Dark Beach’s Surf/Punk “Mermaiding”

16 Sep

So I recently learned about an Oakland-based punk/surf band called Dark Beach consisting of two awesome, mermaid-loving girls named Melissa (on drums) and Faith (on guitar and vocals). Here they are:

promo card dark beach 1 cropped

On their Facebook page, Melissa and Faith call their genre “gloomy girl punk rock,” which is really what every band should be. Plus they sing about mermaids, which everyone should, in a gloomy girl kind of manner. Well, they did one mermaid song, called “Mermaiding,” and made this goofy, celebratory, super-fun video to go with it. Look!

If that doesn’t make you want to slip into a tail and throw your Fender Stratocaster underwater, I don’t know what will. Here are some more ultra-glamorous photos, followed by my penetrating Q&A with this fish-tailed duo:


dark beach night light

EJ8A4951mermaiding copy

EJ8A4982mermaiding copy

So tell me about your band. How’d you two get together? What’s your music like overall?
MELISSA: I had seen Faith’s old band, Hooray For Everything, play around town throughout the years. It seems like we were always bonding over our love of grunge music, old movies and feminism. I describe our music as surf-goth. It is definitely catchy but there is a bit of a dark, rough edge to it. Our friend Jack told me we sound like a goth version of the Go-Go’s. I’ve always liked that description.

FAITH: Melissa’s old band Sweet Nothing and my old band Hooray for Everything used to play together. When both bands weren’t active anymore, we said, hey, let’s play together! And history was made. I guess our music is a mix of chick riot, dark wave, surf and garage/punk.

You say your lyrics are influenced by feminine fiction and myth. Can you talk about that?
MELISSA: Faith writes all the lyrics so I don’t really contribute to that side of things. But we both have an interest in female characters which I think is totally natural but strangely enough it does make us stand out from other bands. I think it’s cool. I have heard enough songs about falling in love and partying to last me a lifetime so working on songs about a variety of female characters is more interesting.

FAITH: I try to tell a story with most Dark Beach songs, to take recognizable tropes and characters from fiction—robots, mermaids, vampires, swamp monsters—and make them compelling and sympathetic and new.

What is it about mermaids that appeals to you?
MELISSA: What doesn’t appeal to me would be a shorter list! I’ve always been attracted to the otherworldliness of them. They kind of remind of vampires, there’s a certain romanticism to them and they look like us (to some extent) but can never fully be a part of our world. Faith has done a lot of research on Mermaids and she found that in most cultures mermaids originally had a negative connotation. They were often known as sirens who sunk ships and caused a variety of problems for travelers. So it’s interesting that today a typical mermaid is thought of as beautiful and carefree. Their legend has definitely morphed a lot over the years and their complex history only adds to the appeal. I have also always had an affinity for beach/surf culture.

FAITH: I think the most appealing thing about mermaids are that they represent a woman who is unattainable and untouchable to human men. They’re mysterious and their worlds are off-limits to us. There are so many kinds of mermaids, too. Hollywood mermaids are all fun and good, but the fiji mermaid and other grotesque half-fish-half-human creatures fascinate me as well.

Do you guys identify as mermaids at all? Have you always loved them?
MELISSA: Yes, in spirit. I have always been into mermaids and my interest only seems to intensify as I grown older. It defies logic (ha ha).

FAITH: Yep, I’m a walking mermaid. I have always loved mermaids. It’s a childhood fantasy I can’t seem to shake.

Can you tell me about your song Mermaiding?
MELISSA: Faith wrote the song. In preparation for this interview I listed to the “demo” version she gave me back in the summer of 2011. Of course I was drawn to the subject matter and I remember really liking what I refer to as the “rocking” part that comes in around 2 minutes in. The song seems to have elements of rockabilly and surf but the quieter parts remind me a bit of a lullaby. I think overall it’s pretty unique. I remember having trouble envisioning what to play during the intro but once we decided on the cold start of the tambourine and bass drum things easily fell into place. The sparse intro really makes it stand out from our other songs.

FAITH: As a kid and teen, I used to be obsessed with all things Marilyn Monroe. I remember in Norman Mailer’s biography on her there was this quote that really stood out that someone said about her, that she was a “mermaid in shark-infested waters.” I thought of mermaids for the first time—and female beauty—as prey. When writing “Mermaiding,” I imagined a mermaid’s life as difficult and scary, constantly eluding men with hooks and staring sailors, and peace as a sisterhood-love with fellow mermaids.

