Archive | March, 2013

Uncle Alice Presents and Andrea Portes’s Mermaid-Maker

25 Mar

So Andrea Portes is the super talented author of the novel Hick, which became a movie that she wrote starring Blake Lively and my favorite actress who-has-really-good-taste Chloe Grace Moretz. She’s also writing comic books now, and more novels, AND she’s working on the Uncle Alice Presents project that is the subject of this very cool Kickstarter campaign that was launched THIS VERY EVENING and that you should obviously sponsor immediately. Uncle Alice Presents is a comic book, graphic novel and TV experience telling “out-of-this-world stories with Alice Cooper as our scary, scaredy narrator.” Included in the anthology, and the reason why mermaids everywhere should pay special attention to it, and why aspiring mermaids everywhere should head to the closest beaches, is Andrea’s MERMAID-MAKER.

First, here is Andrea (on the left) being very glamorous at the Hick movie premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival:
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Listen to the description of MERMAID-MAKER and take a gander at the awesome illustration by David Beauchene:

All the hot so-cal beach girls start going missing, one by one, as a mad scientist at SCRIPPS has started capturing them and bringing them back to the lab in an attempt to scientifically create mermaids by crossbreeding humans and fish.

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Out of extreme generosity and selflessness, I obviously had to ask Andrea all about MERMAID-MAKER and mermaids generally, and our shimmering Q and A follows:

So can you tell me about this new Uncle Alice Presents Kickstarter campaign you’re involved in?
I created and wrote a comic book series, called SUPER RAD, for Dark Matter. (That comes out in Fall 2013). It turns out, they were working on the Uncle Alice project and I tossed over a few ideas and they actually stuck.

What is this mermaid maker? How did you come up with the idea to include mermaids?
It’s so funny, so when I was brain-storming about funny, weird ideas for the anthology, the last thing that popped into my head was “Mermaid Maker.” And I remember I actually laughed because it was such a goofy idea. But then I thought about how strange that would be to have a mad-scientist type actually stealing beautiful girls off a beach with the intent of cross-breeding them with fish to make mermaids. It just kind of made me chuckle.

I sent that idea, with a few others, over to Uncle Alice creator Tom Sheppard (The Annoying Orange, Pinky and the Brain) and Todd Moyer (Dark Matter CEO).

To be quite honest, I thought MERMAID-MAKER was going to make them think I was just a goofy weird but for some reason it seems to have taken. It’s in all the press and they even have the front cover, with the mermaid and the fish, in their “breeding tubes” or whatever you would EVER call that.

So funny. It really just goes to show you can never tell what will take.

Do you have an opinion of mermaids generally?
I think right now my opinion of mermaids is people seem to dig em. Particularly, judging the reaction to MERMAID-MAKER.

Have you ever secretly aspired to be a mermaid?
I think I would love to be a mermaid. All that beauty and never having to worry about thighs! Perfect.

Come to think of it… maybe this MERMAID MAKING isn’t such a bad idea…

I’m in!

What else are you working on?
Thanks for asking, my second novel Bury This is coming out this coming winter. It’s being published by Soft Skull.

My comic book series, SUPER RAD, will be out this fall.

And, happily, I just finished my third novel, STUPIDFACES, which is exactly right at this very moment, in the hands of my agent. It’s a YA novel, so that’s a bit of a departure… but after writing Bury This, which is incredibly dark, I needed to write something lighter. And, of course, for a YA, I’m told it’s dark.

I have a feeling I’m going to get told a lot of my things are dark, actually…

Except MERMAID-MAKER.


Check out the Kickstarter video right here:

Mermaid Marla’s Fountain of Youth

19 Mar

So Mermaid Marla is another completely inspirational mermaid who likes to swim with sea creatures, brings magic to the lives of land-locked humans everywhere, and is apparently and obnoxiously immune to all effects of aging. She CLAIMS to be 50, which obviously translates to about 19 in mermaid years. I first met Marla at MerCon, where she glimmered and undulated alongside many of the other mermaids I’ve interviewed for this illuminating blog. I have been meaning to talk to her for a while, not only for your mermaid knowledge but so that I can steal all of her secrets and possibly sell them and become a zillionaire.

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In the mean time… here is our gorgeous Q and A.

So how did you discover mermaiding?
I actually discovered what we now call mermaiding quite by accident! As a scuba diver I was having problems with my legs cramping from time to time. Someone had mentioned to me that freedivers used a special fin called a monofin, which could help strengthen my legs to lessen the cramps. As I started researching freedivers I absolutely fell in love with their ability to hold their breath and stay under the water without scuba tanks. While I was searching for different types of monofins I came upon a website that mentioned mermaids and monofins. Of course that piqued my interest and I was utterly amazed to find out that there were people making mermaid tails using monofins and had been doing so for years! It made perfect sense to me and I couldn’t believe I had never heard about nor seen them before.

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Have you always identified as a mermaid, even if you didn’t always wear an actual mermaid tail?
I have always had a connection to the ocean, having lived next to it most of my life, but had never identified myself as a mermaid. I remember always wishing I could fall into the water and turn into a mermaid like in that movie “The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” who turned into a fish. I did think it strange that the two times I lived far away from the ocean in Montana and Colorado, I felt out-of-sorts, and had an almost suffocated feeling… Now I understand why. After becoming scuba certified everything fell into place and I knew I was supposed to be near the ocean. When I’m under the water it is the only place where I feel completely at home and stress-free, so of course I must have always been a mermaid!

