Carol McNicoll is one of a group of female artists who transformed the British ceramics scene in the 1970s. She studied fine art at Leeds Polytechnic and was awarded a Princess of Wales Scholarship to attend Royal College of Art from 1970 to 1973, where she felt women were "marginalised" and "attention went to the men who were interested in industrial ceramics".
Her animated ceramic works are conceived to exist in the internal domestic sphere, while also taking on external elements of the world, through her composite sculptures using inventive modelling and moulding techniques, transfers and found objects. McNicoll says of her work "I am entertained by making functional objects which are both richly patterned and comment on the strange world we have created for ourselves." Recent work has been constructed from slipcast and found objects such as toy soldiers, using commercial and self-made transfer decoration.
Prior to this she worked as a machinist for fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, who in 1972 commissioned her to make a unique dinner set, consisting of pink coffee cups with hands for saucers. McNicoll also designed and made stage costumes for Roxy Music. Her black cockerel feathered boa collar achieved an iconic status in the fledgling glamrock period.
McNicoll has designed collections for Next Interiors and Axis Diffusion amongst others, lectured at various institutions and has exhibited widely, both in the UK and internationally. In 2001 she was short-listed for the Jerwood Prize for Ceramics and a major Crafts Council retrospective of her work toured the UK from 2003 - 2005.