Nina Aubé

Shop Nina's ornaments
Hallmark Artist Nina Aube
Kitten and Birdhouse ornament

Nina Aubé finds the inspiration for her collection of ornaments all around her. Wherever she goes, she usually jots down ideas on a notepad that she keeps on hand. Nina loves spending time with family, friends and her beloved pets, which appear in many of her ornaments.

Hometown and school: I was born and raised in the Chicago metropolitan area until I was 12; then I moved to a suburb of Chicago. I studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and graduated with a B.F.A. in design and illustration.

Inspiration: Everything! I really do believe you can find inspiration in practically anything; you just have to be open to it. And I’ve discovered ideas can strike at anytime—while watching my pets at play, from the cute things my two awesome grandnieces say and do or from a funny post on Facebook.

I also love to travel. Touring new places is always inspiring. When I traveled to Germany several years ago, I was so awestruck by its beauty, charm and history that for a while after that trip, everything I designed had a European flair. So that year, a snowman I sculpted can be seen sporting an Alpine hat complete with a feather, and the Christmas Window series featured a Bavarian-style sweet shoppe. I just traveled to China for the first time last fall, so look for Asian-inspired influences and colors in my future work.

Gingerbread House ornament
Strawberry Friends ornament

Themes I’m drawn to: I am a huge animal lover, so animals figure prominently…especially tiny animals. I grew up in the city in apartments where only smaller pets were allowed, so we always had birds, gerbils, hamsters and even a guinea pig named Charlie. I spent many hours making clothes, tiny furniture and shadowbox settings for my little pets. I loved making up fun stories about how little characters deal with living in a big world. Guess I’m still playing out those whimsical childhood fantasies as an adult.

Another major recurring theme for me: babies and kids. I love finding unique ways to capture their sweet expressions and special moments. And it’s always rewarding hearing how collectors enjoy celebrating their own family milestones with my designs.

Best advice: “Be authentic and follow your passions. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

Happy place (when I’m being creative): When developing a new concept, I work best alone in a quiet space with no music or distractions. My best ideas seem to come to me late at night when it’s quiet and still. Once I have the basic idea figured out, I like to sculpt while listening to something in the background, like music or the TV. I also like bouncing ideas around in a group setting with my fellow artists…it’s important to give and receive new points of view.

Favorite work of art (so far): Aww…that’s like picking a favorite child! I’ll say 1999 Best Pals is probably my all-time favorite, as it depicts Santa playing with many of the pets I have personally known and loved.

As for recent faves:

1. The Cookie Cutter Mouse series. This series really celebrates the whimsical childhood fantasies I’ve described above.

2. 2013 Baby’s First Christmas Photo Holder ornament. (It’s a frame with a sweet baby cardinal in a nest holding a rattle.) I was very pleased with the way this piece turned out, but what makes this one particularly meaningful is that I was able to give it to my nephew Colin and his wife Marie to commemorate the birth of their first child, Lily Mei.

Sleeping Mouse in Star ornament
Mouse Snow Angel ornament

When I’m not working: I’m very close to my mom, two sisters, niece and four nephews and their spouses. Most of them still live in the Chicago area, so I visit there often. We usually celebrate Christmas all together—mostly by eating, catching the latest movies, playing board games and more eating. My two eldest nephews became parents to the cutest little girls in the universe recently; I love photographing them and capturing their sweet faces and silly antics (for future design reference).

For fun, I love movies, junking/antiquing, going to First Fridays (I collect old dolls, toys and anything else that strikes my fancy). I also love to travel as I mentioned before…particularly to any warm place with a beach!

Here in KC I have a great group of friends whom I enjoy hanging out with. We love to go dancing, karaoke-ing, checking out new restaurants and taking day trips.

And I love playing with my three parrots: Opie, Chewy and Mouse. I’m thinking about getting a fourth bird, but holding off for fear of crossing over into crazy bird lady territory.

See the Nina Aubé Keepsake Ornament collection

Fun Fact


“The inspiration for the Cookie Cutter Christmas series was my love for baking and sweets. I still use my grandmother’s old aluminum cookie cutters, so that was the inspiration for the little shadow boxes where the characters live.”

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