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Creating cards that make you smile

Nancy Bignell's work shows artistry at an early age


SUBMITTED PHOTO - Nancy Grace Bignell can make people smile with her greeting cards. Only 16 years old, her cards are selling well at two locations in Lake Oswego.

All the inspiration Nancy Grace Bignell needs for her art comes when she wakes up in the morning.

Immediately, the images she uses for her greeting cards come floating in. Just 16 years old, the Lakeridge High School sophomore is well on her way on her career as a card maker. Her cards are on sale in Lake Oswego at On A Whim Studios and Wishbone Home & Design.

Mentioning her success makes Bignell start bubbling.

“I was always the designated card maker for the family,” Bignell said. “My family said, ‘You could do this.’ I thought, ‘Maybe I could.’”

Her career started in a roundabout way when she and her mom went to On A Whim Studios on Third Street. Her main objective was to buy one of the delicious cookies sold by the shop, but she happened to mention that she liked making cards.

“When they said they needed more cards, I said, ‘My gosh! I’ll make you some,’” Bignell said.

Bignell’s work impressed owner Deborah Ulrich, who always keeps an eye out for talent, even in one as young as 16 years old.

Examining one of Bignell’s cards with a bicycle on the front, Ulrich said, “Who can’t look at this and smile?”

Bignell’s greeting cards have an artistry that Ulrich admires.

“I love the simplistic graphics that still express emotions,” Ulrich said. “Not only her graphics but her layouts are very artistic. The bottom line for the cards we have here is: Does it sell and do people enjoy it?

“The advantage Nancy has at her age is that she has a great work ethic, and not all teenagers have one. Not many of them have enough discipline to run their own businesses. Nancy always has cards ready when we need them.”

Wishbone Home & Design co-owner Kim Nilles feels the same way about Bignell.

“Nancy Grace brought some of her cards over for one of our events,” Nilles said, “and I thought she was really talented. I asked her to have her cards here full time, and they’ve been really successful. They’re so fun and playful and they’re all her own design. I like local talent, especially someone so young and innovative.”

Bignell experienced artistic recognition when she was just 8 years old and won the poster contest for the Lake Oswego Fire Department. Her reward was a ride on a fire truck and to have her poster put up all over town. Bignell’s poster was so remarkable that it is still displayed by the department eight years later.

Now, Bignell draws whatever she likes on her cards, such as bicycles, bunnies, puppies, fish and even her cousins. She takes her work for printing at Blue Print (which she describes as awesome) and she signs every card with “Cards by Nancy Grace.”

Bignell is experiencing a happy and successful high school career. She runs cross country and track, volunteers with children with Down syndrome, and is a member of the Lakeridge Student Council. She likes to do volunteer work with her mother, and on Saturday’s she works as a tea maid at Lady Di’s British Store & Tea Shop.

Still, all of her activities don’t crowd out Bignell’s time for art. She is even giving thought to making it her future.

“I could try a lot of things,” Bignell said. “Maybe working with kids in art or maybe pursuing a career as an artist.”

For now, Bignell is happy as a greeting card designer. With this being a season of holidays, her work is in high demand.

“My cards are doing really well,” Bignell said.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Nancy Grace Bignell keeps making lots and lots of cards because people keep buying them. Her artistry and humor are big selling points.