Did you guys get tails for the video shoot or did you have them/use them before?
MELISSA: I had bought a black tail but decided to rethink my costume about a week before the shoot. I didn’t have enough time to order a new tail (shipping would take too long) so I made my tail with some fabric form Joann’s Fabrics. I didn’t finish it until the day before we left for filming! Everything came together last minute but overall I am happy with the monochromatic “surfer girl” look.

FAITH: I bought it for the shoot, but you can bet it’ll be used again. Maybe we’ll play a show in tails!

What was the video shoot like?
MELISSA: I had originally envisioned doing a darker, more moody video that aligned with the song lyrics but we pretty much went in the opposite direction and for the most part it just felt like playtime in the pool. Shooting underwater was definitely challenging but I was expecting that. The hardest part of the video: keeping the wig on my head!

FAITH: Like a super fun mermaid pool party for two. And, yes, we didn’t realize what a challenge it was to a) keep wigs on our heads and b) play our instruments underwater. Being a rock and roll mermaid ain’t easy.

Have you hung out with other mermaids/people in the mermaid community?
MELISSA: I haven’t. Fellow mermaids should hit us up on Facebook! It would be great to meet them, even if it’s just a digital meeting. It seems like a highly creative community that I would like connect with. I also want to mention that Faith and I did a podcast discussing mermaids, maybe people in the community would be interested in checking it out.

FAITH: No. But I would love to!

Why do you think people like mermaids so much, anyway?
MELISSA: There’s a certain segment of the population that will always be in love with beautiful, mysterious female characters. Also, it seems like mermaids are truly independent, free of day jobs and the variety of responsibilities us mere mortals have put upon us by society. That type of freedom and playfulness is very appealing to most people.

FAITH: They’re hot. They’re mysterious. And you can never catch them, you can never “have” them, you can never sleep with them, you can never get too close to them.

Any advice for aspiring mermaids?
MELISSA: Keep your head held high both above & below the sea.

FAITH: Use a lot of bobby pins when you fasten that wig to your head, girl.

P.S. People can download “Mermaiding” (for free) from our bandcamp page and watch our other videos with vamps and she-bots and fun stuff like that on our YouTube page.

dark beach mermaid sticker

Andrew Brusso and Weeki Wachee’s 2014 Calendar

20 Aug

Andrew Brusso; image by John Athanason

Andrew Brusso; image by John Athanason

So the brand-spanking-new 2014 Weeki Wachee Mermaids 16-month calendar is now available online, featuring gorgeous images from famed photographer Andrew Brusso. The calendar is limited edition, with only 1,000 printed and a few hundred left, and they’re 20 smackers each, or 30 if you want a signed edition from a recent calendar signing with the mermaids (there are only a handful of those left), with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Friends of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. The calendar is a really beauteous thing. Andrew’s done all kinds of stunning, fancy photography but has a special place in his heart for mermaids—he’s an avid, ocean-loving surfer, this is his fourth Weeki calendar, and he’s also the dashing beau of the incomparable Bambi the Mermaid, queen of Coney Island. So it shouldn’t really be a surprise that he regularly dives into Weeki Wachee Spring and emerges with images like these:



I love how Andrew’s Weeki photos feel like they could have come straight from way back when, from the days when Weeki put on elaborate, choreographed shows like “Mermaids on the Moon” and “Alice in Waterland,” and yet they all have an unmistakably modern, diamond-sharp edge to them, too. Also, I am very jealous that a whole pile of manatees showed up for the shoot, managing to weasel their way into many of the shots. Yours truly will return to Weeki next month and I might have to haul an elaborate camera under the water to lure those fame-seekers back!



Anyway, I recently asked Andrew many illuminating questions about the calendar, Weeki Wachee, being an exceptional mermaid beau, and mermaids generally.

So how did you get to be so involved with mermaids?
Growing up on a small island on the west coast of Florida and surfing most of my life, I’ve always been around water and had plenty of time to dream up what was swimming below the surface. Mermaids were always at the top of my list.

