Born in Sète (south of France) in 1925, Valentine Schlegel enjoyed a carefree childhood, and her creative talents began with roaming through her father’s carpentry and upholstery workshop, his boat, and the beach. In 1942, the young Valentine entered the Beaux-Art in Montpellier and within a few weeks of her enrollment, the gifted student skipped ahead to her 4th year. She worked for the first Avignon Performing Arts Festivals as an assistant costume designer, prop specialist, and eventually chief stage manager. In 1945 Schlegel moved to Paris and discovered ceramics. These works were inspired by nature, and the native Mediterranean landscapes of her hometown. She also experimented with materials common to her surroundings, such as wood and leather. Her primitive yet sophisticated sculptures/objects made her one of the most important ceramists of the 50s.
Juggling her time between Paris and the south of France, Schlegel continued to develop her constantly changing art practice. She eventually mastered several techniques; producing everyday objects with sculptural shapes that include wooden flatware, ceramic vases, leather bags, and plaster fireplaces. Designed without any inherent hierarchy, and often in collaboration with the artist’s friends, this body of work is made up of objects that range in size and use, from the fantastic to the quotidian.
In 1960, Schlegal began to focus more on architectural elements for the home. Working in plaster, her own house has become the best example of her sculptural fantasy world. She viewed interiors as another natural realm, full of surprises, reflections, and shapes. She was now working in a new scale, but her work continued to evoke humanity and real emotion, just like everything else she touched.