Why are mermaids so appealing to you?
The lure and mystery that surrounds them is so enticing, but it’s not only that. They represent the guardians of the ocean to me. Mermaids have an appeal to everyone young and old across the globe. When you stop to think about it, how many other things are globally appealing and accepted? I think that is one of the things that I love most about mermaiding. Mermaids bring people together and put smiles on their faces no matter where they are from or what language they speak!

Do you feel different as your mermaid self?
378180_375115945842479_1929659196_n[1]I definitely feel different when I am mermaid! I feel more beautiful, better able to express myself, and have a general peaceful feeling. I never did role-playing when I was younger as I had a lot of responsibilities and grew up a little fast, so this is a whole new feeling for me. The most amazing difference is the ease it gives me to communicate with children. I have always been a little awkward around children, not really knowing how to talk with them since I don’t have any of my own. When I am my mermaid self, the walls come down and the curiosity of the children helps me to interact with them on a very innocent and magical level.

You became a scuba diver before you became a mermaid. Can you compare these different ways of experiencing the ocean?
They are very different and both amazing in their own ways. Scuba diving opened up the sea to me and made my dreams come true. Being able to stay under water for an hour at a time is just heaven for me. The one and only downside to scuba diving is all the equipment needed to make this happen. Although you achieve a weightlessness in the ocean, it is still a bit cumbersome with a tank, regulator and hoses attached to you. With mermaiding it’s a totally liberating feeling but is limited to one’s ability to breathhold. I haven’t practiced enough to be able to stay under very long, but just being able to move freely, with the motion you create with a monofin/tail, is intoxicating. Of course our eyes aren’t able to see as well underwater, but with a little practice you would be surprised how easy it is to recognize fish and objects once you’re used to it. Salt water is very natural to our eyes so I much prefer swimming in the ocean compared to pools whenever possible.

Can you talk about some of the other mermaids and mermen you’ve met? How involved have you been in the mermaid community?

Marla with Hannah Fraser at MerCon

Marla with Hannah Fraser at MerCon

Well I am very lucky to have met quite a few mer-folk from the very first Mer-Con that was held in Las Vegas in 2011. I was very excited to have met the most famous mermaid of our community, Hannah Fraser, whom I just adore. There are several connections I made while there that have turned into great friendships via Facebook. I’m not sure how to rate one’s involvement in the mermaid community, but I do stay in contact with quite a few mermaids from all over. We all help each other out with tail ideas when needed and I like to share different ocean creatures on my page for anyone who is interested. I try to show my support to any mermaids/mermen that need it and we all seem to pull together for different ocean protection efforts from all over the world. I think that’s what makes this community so special. As mer-folk we all seem to want the same thing and use our mermaid “powers,” so to speak, to help communicate to the world the importance of ocean conservation, via social media, local appearances and charity events.

How do people react to your mermaidliness, generally?
As a whole, I get very positive reactions. There are a few who don’t get it, especially because of my age, but those people are usually ones who don’t normally appreciate anything out of the norm. I don’t worry too much about any negative responses because I understand it’s hard to grasp for a select few. I think some fear we are all part of some sort of cult or they see it as simply cos-play, which I love as well, but for me mermaiding is so much more. If I really analyzed it I guess it would seem quite odd for a grown woman to dress up in a mermaid tail, especially one without children, but I see it as therapeutic and as a form of self-expression. When I see the smiles on children’s faces, as well as on the faces of people young and old alike, I know it’s something I was meant to be and gives me such an inner joy.

Can you tell me about any particularly special moments in your mermaid life?
There really are so many special moments for me. I’ve had children come up to me without saying a word and just give me a hug, which is pretty overwhelming to me. I’ve had parents thank me and tell me that their child rarely speaks to anyone, right as that child is asking me a slew of mermaid questions! I receive messages on my Facebook fan page from young girls who say they are inspired by me, and that is such a wonderful feeling. The special friendships I have found within the mermaid community and the bond we all have that can’t be explained with my non-mer friends. Becoming a mermaid has really opened up so many avenues for me personally and I am so thankful I finally realized my mermaidness.

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You’re approaching 50, aren’t you? I would never have been able to guess that! Do you feel that the ocean/mermaiding has anything to do with your youthfulness?
Actually I just turned 50 last June and thank you so much for that compliment! While I can’t say that mermaiding is the cause of my youthfulness, I can honestly say that becoming a mermaid so late in life has re-energized my entire being. I look at everything in a different light now and finally feel at one with myself. Of course there are times when I think, “What am I doing putting on a tail at the age of 50?” but that quickly goes away when I look at my photos with so many people I’ve brought happiness to. That’s really what it’s all about….your happiness and the happiness of others around you!