What’s the appeal of mermaids to you? Why do you think they’re so popular?
Throughout history, wherever there’s a body of water there’s some form of a mermaid myth, so either mermaids are just part of the collective unconscious or they really did or do exist. Ninety-five-percent of the ocean is undiscovered so they can’t be ruled out. As for their popularity, I think as a race we are always looking for mythic stories and images to distract us from our everyday lives and I think mermaids do a good job of that, flying freely through the oceans without a care. And of course women want to be them and men want to be with them.

Andrew photographing the mermaids; photo by John Athanason

Andrew photographing the mermaids; photo by John Athanason

When did you first visit Weeki Wachee and why is it such a special place to you?
I was a wide-eyed five-year-old on my first visit and ever since I’ve had a consistent ongoing image running through my mind of the great Weeki Wachee mermaids. Years later, while living in New York City, I heard about Weeki’s “Save our Tails” campaign to raise funds and awareness for the park and reached out to Robyn Anderson and John Athanason to donate my services. I’m really stoked with the projects that we’ve done together through the years. I find them much more rewarding than my day job of photographing for magazines and advertising.

Having the world-famous Weeki Wachee mermaids as your focus point and the beauty of the natural spring as your studio is a dream come true. I am constantly amazed by their athleticism and grace and how they make it look so easy. Believe me, it’s not! The Weeki Wachee Spring truly is a miracle of nature and one of the great fountains of youth, all you have to do is watch the former mermaids perform like giddy teenagers again to know that it’s magical. The water is around 100 years old when it comes out of the spring’s head after filtering through the limestone aquifer at a rate of over 165 million gallons a day. It’s the clearest water I have ever photographed in, and that’s pretty special to me. I hope in some way that we can help raise awareness about Florida’s springs and aquifer and how vulnerable the whole system has become. Many are slowly being affected by the heavy use of nitrates from fertilizers and some have dried up all together because of Florida’s increasing need of water. I think the recent rise in sink holes is giving us a wake-up call to pay attention to what is happening below the surface.


Can you tell me about the Weeki Wachee calendars you’ve done? What was the inspiration for 2014?
This is the fourth calendar that we’ve done with Weeki over the years (and the fourth in Weeki’s history). In the past we based the themes on the holidays of each month, like a Mermaid Witch on a broom stick for October, a Mermaid Bunny for April, and so on. This year we wanted to make it about the mermaids and the spring itself, more natural, plus we were excited to have the Mertailor/Eric Ducharme’s tails involved.

The day we arrived to start shooting, a herd of ten manatees arrived in the spring and stayed for four days until the day we left. I’ve never heard of that many manatees hanging over a period of days at Weeki. It was great to see and incorporate what seafarers from the past thought to be the original mermaids, the manatees, along with the Weeki mermaids. Talk about natural magic! It was one of my all-time top experiences.

I grew up on old Florida and the kitsch that went with it so we try to keep a little of that in how we shoot and design the calendars. Weeki Wachee is the last of the pre-Mouse invasion attractions that has not only survived but is thriving.


What is it like dating a famous mermaid? =) Are you constantly covered in glitter and scales?
I had to get over the glitter thing years ago, I’d be on a shoot and someone would come up and say, “umm you know you’re covered …” and I’d be like “I know, I know.” Now I’m just “yep, that’s right, got a problem?” Bambi the Mermaid is the smartest and most fun-loving mermaid I’ve ever met and a true genius at her craft. We’ve shared a lot through the years, she’s my best friend and my true soul mate. Don’t get me wrong, she can cast a long shadow of a tale, but I’ve been able to hold my own so far. In the last couple of calendars we’ve had a “Find Bambi” game with small hidden images of her throughout the calendar. This year she’s limited in her hiding but she’s there.

One of Andrew's many gorgeous shots of Bambi the Mermaid

One of Andrew’s many gorgeous shots of Bambi the Mermaid

Can you tell me about your experiences at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade?
In 1988 when I first moved to NYC I was hired by Travel and Leisure Magazine to shoot portraits of the mermaids and the participants in the parade and it was an absolute blast. I’ve had some incredible fun over the years at, in and around the parade but I’m a lover of its early days as a smaller art parade. These days it’s great if you’re in the parade but as a viewer it’s gotten a little too crowded for my taste with way too many ornery photographers (I tell everyone I’m a plumber that day).

