For a Philadelphia transplant going on her first nine months as a Southerner, Kristen Solecki has made quite a mark on the Holy City. And what a playful stamp it is: With a background in illustration, Solecki’s always-handmade work is characterized by bright colors, strong lines, and striking subjects that run the gamut from animals (mostly sneaky ones, like foxes and owls) to distinctive city skylines. Her work is popping up in specialty stores, like mac & murphy and Poe Studio, and she’s got commissions for weeks. You can even see her rendition of Edgar Allan Poe hanging at Poe’s Tavern in Mt. Pleasant.

And that’s not all. Solecki and her fiance, Tim LeVan Miller, are also the brains behind the literary app Sips Card, which uses the magic of QR codes to give coffeeshop patrons a short story or poem to read on their smart phone, e-reader, or tablet. It’s like a bite-sized literary magazine that people actually read.

So if this is Solecki just nine months in, you can see why we’ve gotta keep an eye on her.

Who’s your grandaddy? Vintage photographs are a major source of inspiration for Solecki’s artwork, and she has a whole album full of pictures that she’s rescued from the lonely anonymity of thrift stores and attic sales. These are early photographs, from the 1900s or 1920s when little boys wore dresses and everyone seemed to wear a dour expression. “I’ll take an element from the photo, a bowler hat, or a particular face, and use it in a piece. It’s more for inspiration than literal interpretation,” she says. “It’s another way to give life to something.” All families should hope that after they’re gone, their likenesses end up in the hands of someone as curious and caring as Solecki. Being memorialized in a piece of art is not a bad way to go.

Young at heart. It’s no surprise that Solecki has a rich appreciation for picture books. She points out that they contain plenty of art that could hang in galleries or sell as prints; however, because of the medium, “people kind of overlook them.” One of her favorite illustrators is Dave McKean, who did the art for Neil Gaiman’s books Coraline and Solecki’s favorite, The Wolves in the Walls.

The couple who creates together… Solecki and LeVan Miller only came up with the idea for Sips Card back in January, and they’ve already achieved a global reach. Sips Cards can now be found in coffeeshops in Scotland, as well as all over the United States (including Charleston). The business card-sized Sips Cards are free to patrons and offer “a poem or a story that’s meant to last as long as your cup of coffee,” Solecki explains. Sips Card releases one story and one poem per month, and though the Sips Card is all about e-readers and tablets, neither Solecki nor LeVan Miller is trying to push out the book. “We both love books. This is just another market. There’s no reason that the two can’t coexist.”

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