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Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Well for one thing, there isn’t any right or wrong way to become a mermaid. Mermaids come in all shapes, sizes, and races and the sky’s the limit when you create your own personal tail. When you’re ready to purchase a tail you will find there are many tailmakers out there, so just do your research and figure out which one will be a good match for you. I would also suggest practicing swimming with either regular fins or purchase an inexpensive monofin to get the feel of swimming with your legs together. But remember, being a mermaid doesn’t mean you have to be able to swim. Being a mermaid can be as simple as having a love of the ocean and all things that live in it! I have been a mermaid all my life but didn’t realize it until I was in my 40’s… Donning a tail is a wonderful way to express our physical form, but the true mermaid magic lies within our hearts!

Any last words?
I would like to thank you, Carolyn, for your wonderful interviews, articles, blogs and of course amazing books that allow the mermaid community to be shown in a tasteful and beautiful light. I feel very honored to have a spot on your page and thank you for the opportunity to tell a little more of my mermaid journey and let people know that it’s okay to be yourself, even if it’s a mermaid!

Mermaid Retreats in Williamsburg, Virginia, with Rebecca the Jamestown Mermaid

17 Mar

So I learned about Rebecca the Jamestown Mermaid and her upcoming mermaid retreats in Williamsburg, Virginia, from mermaid extraordinaire Iara Mandyn, who slept above me on our mermaidly diving trip in the Bahamas this past August and who will be a guest expert at said retreats.

As this photograph taken on said trip (by Mr. Chris Crumley, tail by the Mertailor) clearly demonstrates, Iara is a very good person to learn all things mermaid from:

So of course I had to talk to Rebecca, for your sake as well as my own. Our luminous discussion follows.

So can you talk a little about yourself? How long have you been interested in mermaids?
me as mermaidI have always loved the water. I spent my summers as a girl in the mountains of Virginia, swimming in the Jackson River. This is where I fell in love with the immense power of water—and learned to be safe in strong currents. As a teen, I was invited to learn water ballet. This was a perfect match for me, as I was able to combine my favorite music with choreography all my own. I felt so strong and graceful in the water! This was the first time I remember feeling like I could do anything. I designed my own routines—and this was a powerful and liberating experience for me.

I returned to the water as an adult in 2010, when I became a certified water fitness instructor. My first year I taught three classes a week at one facility. I now teach 12-15 classes a week, at six different locations. I often get asked to do private lessons, additional group lessons, water safety presentations and “ learn to swim” classes for all ages. I have continued training in a variety of aquatic certifications, including water safety instruction and water therapy for arthritis and multiple sclerosis, as well as enhancing my free-diving and breath-holding skills.

I am currently working with several parks and rec departments in my area to offer mermaid camps for kids and teens, as an alternative to competitive swim teams. I had a few one-day workshops last summer and will expand this into a week-long program and incorporate more performance skills and choreography. One of the main goals for the camps is to train young people to be safe in the water, but also to encourage an exploration of each individual’s creative side; regardless of body image, age, gender, lifestyle, etc.

The more I am in the water, the more I am inspired to be in the Water. I have witnessed the return of health and happiness in so many people. My students tell me about their increased wellness and general serenity after my water classes. This motivates me to continue to teach and to learn, and to help others feel strong and graceful in the water.

Are you yourself a mermaid?
If being a mermaid means preferring to be in water over anything else—then YES, I am a mermaid! If being a mermaid means dreaming of being underwater and swimming with sea animals—then YES, I am a mermaid! If being a mermaid means helping to keep the earth’s waters clean for all living beings—then YES, I am a mermaid! If being a mermaid means wanting to share health benefits and serenity of water to young and old—then YES, I am a mermaid!

Can you tell me about “Rebecca the Jamestown Mermaid?”
“Rebecca the Jamestown Mermaid” was born hundreds of years ago off the southern coast of England. She helped the first English explorers to the New World, by navigating them across the Atlantic and through the deep waters the Chesapeake Bay. Her image has been recorded on many maps and ship logs by the ancient mariners.

Presently, she helps to clean the waterways of the Chesapeake, residing near historic Jamestown. At other times, she can be seen at nautical history museums and events, recalling her experiences with the early explorers. earlier this year, she was seen swimming with manatee and dolphins.

To keep up with her adventures and for uplifting ocean-based images, go to
www.jamestownmermaid.com and www.facebook.com/JamestownMermaid.

I understand you’re a graduate of Weeki Wachee’s Sirens Of The Deep Mermaid Camp? Can you tell me about that experience and how it’s inspired you?
I was fortunate to be able to attend the May 5/6, 2012 “Sirens of the Deep” Mermaid Camp at Weeki Wachee. This was an amazing experience for me, a genuine dream come true. I met some incredible women and was able to swim in the crystal-clear Weeki Wachee Spring. While I was in the water, I felt as if I experienced something that people aren’t supposed to experience, something awesome and *magical.* My inner mermaid was released, and I left my time there rejuvenated and encouraged to grow my mermaid self.

Prior to the camp, I hadn’t told many people about my interest in mermaids. Most people knew I taught “swimming classes,” but saying “I am a mermaid” was not really an option for me. I live in a small college town, full of academics and museum professionals who would not understand, or take me seriously. After my time in the spring, I felt transformed and i wanted to tell anyone who would listen about my experience there. My husband took photos and video of me swimming in the spring—and thank goodness for that, or else I would have thought it was just a dream. But it is true. I was there and I am transformed (and I have proof!) My non-water friends were slow to accept this new aspect of my personality, and I have found ways to incorporate it into community service and education, in addition to my water classes.