I know you’ve also photographed Bambi the Mermaid all over the world. Can you tell me about that?
We’ve created projects everywhere from Weeki to the islands of Fiji. One of the best was an awesome trip to Turtle Island, where they shot the movie Blue Lagoon. I’d been to Fiji once before to surf but this was crazy special, we would be taken by boat with Bambi’s costumes and props plus amazing food and spirits to our own different deserted beach each day. We created a great body of work based on the Feegee Mermaid and Blue Lagoon plus got to hang with the “God” rock structure that Brooke Shields’s character feared so much in Blue Lagoon. We gave him a much-needed make over.

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaid beaus/escorts?
Learn to walk slowly, be good with a spray bottle and build up your arms: there’s a lot of carrying to do.

Newsworthy mermaids, MerPalooza, plus my new book

7 Aug

Many, many mermaidly things have been happening of late. The New York Times Magazine, for instance, ran a big story about Weeki Wachee by super-smart Virginia Sole-Smith (who quoted yours truly in the article, as well as Eric Ducharme, Barbara Wynns, and other glamorous Weeki folk). The Los Angeles Times published a roundtable on The Little Mermaid. At The Huffington Post, Brenda Peterson posted an interview with Hannah Fraser. And I wrote an article on mermaids for The New Inquiry that then inspired this article on the The Atlantic Wire, this article on Jezebel, this grouchy piece on Slate, this summary of the mermaid/vampire debate on Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish, and possibly more things but I don’t know about them. Meanwhile, the government has denied the existence of mermaids, the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is about to turn 100, and photographer Andrew Brusso delivered the 2014 Weeki Wachee calendars (interview and images to come!).

EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY, the second annual MerPalooza “International Mermaid Convention and Party” takes place this weekend in Tampa, at the Bay Harbor Hotel. I’m flying down on Friday and will be reading and signing my new book, The Fairest of Them All, on Saturday at 2pm (there will also be copies of Mermaid and my novel Godmother, provided by Tampa’s Inkwood Books). I know that Eric Ducharme will be there with plenty of mermaids, that several Weeki ladies will be in attendance, that Stephanie Sims will be hosting another mermaid pageant, and that all kinds of other delights will be in store. You should obviously start heading to Tampa right now.

Speaking of my new book, which just came out yesterday and which I have to tell you about this one time, The Fairest of Them All is a fairy-tale mash-up about Rapunzel growing up to be Snow White’s stepmother (it’s okay for teenagers but not for kids!). Eleanor Brown calls it “intricate, inventive, and charged with magic.” Jamie Ford says he “loved this unexpected spin on the story of Rapunzel, this strong-willed devourer of hearts.” Caroline Leavitt says that it “unfolds like a waking dream, with prose that shimmers like cut diamonds.” You can read more praise for it here. And here’s an excerpt.


Because of an ongoing battle between Simon & Schuster (my publisher) and Barnes & Noble (a fight that has nothing to do with me), The Fairest of Them All will not be in brick-and-mortar Barnes & Nobles. So please, if you’re inclined, tell your friends, share the link for my book, write a song about it, get the cover tattooed on your chest, or show up at MerPalooza (or your local indie) this weekend and buy five copies… I will be eternally, eternally grateful if you do. Thank you!

More mermaids to come!

Olivia De Berardinis’ Sexy Pin-Up Mermaids

11 Jul

So legendary pin-up artist Olivia De Berardinis has painted a zillion gorgeous bombshells over the years (she’s been doing it since the mid-70’s and has been contributing an original painting every month to Playboy Magazine since 2004), and is not averse to the occasional bombshell mermaid. Her Bettie Page in a black latex tail is one of the most striking mermaids out there, and she has a few pink-tailed Marilyns and a host of other ultra-glam half-fish half-ladies in her oeuvre, too (not to mention a few other be-tailed Betties). I recently emailed Olivia to see if she’d talk mermaids with me, and though she noted at first that this isn’t the work she’s most known for, she did let me send her some penetrating questions and responded with this charming note:

Hi Carolyn,

I probably first painted a mermaid in the 80’s. The tail is very expressive—they’re fun to paint! It’s a great fantasy. I always found mermaids to be more pretty than sexual, though. I figured they were seals or manatees that only looked like women to lonely, horny sailors centuries ago. I honestly don’t understand their sexual appeal since they’re not built for human copulation.

