Seeking inspiration from marine life in the north east, ceramic artist Nikki Bruce showcases the true essence of home.
These are fast-paced times. We grab our coffee on to go; tap our toes as we wait to cross the road. Stop. Wait. Go.
But choosing to step away from this hectic lifestyle is ceramic artist Nikki Bruce – tucking herself away from it all in the pretty landscapes of Stonehaven, she quietly whiles away hours in her little green shed moulding clay into unique pieces of pottery.
Although Nikki has done her fair share of globetrotting in the hustle and bustle of cities, nothing inspires her like the moody skies and beautiful countryside of the north east.
Nikki grew up in Catterline, a coastal village just 20 miles from Aberdeen. With no preschool in the village, she instead passed most of her early childhood playing along the miles of sandy shores, mixing with the locals and breathing in the fresh, salty sea air. Looking up to her from an early stage, Nikki’s role model was Annette Stephen, a local painter, who had a studio in the local Watch House – a hideaway she once shared with the famous Scottish artist Joan Eardley.
Popping by every so often, Nikki would sit and watch Annette transform a blank canvas into a work of art.
But Nikki had a natural aptitude for the arts, and creativity runs in the veins. ‘My grandmother used to paint and my grandfather was the head gardener at Braemar Lodge. They also had a lovely cottage garden. My mum went on to create beautiful gardens and my dad was a housebuilder.’
Following in her family’s footsteps, Nikki attended Gray’s School of Art, pursuing a degree in 3D design. ‘I got to try a bit of everything. I worked with glass, metal and jewellery, but I eventually felt inclined towards ceramics. I even got the chance to go to Barcelona through the university to go and see all the techniques used out there. After I graduated in 1998, I opened a studio in Catterline at my parents’ place. I sold through various galleries across Scotland.’
After taking a break from art and pursuing various jobs, she moved out to America, but it wasn’t long before she longed to return home, taking her young family back to the north east.
‘When my children Hannah and Bruce started nursery, I had a few hours every day where I had freedom to do my own thing again. I got the kiln wired up and built a large shed in my garden. That was how The Green Shed Studio was born.’
Talking about her style, Nikki says that is has evolved, but 20 years later her regular customers can still identify her work. ‘My inspiration very much comes from marine life and my countryside childhood.
‘My time wandering about on the beach, looking at sea urchins and hermit crabs, also watching my family garden; dipping in and out of memories is what really influences my work. The pretty colours of the stones and shells add texture to my pieces. They are popular and sell well because they’re a wee bit wacky.’
With two kids growing fast Nikki has her hands full, but that certainly doesn’t stop her from pursuing her true passion. She has been part of NEOS, the North East Open Studios, for nine years – a festival that showcases local artists, makers and designers by opening up their studios to the public.
‘The festival really highlights how different everybody’s artistic flair is. People are less intimidated to come up and chat to you when you’re in your studio. They might not go into a gallery and buy something, but they might if they get to see into your studio. Getting to see how something is actually made is an intimate and raw experience – it gives your customers a better understanding of what you do. It’s a nice way to show off your work.’
The good old Scottish weather plays its part, influencing Nikki’s mood when making ceramics. She is looking forward to spending long hours at The Green Shed Studio, preparing for the upcoming NEOS festival that runs from 14 to 23 September this year.
‘With this age of technology, making something with your hands is quite therapeutic. I love turning up the radio and losing track of time.’
Nikki’s ceramics are bold, contemporary pieces that reflect her love of marine life beautifully. As a creative ‘mum-trepreneur’ and artist, she craftily breathes the essence of north east country life into pieces of clay.
Visit Nikki’s Facebook page HERE.