What do you think the appeal of mermaids is, anyway?

I think the appeal of mermaids means different things to different people. Some people think mermaids are strong and graceful swimmers, or caretakers of the Earth’s water. Others think mermaids are beautiful and powerful women, seductive to men. I think the appeal of mermaids can be many things: from a fantasy outlet to a rejuvenation experience. The water is a calling for many people, for many reasons. And there is something for everyone in the water.

Can you tell me about the upcoming mermaid Training you’ll be offering? (Have you offered any yet?)
I will be hosting different types of training: weekend retreats for adult women; weekend retreats for mer-men and mermaids, one day intensives for teens, and 5-day camps for kids. All programs will highlight water safety, water skills development and choreography with and without a tail. land and underwater photo & video will document each participant’s journey, along with makeovers and a fantasy portrait session. I will host an optional tail making workshop and each participant will have the opportunity to meet like-minded people from all over the world! I already have families from as far away as New York registered for upcoming programs.

What will aspiring mermaids (and mermen) take away from your programs?
My mermaid trainings will be an opportunity to learn from experts about how to *safely* explore your inner mermaid. We will be teaching breath holding techniques, buoyancy control, flips/rolls/choreography, and many skills for safe mermaiding. As an aquatics professional, safety is my number one priority.

Secondly, I want every mermaid participant to feel rejuvenated and inspired to live a creative and positive life, to feel beautiful and strong, regardless of age or body image.

I understand that Iara Mandyn will be guest teaching at some of the adult retreats! how will that work?
I am thrilled that Iara Mandyn will be joining us to teach the advance water portion for the adult mermaid retreats. Her strong background in underwater modeling and mermaid skills and expertise will be a true benefit to the participants of the adult mermaid retreats.

How can people register/find out more?
For more information on the adult programs, go to www.mermaid-retreats.com. For information on youth and teen programs, go to www.be-a-mermaid.com.

And LIKE me on Facebook.

And finally do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids (other than to come take a workshop, of course!)?
My advice for aspiring mermaids is, first and foremost, to be safe in the water. I believe that people should earn their tails. In my opinion, swimming in a tail is not recommended for beginner swimmers. Here is my advice. Practice with two fins before a monofin. Once motions in the monofin feel strong, try the tail in the water. This is not to say you can’t make a tail and wear on dry land for parties and fun.

If you are serious about mermaiding, consider having different tails for different purposes. For your first swimming tail, start with a simple fabric tail—which will be your “practice tail.” Beginners tend to complain that their first tail wore out under the feet and “seat.” This is because beginners tend to stand or sit in their tails, because they haven’t developed their monofin swimming skills yet.

If you want a pretty/ photogenic tail, consider have one just for pictures on dry land, that you won’t swim in. This one could be adorned with trims/beads/shells that may come off while swimming.

And finally, once your skills are strong, consider the expensive custom tail.… just my two cents.

As an aquatic professional, I hear and see many heart-breaking things done by people who feel invincible. And, I’d hate for someone who is not ready to wear a tail to hurt themselves. Practice, practice, practice—and never, never, never swim alone.

Mermaids, The Better Bombshell, and Siolo Thompson

5 Mar

bbSo I was in Seattle last month for the launch of this gorgeous anthology, The Better Bombshell, that I contributed to and that features 18 pairings between writers and visual artists answering the question who is the better bombshell? I worked with co-editor (along with Charlotte Austin) and artist Siolo Thompson to do a story/painting duet about an actual, real-life mermaid. “Break” is my fist story about a real-life mermaid, the kind I feature all the time on this illuminating blog, a modern-day woman who owns a mermaid tail and uses it to escape the drudgery of her every-day life. (I am quite sure that most of the mermaids I feature are a little happier than the woman in my story, but still.) I talk more about the story and what inspired it on the Better Bombshell blog a few days ago, and here’s a snippet from the story itself:

She looks at her tail that stretches down into an elaborate fluke, which she flips up and slaps down again on the cold, packed earth. The changing colors dazzle her.
        And then she slips her tail in the water, scooches forward. It’s cold, but not as cold as she expected. Taking a breath, she slides in, pushing off the shallow bottom with her palms.
        The water envelops her like a giant blanket, a pair of arms, a velvety chest she can lay her head on. Once Stephen had been like that to her: like a lake she could dive into. A warm bath. He’d run his hands over her body and remake her into something new.
        She can’t imagine a man doing that for her now.
        The world had been full of possibility once, she remembers. There’d been a time when everything had seemed within her grasp: she’d thought she might become an artist, an actress, a photographer. As a teenager it’d seemed like everything she tried was something she could be.
        This is what she likes to imagine now: that she’s come from another place. That this life, here, is one she came to by accident, like a girl in a fairytale who’s lost her way in a dark wood. She knows this is how children think, imagining their real parents are kings and queens, fairies or other beings, with wings or tails or fur or sparkling antlers, rather than the regular, scolding people they’re stuck with, but in her case she knows she is right. That she was, once, something else.