After “The Little Mermaid” came out (I loved that movie), quite a few of the girls from Playboy who modeled for me seemed to have a great interest in being painted as a mermaid. I found it curious that the mermaid image was such a big part of their lives. They had mermaid avatars, art, entertainment, and I know all of them had a mermaid costume. By now mermaids have become a strong vein in popular culture. One model, a few years ago, brought her Little Mermaid music to pose by. Mrs. Hefner is one of the latest women who asked me to paint her as a mermaid. Her painting is in my last book (Malibu Cheesecake) and will be in 2014 calendar.

Most of the time I use a lingerie version of a tail. Bettie Page was the fetish queen, so I chose a latex fin for her. It made a perfect bondage implement.

I think the beautiful Ariel changed a generation’s focus toward mermaids. It was a great movie, and a beautiful story. I also loved Splash!


We went back and forth for a little bit as I tried to find the right images to post (I’m only including ones I could find online that contain her signature) and to clarify a few things (the Bettie mermaids were her idea), and at one point she noted, “I guess I did a lot of mermaids.”

She did!









Francesca Lia Block’s Magical Creatures

28 Jun

flbSo I am a huge fan of Francesca Lia Block. I first read her classic YA novel Weetzie Bat in 1995, when I’d just moved to Los Angeles from New York to attend grad school at UCLA and wasn’t totally happy to be in that weird, glittery city. But those opening lines made that whole city come alive with magic and seem like some kind of wonderland, and from then on my heart burst with Angeleno love:

“The reason Weetzie Bat hated high school was because no one understood. They didn’t even realize where they were living. They didn’t care that Marilyn’s prints were practically in their backyard at Graumann’s; that you could buy tomahawks and plastic palm tree wallets at Farmer’s Market, and the wildest, cheapest cheese and bean and hot dog and pastrami burritos at Oki Dogs; that the waitresses wore skates at the Jetson-style Tiny Naylor’s; that there was a fountain that turned tropical soda-pop colors, and a canyon where Jim Morrison and Houdini used to live, and all-night potato knishes at Canter’s, and not too far away was Venice, with columns, and canals, even, like the real Venice but maybe cooler because of the surfers. There was no one who cared. Until Dirk.”

It’s not every writer who can make you see the world in a brand-new way and/or seek out hot dog/pastrami/cheese burritos on Pico Boulevard (which I totally did).

Francesca has written nearly three dozen books by now, full of all kinds of magical creatures (technical and otherwise) and the occasional mermaid. Here’s a random mermaidly quote from her novel Echo:

“Maybe I would become a mermaid… I would live in the swirling blue-green currents, doing exotic underwater dances for the fish, kissed by sea anemones, caressed by seaweed shawls. I would have a dolphin friend. He would have merry eyes and thick flesh of a god. My fingernails would be tiny shells and my skin would be like jade with light shining through it I would never have to come back up.”

And from Wasteland:

“You asked me who I thought I was before. I said maybe I was a fish because I love water and you said, you thought a mermaid, maybe. If you were a mermaid, you said, if you were a mermaid, I was the sea.”

Do you see what I mean?

Francesca also, by the way, contributed to the not-yet-published Mermaids magazine I’ve told you about, and which will come out soon I THINK (watch this space!), and one day recently she emailed me a link to these


which officially makes her the best author with the best taste in sunglasses ever.

Our illuminating Q and A follows:

So can you tell me about your fictional mermaids? When and where do they appear in your books? What do they do?
Weetzie grows up, goes to a pink hotel and rescues one here:


And I have an erotic mermaid tale here:


Are you yourself a mermaid?
No, I am a wood nymph. In my system, outlined in Wood Nymph Seeks Centaur, mermaids are beautiful, warm, maternal, challenging divas. Wood Nymphs are wild, loving, somewhat neurotic artists.

Why do people love mermaids so much, do you think?
What’s not to like? They are like us and yet completely foreign and inaccessible. They also echo our origins from the sea.



Do you have any future mermaid plans, in your books or outside of them (or both)?
I have one coming to visit me next weekend from Manhattan. She has red hair, does yoga and writes poetry and stories.

