Rachel Ballard Nicholson is a sculptor, educator, and realtor.  Born in Charlotte, NC to a painter and middle school teacher, Nicholson comes from a household that emphasized the importance of creativity, community involvement, and education. 

She earned her BFA in Ceramics and BS in Art Education from Appalachian State University in 2011. This propelled her to gain real-world experience working as a studio assistant to artists, Beth Cavener, Cristina Cordova, and Bob Meier. She went on to earn an MFA from Georgia State University in 2017 and has been an invited artist-in-residence at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts. Her sculptural ceramic work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, NCECA, and the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts. 

She currently teaches for Atlanta Public Schools, where she has built and developed the curriculum for a middle school Digital Arts program. Her students learn how to create a variety of digital media projects including graphic design, photography, 3D printing, and animation. Nicholson has recently entered the Real Estate world in order to better provide for her family and to set an example for fellow artists and former students. There’s more than one path to success. Through her experience and enthusiasm, she hopes to motivate and lead other artists to become creative entrepreneurs. 

Rachel Ballard Nicholson is married and lives in Smyrna, GA with her family. She spends her free time working in her studio, growing vegetables, and fly-fishing with her husband.

Artist Statement

I use clay, in its various stages, as a means of exploration and understanding of femininity, trauma, and craft. 

​Recently, my sculptural works have evolved into obnoxiously cute creatures. The “schmoopies” are my way of rebelling against unmonumental trends in both contemporary art and craft. They are an exaggerated amalgamation of predictable, cute, kitsch objects. Sianne Ngai writes, “There can be no experience of any person or object as cute that does not somehow call up the subject’s sense of power over those who are less powerful.” The “schmoopies” are no exception. These small doe-eyed creatures may appear innocent at first glance, but a quiet defiance and strength stir beneath their sparkling glazed surfaces.

Video animates concepts and narratives that cannot be contained in a static object. The creation of the character, Amber Fine Sparkle gives me the opportunity to insert a direct sense of humor into the work. Named after an aventurine glaze by acclaimed ceramist, Lisa Orr, Amber Fine Sparkle highlights the tendency to fetishize technique within the craft community. With her porcelain cream dress, lumpy clay glasses, childlike enthusiasm, and obsessive expertise in ceramics, Amber allows me to embody and simultaneously tease that fetish through satire. Her character represents a duality and struggle within myself to embrace my southern craft-centric roots while also working to push beyond them into a broader art context.