Here is Siolo’s painting, both in-progress and finished:

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Isn’t it beautiful? It turns out that Siolo’s drawn plenty of other mermaids in her time, too. Take a gander at these gems:

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Below, I ask Siolo about her art, her mermaid art, and mermaids generally:

sioloWhat inspires you as an artist? What are the subjects/themes of your painting?
As an artist I tend toward the fantastical, allegorical and whimsical. I love being able to imagine and create new worlds, tell stories, and re-fashion myself and others. As children we had this willingness to lay aside the ‘real’ world and live through our imaginations. It seems a great shame that people lose that sense of play as they get older. A lot of my work invites people to reconnect with the stories and myths and fantasy figures that captivated and inspired them as children.

How does a mermaid fit into this?
Mermaids are a perfect example of the kind of work I like to do. Mermaids are symbols of freedom, mystery, timelessness and beauty and they are also dangerous and a little dark – everything a good fantasy character should be! So many of us connect with mermaid imagery because it pulls on these primordial longings; our desires for freedom, power, beauty and the ability to escape the world. Carolyn, the story you wrote for The Better Bombshell illustrates my point really well. The character in the story found a much needed moment of escape from the disappointment and weight of her life by the simple act of putting on the mermaid tail and allowing herself to be a mermaid for a few precious minutes. I hope that my art can create that feeling for people—that they can look at something I have made and imagine themselves in a different world as a nymph or elf or faun or fairy or even a mermaid.

Have you ever painted a mermaid before?
I think my piece for The Better Bombshell is the first larger mermaid painting I have done but I draw a lot of mermaids. Looking through my files for mermaids and other mercreatures I found dozens of them. So yes, I guess I do draw a lot of mermaids!

How did you go about painting your mermaid for The Better Bombshell?
The mermaid painting for The Better Bombshell is very much a reflection of your story “Break.” I felt compelled to paint a mermaid that was close to the surface, looking down at the deep water as though pondering the divide between the two worlds. The character in the story is dealing with a lot of disappointment and the heavy burden of day to day drudgery. The water offers her an escape and the lovely weightlessness of being a mermaid. She has to go back up and face her life and take care of her responsibilities but there is a moment in
the story where as a reader I was not sure she was ever going to surface again. I wanted to paint that moment of tension.

For this painting I decided to work very loosely and without hard edges or heavy line work. I wanted to create the feeling of looking at the mermaid underwater. I did some watercolor sketches and then created the piece in oil paint so that I could blend and blur the work after I had things roughly drawn out.

Are you yourself susceptible to the mermaid’s allure? Do you have any advice for any aspiring mermaids and/or mermaid artistes?
Oh yes, I’m a mermaid for sure! I’ve always felt that given the choice between the gift of flight or water breathing, I would certainly choose the sea. The underwater world has always fascinated me. It’s a different universe just a slip away from ours, that is quite magical. As for advice for other mermaidly souls and artists perhaps it is this; don’t be too tied to “reality,” allow yourself to dream, allow yourself to imagine, swim free and always follow your heart.

Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto

4 Mar

So I have interviewed Mermaid Shelly AND her merman husband Chris (the only bona fide mer-couple I know of) here before, but considering that a few months ago Shelly opened the only actual brick-and-mortar STOREFRONT that sells mermaid tails and clothing and really, everything a modern-day mermaid could ever need, I thought it was clear that I needed to go back for an update. The store is called Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto and is located just north of San Diego in South Oceanside, California. That’s right, an actual mermaid-run mermaid store servicing mermaids and aspiring mermaids everywhere. Because if you are, like me, unfortunate enough not to live in South Oceanside, you can virtually visit the Grotto on Etsy and buy many delightful things, including shimmery tails like the one Shelly’s holding here:

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Another gorgeous example of Shelly’s tail-making is this one that Sora Dancing Mermaid wore last July in the Bahamas (on our infamous mermaid diving trip, another version of which is being offered this coming summer), to the envy of marine (and human) life all over the Caribbean. Here is said tail in all its glory, in a beauteous shot from mermaid photographer extraordinaire Chris Crumley that makes me very sad that it is no longer July and that I’m no longer hanging out with sharks.

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Obviously, Shelly’s tails are not for the shabby, would-wear-sweatpants-if-she-had-legs type of mermaid.

Here are some shots of the actual store, taken by Chris as well as Eric Larson of San Diego Business Photography:

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Doesn’t it look lovely? My penetrating Q and A with Shelly follows:

So when and why did you decide to open Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto?
We opened Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto in October 2012 in South Oceanside, California. We spent all summer working open markets and street fairs and found it to be exhausting; both physically and financially. Lugging our wares around town, storing it the rest of the time in our tiny home, and living with a car full of sequins was just not for me. And especially given that one tail alone can be 8 feet long, living out of a 10’ x 10’ canopy doesn’t allow enough space to display them appropriately. People would mistake them for dresses, and we spent way too much time explaining to people that no, they are actually fully swimmable mermaid tails! Plus, many markets do not allow for competition, so if another vendor sold jewelry we were not allowed to. This was somewhat frustrating as we have a huge collection of jewelry items and it seemed a shame to leave them at home when we have such unique mer-made items. In this spirit of non-competition, we decided that it was best to start looking at leasing a more permanent home where our tails and mer-chandise can be displayed freely. It is also very expensive to vend at street markets, so it makes a lot more sense to settle down somewhere by the sea where I am free to be me.