In my new book Love in the Time of Global Warming, there are some sirens. The book is based on The Odyssey by Homer with a female protagonist named Penelope (Pen) who has to help save the world after an apocalypse.

Do you have any favorite mermaid art/fashion statements/books/movies?

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson.
The Odyssey by Homer
Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman [interviewed on this blog here]
The Secret of Roan Inish. (film)
As I think more about this, I would like to write one!


What do you think makes mermaids so cool?
I am fascinated with all half-human, half animal creatures but there is something especially enticing about the ability to live under water, to swim like a fish, to sing on the rocks, to charm the object of your desire into your hidden realm.

What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a sequel to Love in the Time of Global Warming and a new adult book for St. Martin’s Press called Beyond the Pale Motel.

And finally,do you have any advice do you have for aspiring mermaids?
Wear sunglasses (I just had cataract surgery at an early age) while you bask on rocks. And wear sunscreen.

Artist David Delamare and His Many Many Mermaids

28 Jun

So artist David Delamare is kind of a big deal, mermaid-painting-wise, and you’ve probably seen one of his mermaid masterpieces whether you know it or not. At least in your dreams or drunken wanderings (or here). I mean look:


He’s got tattooed mirror-holding mermaids hanging out on rocks, and steampunk Marie Antoinette mermaids sitting on metal horses


and streamy-haired mermaids hanging out around bathyspheres for possibly nefarious purposes


and poker-playing mermaids about to cheat pirates out of valuable loot


and well coiffed mermaids pressed against seahorses in questionable manners


and plenty more mermaids besides, many of which you can gaze upon in this glittering gallery.

Obviously, I had to ask David some questions at some point, lest I be remiss in my mermaid duties and leave this blog somehow eternally incomplete. Our enticing Q and A follows.

When did you start painting mermaids? What was the first inspiration?
The first mermaid I painted was for ready money, nothing more. She was part of a very fanciful wooden sign for a restaurant called Buttertoes. At the time I had no idea that this seemingly simple sea creature would ultimately provide so many interesting conceptual and compositional possibilities.

How has your mermaid art evolved over the years?
My mermaid art has changed dramatically because my approach to making paintings is so different. For many years I painted using an air brush for areas of continuous tone (both on the figures and in the backgrounds) then added details using a traditional brush with water-based paint. Several years ago, I switched to the most traditional of media—oil brush on canvas. Using a brush rather than a spray gives the areas of continuous tone a much more organic and less mechanical effect. With oil painting, I start with a layer of opaque paint which will become the shadows and continuous tone, then glaze over this with transparent washes. The result is that the light bounces off of lighter areas while being absorbed by darker ones. This creates a depth and luminosity that my earlier paintings couldn’t have. You can’t see this in the photographs of the art. It’s really only visible when looking at the originals. If you’re curious about how the individual elements of the paintings are added, you might view the progressive slideshow on You Tube of my Alice painting titled “Beware The Jabberwock.” There are also some progressive albums on my Facebook page.

Has your idea of them changed at all—over time and/or as a result of mermaids’ increasing popularity, etc.?
At first, my narratives were influenced by Greek mythology or the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Later, my interpretations become more personal, primarily driven by the desire to create more complex and interesting compositions, settings, and features. I experimented, of course, with different anatomical elements such as gills, fin shapes, and scale styles. Then, in the last ten or twelve years I began interpreting the writings of my partner and publisher Wendy Ice, who has written a field guide describing a mermaid world of her own invention. We occasionally have late night discussions about the symbolic or metaphorical significance of the mermaid, usually taking a fairly psychological approach having to do with the conflicted (divided) self or the division of the conscious and unconscious.

Can you talk about what continues to inspire you? How/why do mermaids continue to interest you?
Artistic genius never stops inspiring me. Painting, music, live theater, film, and literature are all favorites. If I find myself at a temporary impasse, certain artists never fail to jump-start me. Reliable touchstones include Mozart, Django Reinhardt, Orson Welles, Harold Pinter, Caravaggio and Monty Python. Mermaids continue to interest me because their conceptual elasticity is endlessly encouraging as a source of engagement.

What’s the most challenging part of painting them?
The challenging part is to keep reinventing them so that they remain vital.

