Type ‘Valerie Restarick’ in the google machine and you won’t come up with much. It’s not because she hasn’t been working away making really beautiful ceramics for the last fifteen years from her little studio in North Carlton; it’s because she has a genuine dislike for self-promotion. It took a little bit of arm twisting and a little bit of wooing (by way of lemons, giant zucchinis and garden picked roses) that she agreed to sit down and have a chat about her work for Hotel Hotel.
Having gone to the National Gallery School in Melbourne (where she hung out amongst the urban art and intellectual crowd surrounded by the likes of Germaine Greer; complete with her long hair, duffel coat and black stockings, trying not to be pegged as a “chalkie” (someone studying to be a teacher – apparently one of the worst insults that could be flung in the arts scene) and having studied under John Bracks; you’d think that Valerie knew early on that ceramics was her thing. It wasn’t until a few years after her schooling however that she was asked to throw some pots for a Communist fundraiser in England… Obligingly, Comrade Restarick agreed and quickly came to the realisation that she couldn’t throw for shit (yes, there is hope for us all). So she took up ceramics at night school and quickly became possessed by her love for the wheel.
Whilst Valerie’s works share some intrinsic qualities, they are also very different one from the other. Some of her works are magnificently organic forms, lovely bowls with simple glazes; they are peaceful and humble and honest. Then you meet her sculptures of Palestinian women – Valerie’s quiet but intense protest of the injustices of the Israeli-Palestine conflict… And her pots covered in political graffiti… These are disruptive. And then there are my favourites, her pieces depicting animals. These are the works that first drew me to Valerie for their primal, shamanic quality.
“Whenever I get stressed sometimes. Say I’ve been out and had a big fight with someone in the street; I get back and throw some pots and it calms me…It’s the movement of the wheel and the clay,” Valerie explains. “It’s mesmerising, it puts you in an altered state… Is that too dramatic? You do a lot of things that you’re not aware of in that state.”
Hearing Valerie’s process/raison de créer the dots are joined between her seemingly disconnected works. They are reflections of her moods: at times meditative and peaceful, at times fiercely political, and at times primal.
For us, Valerie has made some lovely, organic pinch pots for things like salt and pepper and jams and what not. Each one is a simple little individual that has been made using different clays with a bare minimum of glazes. And display holders; little hand formed cubes made from a mix of a Japanese sandy clay, black and brown raku clays, and her own textured recipe.
I am also gunning for one of Valerie’s dog heads (see below…) that I think would make an excellent addition to the Hotel Hotel bounty; as guardian to the front desk.