Virginia teen draws on faith to create saintly illustrations
DUMFRIES, Va. (CNS) -- For high school student Rebecca Pohlmeier, it all started with her love of St. Therese of Lisieux and drawing.
Now Pohlmeier, a student at John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries, has a business, Glory Be Prints, which she named for an unselfish reason: to raise funds to attend this year's WorkCamp, a weeklong service program for teenagers in the Diocese of Arlington.
Instead of going down the typical path of writing letters to family and friends asking for donations to fund her trip, she wanted to work for it.
The 16-year-old opened a shop on Etsy, an online website, in February at the suggestion of her parents, Melissa and Keith. Her father is advertising account manager at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington. Within a few weeks, she had her trip paid for.
"It was so exciting to get the announcement about my first sale," she said. "And, it's been wonderful to see how people are reacting to the drawings, where the prints are being used and how many places in the U.S. and other countries sales have come from."
Since she created that first piece of art, her favorite saint and patron has been joined by more than 50 illustrated saints including her newest, Sts. Paul VI and Oscar Romero.
The illustrations are currently being sold only as digital downloads, but prints of the saints have ended up in some unexpected places.
Rosemary Ciccarone, a fifth-grade teacher and student council adviser from Epiphany School in Culpeper, Virginia, reached out to Pohlmeier after hearing about the drawings from the teen's aunt, Kathy Chada. "We discussed how cool it would be to have each classroom choose a patron saint," Ciccarone said.
There are 15 classrooms at the school with a patron saint and a Glory Be Print hanging outside each door. The student council paid for the project.
"We love the prints," Ciccarone said. "On a personal level, I also bought a print for my home, of Mary and Martha."
Another request to collaborate with the teen came from Our Sunday Visitor in Huntington, Indiana. After seeing her Etsy shop, Gretchen Crowe, Our Sunday Visitor editor-in-chief, approached Pohlmeier to explore a partnership to have a calendar printed and sold through the publishing company.
"Rebecca has a beautiful eye for design, and she captures small details of each saint that make looking at the images both fun and inspiring," Crowe said. "Each image has a corresponding quote or prayer, which makes the connection with each saint that much stronger."
Pohlmeier was able to choose the saint for each month of the calendar, OSV will print them and she will receive a portion of sales. The calendar -- which sold out of the first print run -- is being sold through OSV's website and on amazon.com.
"Having OSV reach out to me and be recognized by someone so big is awesome," she said. "I love how many more people my drawings will reach and that they are helping me spread the little messages of saints and are an inspiration to others."
Being a young business owner and running a faith-based art enterprise has been an incredible experience for the teen. She said she has received a lot of support from her family and other Catholic artists.
When asked if she plans to expand her drawings beyond the saints, Pohlmeier said, "I can't imagine doing this with anything else. I have such a connection to the saints, praying to them and learning from them."
The teen, whose passion for the Catholic faith shines through in conversation, said she took on the motto, "For the greater glory of God," last year, and her business name -- suggested by her brother -- fits her perfectly.
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Rausch is production editor of the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.