Do you have an interest in or fascination with mermaids outside of your art? Are you, for example, interested at all in mermaid culture and/or have a particular love of the sea?
Wendy and I have both carefully avoided reading any contemporary writings about mermaids because we don’t want to be consciously or subconsciously influenced by the material. Also, we don’t want to feel as though we can’t use an interesting idea just because someone else happened to use it. The odd result is that we’ve been creatively immersed in the subject matter for many years but are almost completely ignorant about how it has been handled by others in the last century. For the same reason, we know next to nothing about contemporary mermaid imagery. Like anyone else, we occasionally stumble upon a mermaid painting online, but we don’t go looking for them. (The downside of this approach is we miss out on what is likely a wide variety of interesting literature and imagery.)

Can you share with us one of your favorite mermaid paintings you’ve done—and why?
My favorites are the most recent. I particularly like a newer series that we’re calling the “Victorian Mermaids.” It features Victorian carnival portraits that depict a caste of mermaids described in Wendy’s writing. In these images mermaids are posing as humans posing as mermaids. I like the fact that they have a psychological quality about them, akin to something found in traditional oil portraiture.

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Beware of the undertow and always bathe in moonlight.

Joy de Vivre’s la Vie Sirene magazine

6 Jun

So I’ve been aware of Joy de Vivre and her Siren School for a while, and was even set to visit one of her San-Diego-area camps last year that involved irresistible swan maidens and a whole lot of white feathers. Siren School hosts fantasy-based camps, parties, tours and even cruises centered around romantic, magical creatures (including, of course, mermaids) that every woman might want to be for a day—or longer. You can see a list of upcoming events here. More recently, she’s launched a cool online magazine called la Vie Sirene and this month its focus is mermaids. Check out the cover and click around to read, among other things, Joy’s awesome interview with one of my favorite mermaids, Weeki Wachee’s Barbara Wynns:

from Joy de Vivre June Mermaid issue cover la Vie Sirene2

I ask Joy for further gorgeous illumination below.

Can you tell us something about yourself?
I am a confessed siren! I don’t use my gifts or talents to lure men to their doom; but I do appreciate being a woman and all that it entails.

I have always known I was cursed with the entrepreneurial bug, but before I struck out on my own I worked in film production and marketing in the performing arts. I’ve owned a few small businesses I absolutely loved, including a tea room, fine dining garden restaurant and a theater company. But my latest venture, Siren School, looks to be the most fulfilling as it inspires and buoys women to find and express their true selves.

How did you become interested in mermaids?
My favorite story as a child was Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, which, as readers know, has a different sensibility than the Disneyfied version. My mom forbade me reading it cuz I would be late to dinner, crying in my room while pouring over the especially heart-wrenching parts

Have you long been involved in mermaid culture, etc?
I flirted with the culture from the fringes for ages. When the movie Splash came out I was nicknamed Madison because of my long blonde hair. And as a SoCal beach girl I have always had a very personal, passionate and altogether primal relationship with the sea. In fact, I am convinced I have salt water coursing through my veins. I am most alive and at peace and ‘myself’ when I am in the ocean.

What is La Vie Sirene?
It is a grass-rootsy online magazine “of the sirens, by the sirens, for the sirens.” In my dealings with members of the mer community I have run into scores of talented artists, authors (you may have been my first!), jewelry & tail designers, rabid enthusiasts, etc., who deserved to be showcased for their dedication and artistry. Unfortunately, many of them feel they have nothing to offer. La Vie Sirene is the place where they can not only be in the spotlight, but share their thoughts and expertise.

The magazine's logo is made from photos of all its contributors.

The magazine’s logo is made from photos of all its contributors.

I relish and encourage contributions from those who are terrified at the thought of writing anything for the public, but who secretly yearn to. While the magazine will feature topics of interest to its primary demographic, women with a penchant for fantasy, dance and esteem-building, it will do so by focusing on a single theme per month to the extent that readers will be so deluged by the theme they will beg to move onto the next issue.

June’s premier issue is about Mermaids, and every single article and ad involves something mermaidy, from mermaid artists, authors, performers and shop owners, to recipes, bath products and even mermaid-specific hotels and pubs. Instead of providing the month’s content in one chunk, the information is rolled out and posted daily, with at least one article and one attendant ad, chosen to complement said article. I wanted to make both the main content as well as the hand-picked ads stand out and give readers the chance to savour each morsel proffered. At month’s end, the issue’s contents will be compiled into one publication available in PDF, Epub, Mobi and possibly even print formats.