Do you make the tails and clothing you sell yourself? I saw one of your tails up close (Sora’s leopard one, right?) and it was gorgeous!
Thank you! Yes, I make all our tails, swimwear, our mer-skirts and dresses. We have collaborated with a few mer-friends who have provided us additional items, but everything that we sell is proudly 100% mer-made.

What can visitors to the Grotto expect?
Visitors to Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto can expect an undersea experience that cannot be matched anywhere else. We jokingly say that we are the only mermaid store on land, and I quite believe that is the truth. From tails, to art, to jewelry, we carry unique items that are not available anywhere else on the planet. From the minute you walk in the door and witness videos of me and my mermaid friend swimming in my tails, to the wooden mermaids and artwork hanging on the walls, you know you have travelled to another world indeed. We do everything from taking photos of customers in tails to organizing adopt-a-beach clean-ups and wildlife walks at our local lagoon. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

I don’t know of any other store like it, do you?
There is no other store like Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto. Many gift shops may carry items with a mermaid image on it, but there is no other that carries items actually handcrafted by mermaids themselves. And we are the only tail-maker in the world to have a physical retail store presence where a customer can actually come in and touch and feel the quality of the tails, as well as have the difference in materials and pricing explained to them in person. We also do on-site measurements and tail fittings, so we guarantee the tail will fit you because it was measured and crafted by Mermaid Shelly herself. Many items are actually made in the store, so you can see firsthand the care and painstaking work that is done every day to bring the very best of the undersea world to your shores.

What has the response been since you’ve opened?
We have had the pleasure of being visited by many mermaids who sort of know what we are about, but I must say that the best reactions have been from the locals. We have been happened upon by neighborhood children who visit us every day after school just to say hello as well as longtime residents and surfers who were not aware that a mermaid culture even existed. So many people come in saying how they have loved mermaids their whole lives and had no idea that people actually do this for fun, not to mention professionally. It has been very delightful to show our world to the community, even more so having the FOX 5 Morning News feature us for a mermaid fashion show at the Oceanside Pier which has brought even more mer-enthusiasts to seek us out. It has been a wonderful experience thus far and we are hoping that it only grows with time.

I understand that you’ll be on the Discovery Channel soon (and that they found you through this very blog!). Can you talk a bit about that? When will we see you on tv?
Why yes! We are extremely excited to have been found by Discovery International to be featured as the season finale of their new series, Extreme Worlds. It will be aired in 200+ countries which gives us an opportunity to bring even more exposure to the mermaid community through our love and life-long dedication to it. Each episode is centered around a certain topic, and the one we will be featured on is about love relationships. The producers happened upon your blog where you interviewed my husband SoCal Merman Chris and after a few phone conversations they decided that we should be so lucky as to be featured on their series. Since it has not been premiered yet in the US, and we will be on the season finale, I would expect it to be a little while before it is aired. But you will be the first to know when it is, since all thanks are due to you and your wonderful blog for their having found us!

I interviewed Chris, but haven’t gotten your perspective on being part of a gorgeous mer-couple. How is it, having a half-human, half-merman for a husband?

Photo by Deborah Divis of Fantasies Muse Photography

Photo by Deborah Divis of Fantasies Muse Photography

It is wonderful; I must say I am truly blessed. For 23 years we have shared a love of the ocean and mermaids, but it is so wonderful to see him shed his skin and become who he truly is. He has spent years assisting me bringing reality to my dreams, selflessly attending to me and denying his own desire to fulfill the mer reality for himself. It is so gratifying to see him don a tail and finally be able to keep up with me in the water after all these years, rather than just treading water along the shore. Goodness knows he has carried more than his fair share of tails these many years and it is great that he can join me at last. I am so excited about the summer ahead and getting to spend even more time in the water with him, just enjoying the mer-life as it was meant to be, hand in hand.

What’s next for you and the Grotto?
I think the near future will be filled with more hard work as we continue to feather our nest and establish ourselves as a local and online business. We have recently joined the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce who will be creating a whole new section of the annual Harbor Days festival in September called Mermaids Grotto after seeing our spot on the FOX 5 Morning News. We anticipate getting more and more mermaids involved in the scene, and have created a new website, San Diego Mermaids, so that they can be booked for events through our shop. We plan on bringing these wonderful mermaid friends out to feature them at the Harbor Days festival so that the public can see how beautiful and talented they are as they entertain the masses with their sweet siren spirits. Aside from that, I’ll be continuing to work on my biography, titled Turbid Water – Swimming Into the Light, which will discuss my childhood and the situations that brought me to be who I am today. And of course, continuing to make tails and spend every other free minute in the water and on the beach! It is a mermaid’s life for me for sure!

Julie Ditrich and Mermaid Comic Books

3 Mar

JulieMermaid.Crop.webSo I met the charming Julie Ditrich at MerCon in 2011, where she was premiering a limited edition preview of her brand-new mermaid-themed comic book series Elf-Fin amid all the pool parties and mermaid pageants and general raucousness. (I also dashed off to the Star Trek Convention with her, her friend Katherine, and poetess Matthea Harvey, just to give the weekend that extra dose of nerdiness and glam.) Julie writes the stories and works with artist Jozef Szekeres, with whom she formed Black Mermaid Productions. Check out their cool mermaid blog, which I would secretly like to steal and add to this one because then I’d look smarter and less lazy. The opening story of the Elf-Fin series, the underwater romance Hyfus and Tilaweed, comes out in May, and will obviously change your life. Here is the cover:

Elf~fin Cover 1

Below I ask Julie many penetrating and profound question about Elf-Fin, MerCon, and mermaids generally.

