2009-11-25 / Front Page

Local artist wins international award for greeting card design

By Eileen M. Daly

Shirley Bell Shirley Bell Local artist Shirley Bell never really expected to win the prestigious Louie Award when she submitted her dragonfly tree holiday card for consideration, but that’s exactly what happened.

Bell, who began painting 25 years ago, started making and selling greeting cards in 2006.

“I designed the cards using reproductions of my images surrounded by a frame. There is a lot of white space and that creates a unique look,” Bell said.

A nationally known watercolorist, Bell attributes her inspiration to the simplicity of Chinese and Japanese art, as well as to the coastal images that surround her here in Jamestown.

“I do really well with my coastal images,” she said.

In the beginning, Bell said, she took the cards on the road, visiting museums and mostly selling them in museum gift shops. Eventually, she learned to use the Photoshop program and put together a catalog.

At left is the “dragonfly tree” design for which Bell won a Louie Award. Image courtesy of Shirley Bell At left is the “dragonfly tree” design for which Bell won a Louie Award. Image courtesy of Shirley Bell “I did it all myself,” she said.

Bell sent the catalog out to a number of different companies and eventually developed enough sales representatives to make her company successful. Still, she hesitated to submit an entry to the Louie Awards.

“It is a really prestigious competition and all of the big companies like Hallmark are involved,” she said. Finally, she decided to submit one image – that of the dragonfly tree, she said. She submitted the image in two categories, one of which was the “rising star” category.

Surprised to hear that she was chosen as a finalist, Bell said she traveled to New York City to hear the final results.

“The award ceremony is coordinated with the big New York stationery show that is held at the Javits Center. They hold the Louie Award ceremony the night before the show opens. It’s a really big deal. A black tie event, it almost feels like the Oscars,” she said.

Bell attended the ceremony and learned that she had, indeed, won first place in the “rising star” category.

“They call your name, and I went up and received a beautiful crystal award,” she said.

Considered the highest honor in the greeting card industry for creative publishing excellence, the Louie Award recognizes the most outstanding cards marketed in the United States during the previous year. It is an international competition, Bell said, open to all domestic and foreign greeting card publishers.

“It was nice to win the award. It brings attention and it’s great for business,” she said.

Bell’s work, including the award-winning card, is available at Jamestown Designs, where owners Deborah Swistak and her sister, Carol Anderson, have long been fans of Bell’s work.

“Shirley gets her inspiration from nature,” Swistak said. “Her theme is beauty, nature, peace, and that about sums up Shirley’s personality.”

Anderson agreed with her sister’s description of Bell.

“Shirley is an inspiration to everyone,” she said.

Swistak and Anderson will host a reception honoring Bell for winning the award this Saturday, Nov. 28, from 1 to 3 p.m., Swistak said.

In addition to her holiday cards, Bell also has a line of children’s cards that she started just last year.

“The reps suggested that I make some children’s cards because there was a real need,” she said. “It’s really been a lot of fun. You can play a lot more with children’s cards.”

Bell’s line of children’s cards features a whimsical quality with a touch of humor, she said. One of her more successful children’s designs is a little girl mermaid holding an open lobster trap with a lobster crawling out.

“The lobster has a big smile because the girl mermaid is setting him free,” Bell said.

Bell also offers framed reproductions of her paintings, business card holders and gift cards that are all available for sale at Jamestown Designs.

Living and working in Jamestown as an artist is a wonderful experience, Bell said.

“This is such a wonderful community and so supportive of artists. I hear from people all of the time. They tell me that they love my cards or that they are the only cards that they buy. It just makes me feel wonderful and I want them to know how nice it is to hear from them. It makes me feel so good,” Bell said.

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