowboard, and Nike, and Robin, 35, an engineer who had worked on everything from movie sets to cell phones, toiled back-to-back in an
office they shared in San Francisco. They were in tight quarters, but they kept one another at arm’s length.
One by one, though, the dividers fell away. They started dating (he tricked her into staying after-hours), shacked up (she took him in after his knee surgery), and eventually merged outfits (their double-threat consultancy made for better pitches).
Still, something was missing. After countless hours spent designing anonymous plastic widgets, Robin would ask Cathy, “What do you want to do with your life?” She’d sigh and answer, “Make clay pots.” Then, on a bike ride in nearby Sausalito, they happened upon Heath Ceramics. Told that the ailing tableware operation—founded by Bauhaus-inspired ceramicist Edith Heath, now 93, whose wares caught the attention of celebrity collectors Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford—would soon be on the auction block, the couple agreed to another joint-venture risk. They floated a loan, purchased the 25-person company, and made good on Cathy’s dream—helming a studio that produces enduring, tactile objects made from the earth itself.
“There’s a lot of confidence that comes from having worked together,” Cathy says. After writing a business plan, nailing down funding, and remodeling a company that embodies an American tradition, “you know how to work things out with each other.”
In the Bedroom
Linda Geiser and Max Geiser, Fold Bedding
Max and Linda Geiser’s professional life sounds like marriage advice: Make the bed together. The couple owns Fold Bedding, a linen company that makes spare, geometric spreads, throws, and pillows. First classmates and then roommates at San Francisco’s California College of Arts and Crafts, they tied the knot in 1999. Then, after searching in vain for bedding that didn’t make them cringe, Max, a furniture designer, and Linda, a textile designer, shelled out $300 for fabric and made a few pillows for a local store. All three sold on the first day, and Fold was born.
Max, 29, and Linda, 28, now sell a range of seasonal bedware—much of it detailed with visible stitching, a Fold trademark—through retailers in eight states. Their roles are pretty clearly defined: Max preps, Linda sews. Still, violating those boundaries is key. “Our designs are the result of hashing them out together,” Max says. “I need to bounce ideas off of Linda to be creative.” And since the arrival of Adam, their 2-year-old son, that hashing happens in some odd places—in line at the supermarket, tubside with the baby, on the road to Grandma’s.
The Geisers give the impression that if they weren’t swamped, they’d be bored. Even Adam occasionally toddles over to the printer and industriously distributes spec sheets as they scroll out of the machine. “We have very little private time,” says Linda, “but we like that.”
Jason Hammer and Kori Gardner, Mates of State
It’s one thing to fall in love, get married, and still hold onto your youth. It’s quite another to fall in love, form a rock band, and tour the world together.
Kori Gardner, 29, and Jason Hammel, 27, did just that. They started dating as fellow guitarists at the University of Kansas in 1997, but both soon returned to their native instruments—keyboards for Kori, drums for Jason—to form Mates of State. Then, in 2001, two weeks before the wedding, they split from their day jobs to do a U.S. tour.
The Mates’ tight, swooping harmonies—part lullaby, part punk anthem—are all over Team Boo, their third CD, released last September on the Polyvinyl label. Not since Yo La Tengo’s Painful has an album better delivered the sound of two bandmates so totally crushed out on each other. So how do they keep the sparks flying onstage when touring means they’re crammed into a van together for weeks at a stretch? “We’ve learned how to drive for hours in silence,” Kori says.
Arrangements like that yield the Mates’ impervious solidarity, even in the face of challenges like love-struck fans. (“We’re over jealousy—that shit’s for weaklings,” Jason says.) And after seven years performing as a duo, they talk with more insight about musicianship than most couples do about matrimony. “We’re good at communicating with each other, and that’s so important for a band,” Kori says. To say nothing of a marriage.
Chris Johansson and Jo Jackson, Visual Artists
Both Chris Johanson, 35, and Jo Jackson, 32, took their sweet time before breaking the artists-don’t-date rule. They met at a San Francisco bookstore, then spent six years alternately ignoring and fighting with one another, all the while nursing a secret crush.
Mutual artistic respect finally brought their feelings to the surface. The New York Times called Johanson’s sprawling sculptures and annotated paintings of crude figures “an engagement with New Age thinking—both spoofing it and embracing it.” Jo’s review would probably have read more like “cute and virile.” And her paintings—precise, flat silhouettes of birds, water, and other forms—“seemed really damaged, which attracted me,” Chris says. After collaborating for an art auction in Los Angeles, the pair’s stare-down finally turned to hookup. They married last year and bought a home in Portland, Oregon.
Chris’s work made the national stage in 2002 when it was selected by the Whitney Biennial. That might have pushed a lesser couple into rarefied, air-kissing ranks, but Johanson and Jackson’s work remains focused on the social themes the two have always pursued. Together with 30 other artists and writers, the couple recently produced illustrations for A Place Called the Universe, an alternative-education textbook for Portland grade-schoolers. Despite intersecting creative careers, the couple’s greatest disagreements these days are domestic. “Mostly when we fight,” Jo says, “it’s because Chris won’t let us get a tiny dog.”