So why mermaids?
I was magically drawn to mermaid art and stories from around the age of three. My family had a huge library, which contained a large collection of art books, and I remember sitting on the floor many a time pouring over images of mermaids. Out of all the fairy tales that were read to me and that I later learned to read for myself, I was particularly drawn to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Even though the story was poignant because of the sacrifice our heroine makes at the end, I was drawn to her underwater world. I also looked for mermaids in movies. I remember being excited about seeing the mermaid lagoon in Disney’s Peter Pan, and the Little Mermaid ballet sequence in the musical Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kaye. Although they are not strictly mermaid movies, I also adored Esther Williams films and her water ballet scenes. My love affair with mermaids has continued into adulthood.

What is the significance of the black mermaid?
When artist Jozef Szekeres and I met for the first time in the early 1990s we immediately bonded over our mutual love of mermaids. After we landed our first comic book gig in the USA, which coincidentally featured mer-elves, we formed a business partnership with our friend and co-writer Bruce (who left the partnership in 1993). We wanted the word “mermaid” in the company name so we rattled off a whole lot of adjectives and a whole lot of colours. We settled on “Black Mermaid” because it reverberated with us and evoked a great image and a feeling. Jozef immediately sat down and sketched up the logo, and voila, we became “Black Mermaid Productions.” Later on, many industry people started to call us the “Black Mermaids.” Several years later we launched our website which featured our “Black Mermaid” logo as the hostess through all of the pages. She ended with a fan base all of her own. We received lots of emails and queries about her from all parts of the world, so we loved the fact that other people loved her as much as we did.

Can you tell me about Black Mermaid Productions? How did it start? What do you do?
Black Mermaid Productions is a creative team and publisher of comics. Our niche is mermaid stories. As previously mentioned, we started in the early 1990s. We released two comic book series through two US publishers, which went on to sell 270,000+ copies all around the world. The first series was about a tribe of sea-elves, which included several tailed mer-elf characters. The second series featured a shape-shifting mermaid superhero. We now have three mermaid comic book series planned—Elf~Fin (which is about mer-elves), Surf and Turf (a children’s series featuring mermaids), and Mermist Seas (traditional mermaids in an epic story that is quite Shakespearean and operatic in its treatment).

What is the story behind your Elf-Fin comic books?
Elf~Fin is the first title we will be focusing on in our upcoming books. The opening story is called Hyfus and Tilaweed. Many mermaid stories are devised around fish-out-of-water themes but we wanted this tale to unfold completely in the ocean world so the reader is as immersed in water as much as the characters themselves. In fact, the Elf~Fin are strictly forbidden to swim to the surface for reasons that will become known in the sequel. The story is set in a world called Elf~Threaal, and Hyfus and Tilaweed is a fantasy-romance—an underwater love story to be exact. We released a limited edition Preview in 2011, which sold out around the world. Our readers predominantly come from the USA, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany and Norway. Issue #1, which contains 48 pages of story, will be released in May 2013. The entire story is 288 pages. The entire work will also be released as a graphic novel after the comic book series is out.

You run a blog chock full of great mermaid articles. What’s been most fascinating to you—has anything truly surprised you/taken your breath away?
Because our niche is mermaid comics, our blog focuses on mermaids, Australian comics and our adventures in the comics trade. We love finding new angles and stories on mermaids that we’re not familiar with. We’re finding a lot of vintage mermaid comics at the moment, which are fascinating to say the least—they range from child mermaids to man-eating mermaid monsters.

There are also two stories we covered last year that are particularly amazing, and relate to the theme of “black mermaids” in general rather than our specific “Black Mermaid” logo character. Some of our readers wrote to us and said they couldn’t find much information about African or dark-skinned mermaids so we have consciously looked for stories with that angle. One such story that you also covered in your blog, Carolyn, was the “Mermaids and Mermaid in Black Folklore Art Exhibition” which was on show in South Carolina in 2012. It tells a tale about how mermaids sang to groups of shackled and terrified African slaves en route to America in ships. This image reduced me to tears and I still get quite emotional about it.

The other story which guest blogger Vanessa Witschi from Mermaids Dreaming in Australia covered on our blog not long ago, was that of mermaids in Aboriginal folklore. Now, I’m Australian but had never come across this before in Indigenous storytelling. I was surprised at the references in art and Dreaming stories. I also rang up a couple of galleries to get permission to publish the images and I spoke to one gallery owner who was as captivated as I was about the theme and who told me some wonderful stories over the phone. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I do believe that mermaids are as important now as yesteryear because the idea of them existing connects me to nature and something greater. It is this connection that takes my breath away and brings me great joy.

Do you have any favorite mermaid art/literature/film, etc?
My favourite mermaid artist is John William Waterhouse. I have several of his mermaid prints lovingly framed in my bedroom, which is looking more and more like an art gallery every day. I love waking up to them in the morning. They are romantic, beautiful, sensuous and feminine.