It just launched a few days ago and already we are getting incredibly heartening feedback. People are finding it not only entertaining, but highly informative! It’s what I worked for, but dared not expect. So I am thankful, to say the least.

While it’s exciting to get involved in new projects, and try formats that reside just beyond the envelope, by far the best part about the entire enterprise has been the connections I’ve made with some incredibly soulful and talented people. It is such a gift to see them work their magic, and to get to showcase it.

What inspired you and what can we expect in the future?
I actually just posted an article about the mermaid/belly dancer who inspired Siren School to begin with, if any of your readers are brave enough to take a gander.

As for what the future holds, specifically as it applies to the magazine, we have a list of themes in the offing through 2014, though we’re open to requests.

I know you also run mermaid camps (and other fantasy-based camps) and have mermaid-themed cruises in the works. Can you tell me about all that?
from joy de vivre - siren school logoSiren School grew out of my desire to stop swimming just to train for a triathlon, and to get back to doing “water ballet” as I had in my youth… only this time, with a tail! I searched the net for a “mermaid camp”—not knowing if there actually was such a thing—and found the grandmama of them all, wonderful Weeki Wachee. But I lived in California and they are across the country. Additionally, I wanted to delve into the lore and mythology of the legends in something of a roleplay environment. Next thing I knew, I was creating my own camp experience, which is not surprising given that I’ve been involved in theatrical interactive event creation since I was a tyke.

Once I got started with the idea for mermaid events, my inner genie, flapper, geisha, naiad, Venetian courtesan, Parisian showgirl and so on began complaining that they were being neglected. That is when I realized that I wanted to offer a variety of ‘siren’ archetype activities and experiences.

I sat down and created a slew of events all based in coastal Long Beach, CA, and thought I was done. But immediately, I started receiving messages saying, “I love your events but they’re too far away. Let me know if you ever do one in my area.” What to do, what to do… That is when the idea for a tour first germinated and the result is l’Experience Sirene, i.e. Siren School’s 2013 tour with events in cities all over America—each city chosen specifically to best fit the theme. Our Vampire Hunt will be in New Orleans, Pirates Caribbean Cruise & Treasure Hunt in Cozumel, Dryad (wood nymph) event at a Treehouse resort in Oregon, the 1920’s Speakeasy Die Hard gangster melee in Chicago, etc.

The aquatic events include two mermaid cruises with optional dolphin swims in the Bahamas, a Pacific Paradise mermaid getaway with dolphin encounter in San Diego, CA, and our naiad retreat which includes a manatee swim in Florida’s fresh water springs.

Do you yourself slip on a mermaid tail and/or identify as a mermaid at all?
I was over the moon when I got my first tail!!!! Being a major introvert and not liking to attract attention, I do most of my mermaid swimming and water dancing in secret, far from ogling eyes. I am in the throes of designing my first custom tail, which is fortuitous since I gave my original tail away to someone who was unable to get one for herself.

Joy's alter ego: "mermaid's perch" by dashinvaine on deviantart

Joy’s alter ego: “mermaid’s perch” by dashinvaine on deviantart

Why do you think so many people are so drawn to mermaids?
Oh gosh, I could write about that for pages and ages. I think this topic is best left to experts like.. well… you! But I will say, that to me mermaids represent confidence, freedom, grace… a lack of hangups and inhibitions… all qualities that are incredibly attractive in a woman. If the movie Splash imprinted you as it did me, then you may equate being a mermaid to being genuine, beautiful, sweet, loyal, loving, bright… so many qualities I would love to foster in myself!

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
I feel it is absolutely vital to be one’s self without in any way comparing to other mers, their accomplishments, or their tails! Like any budding subculture, mer-dom has its own set of growing pains to contend with, and will find its balance, I have no doubt. While it does so, I feel it is imperative that mers act in a cooperative effort to embrace and promote this unique activity and lifestyle they adore. Like the Little Mermaid’s sisters, we too must twine our arms around each other and rise up out of the water, singing our siren song, not to induce others to wreck on the rocks, but to praise and share our gratitude and love for the mermaids we are—and more important, for one another.