Grace Nickel has a BFA in Ceramics from the University of Manitoba (1980) and has participated in three Ceramic Residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts. In 1991 she discovered paper clay at the Banff Centre. She has been using paper clay ever since to create sculptural ceramics. Nickel has exhibited extensively (including Japan, New Zealand and Taiwan) and has been successful in a number of overseas competitions. She was given the Bronze Award at the 2nd International Ceramics Competition '89 in Mino, Japan. She has also had works accepted into The Fletcher Challenge Ceramics Award in Auckland, New Zealand and was shown in the 1992 International Invitational Exhibition of Ceramic Art in Taipei, Taiwan where her work was purchased for the National Museum of History. In the summer of 1999, Grace travelled to Australia where she was invited to demonstrate her work in paper clay and to present the work of Manitoba's ceramic community in a slide lecture at the 9th National Ceramic Conference in Perth. In 2000 Nickel won a Judge's Special Award in the prestigious Sixth Taiwan Golden Ceramics Awards competition. The Taipei County Yingko Ceramics Museum subsequently purchased Nickels award-winning piece for its permanent collection.
Grace Nickel has developed a number of architectural installations, including Meditation Window (St. Norbert Arts Centre in Manitoba, 1992), Sanctuary, (NCECA in Minneapolis, USA, 1995) and A Quiet Passage, a solo exhibition (Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2002). Nickel also works on site-specific commissions, including tile installations and sculptural lighting for public and private architectural spaces. In 1999 she created a site-specific architectural tile triptych for Winnipegs City Hall in honour of the Pan Am Games that were held in Winnipeg that year.
Nickel's work appears in many public and private collections around the world. In Canada her work is included in the Claridge Collection in Montreal, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Government of Manitoba collection. Her work also appears in a number of corporate collections. In 2002 the Winnipeg Art Gallery nominated Nickel for the Sadie Bronfman Award, the most prestigious award for fine craft in Canada.
“My work can be divided into three categories that are distinct but not unrelated. The work all springs from a common vantage point, my on-going fascination with natural forms, patterns, and surfaces, and more recently with classical architectural motifs, many of which are stylized interpretations of nature. Inspired by this imagery, using the ceramic medium, I seek to express a sense of life's cyclical nature. ”
Vessels“My first path involves an ongoing exploration of the vessel form. The vessel tradition is one of the oldest in ceramics, and although I may temporarily veer off this path to travel on another, I inevitably return to it. It is the relationship of the vessel to the human body, its form and its ability to gather and contain, that continues to inspire me. The vessel form provides me with unlimited opportunities for sculptural interpretation and embellishment.”
Public & Private Commissions“The second path leads me to investigate the possibilities of architectural installation. This often takes the form of site-specific commissions for public spaces or private homes. For instance, I have completed several projects consisting of sculptural light sconces for indoor or outdoor locations. The light sconces are designed for either electric lighting or candlelight, and they are usually constructed of a combination of clay and glass.”
Ceramic Tiles“A third path of inquiry inspires me to look at the history of ceramic tile and to consider its potential for contemporary interpretation and application. My tile work takes the form of either custom-designed commissioned work, or self-directed projects. Recently I have begun to create a series of heritage tiles that are based on architectural motifs that embellish many of Winnipeg's historic buildings. These tiles pay tribute to our rich architectural legacy, and that they will help draw attention to one of our city's greatest assets.”