My favourite mermaid book is A Book of Mermaids by Ruth Manning Sanders with illustrations by Robin Jacques. It was printed in 1968 and contains 16 mermaid fairy tales from around the world. I used to borrow it from our local library time and time again when I was growing up. Many years later I wanted to add it to my collection but found it was out of print. The Internet wasn’t around then so I had an antiquarian bookseller track it down for me. It took him about 18 months to find it and I paid a fortune for it. Now it’s one of my greatest mermaid treasures.

In terms of films, I think the quintessential mermaid movie is Splash. Darryl Hannah was perfect in it, and her orange / red tail seared itself into my memory. I always wanted to see more of her underwater city, which we just glimpse in the ending. Although it’s a romantic comedy and not a mermaid movie per se, I also loved seeing Doris Day playing a fake mermaid in the opening scene to Glass Bottom Boat.

Is there a mermaid community in Sydney? And/or is there any significance to being a mermaid in Sydney/Australia?
I believe Australian mermaids are just coming out of the water so to speak. They’re just beginning to establish themselves. That’s why Renee Chidiac from Shimmerbaby Mermaids and I started an “Australian Mermaids” Facebook page and group last year so we could all connect. Geographically, Australia is surrounded by water so the beach is very much part of our culture. Kids learn to swim very early, we have a long annual swimming season, we LOVE Olympic swimming events, we have public pools everywhere, we have lifesaving programs for children and adults… you can see a theme emerging. I believe most Australians are water-babies… maybe we’re a nation of reincarnated Merpeople (half Angel and half elemental) that Doreen Virtue identifies in her book Earth Angels. Oh, in case you’re wondering… some of the signs that Doreen points to are that reincarnated Merpeople like to live near the ocean and are fierce about protecting the marine habitat and its animals, especially whales and dolphins. Merpeople also like to drink water.

Do you yourself identify as a mermaid?
Yes and no. I love mermaids and am a water baby but I have some contradictions between my human self and my fish self so I may not embody the true mermaid. I love the water, and have been drawn to bodies of water since I was young—pools, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, the ocean. I learned to swim very early and am an excellent swimmer. In fact, I was even a swimming age champion at my high school in four of the six years I competed. I also love snorkeling and have done a little bit of scuba diving. Having said that, I am terrified of deep open water, which is a block I need to and want to get over. I think my personal mission is to accept my humanity and all the challenges it encompasses before exploring the mermaid part of myself by donning a tail.

What was your experience of MerCon?
I had a lovely time meeting the mer community who attended and I’ve made some wonderful friends from all over the world. We’ve kept in touch through Facebook. I loved meeting the Weeki Wachee mermaids in particular. I visited WW when I was a kid and would dearly love to return so it was a genuine joy to meet some of the past and present mermaids from that special place. In general, I found the mer community to be warm, generous, compassionate and very genuine.

I was also privileged to meet Hannah Fraser, who to me epitomises the spirit of the true mermaid. I particularly admire her courage in confronting the Japanese fisherman who slaughtered and continue to slaughter dolphins during their annual roundup, which was captured in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. I have not seen the movie in full because watching just 30 seconds of footage completely traumatised me and caused me to buckle over in emotional pain. I was weeping so much that it took me several days to recover. I have tried to support the cause from afar since then. That is why I must express my public admiration and respect to Hannah and everybody else who is on the mermaid frontline of marine animal and habitat conservation and who have to witness these atrocities first hand to help save these beautiful creatures.

What do you think peoples’ fascination with mermaids is all about?
Mermaids are elusive yet enchanting, athletic yet graceful, free spirits yet benevolent towards others. Mermaids can also be fierce about protecting nature and the ones they love. Mermaids can also go where no human can go—into the deep unexplored realm of the ocean. There are so many mysteries there and we’re discovering new things every day. As an ex clinical hypnotherapist, I wonder whether the ocean realm symbolically represents our deepest subconscious selves with many treasures and secrets waiting to be brought to the surface. If so, then mermaids have access to multiple levels of our inner and outer worlds.

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Accept both the human and the fish part of yourself, and find the right balance. You need to make peace with who you are first as a person before exploring and celebrating the mermaid part of yourself—otherwise you could get lost and never find your way back.

Learn from those who have gone before you. If you are starting out, find a mentor or connect through a mermaid network to help guide the way through your mermaid journey.

If you want to start wearing a tail, make sure you are a good swimmer and are aware of safety issues before taking to the water. Enjoy yourself but be responsible.

Names are important in mythology as they have an energy of their own so find a mermaid name that resonates with you and distinguishes you from others.

Don’t steal somebody else’s tail designs. Mermaids are creative creatures so be original, respect other mers’ ideas and find your own expression of your mermaid self.

Laugh, swim and have FUN!

Traci Hines: Life Lessons from a Hipster Mermaid

2 Mar

Traci Hines has a new webseries that you need to watch immediately, because I believe these are life lessons we’ve all been waiting for:

 
Isn’t it great? Here’s a link to Traci’s blog post about the webseries, not to mention all kinds of other wonders. And here’s my interview with Traci from a couple of years back.
 
Traci also has a new line of clothing coming out called Adorkable Apparel that will be out soon and feature this awesome mermaid t-shirt, for when wearing actual shells is too much of a hassle:

launch ad_web

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