An Austin-based artist who creates lifelike tails to make mermaid hopeful’s dreams come true has partnered with Mermaid Society SMTX to help make a splash during the upcoming San Marcos Mermaid Week.
Maria Russo owns Sirenalia, a company specializing in all things mermaid. Sirenalia makes and sells adult-sized mermaid tails and offers other services for aspiring merpeople.
Russo got her start in mermaid tailoring when she organized shows in the Riviera Maya, land along the Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. During shows, Russo would usually suggest that a mermaid should be placed in the pool. She began making costumes for the mermaid performers to wear.
“Every time I made a tail, I thought, ‘I can make it a little bit better,’ so I started improving them,” Russo said.
About three years ago, Russo teamed up with another artist to create tails made from silicone. After creating two tails that cost about $900 each to make, they decided to sell them to make a profit. From there, they began getting requests from mermaid enthusiasts.
“The mermaid community is pretty big,” she said. “There are a lot of people in the world that feel like they are really connected to the mermaid imagery or even feel like they are a mermaid.”
Sirenalia silicone mermaid tails are designed for wear in the water. Customers often use tails to fulfill their dreams of becoming a merperson.
“The majority of my clients feel like they are a mermaid and need a mermaid tail to complete their mermaid persona,” Russo said. “A fabric tail won’t work (for them).”
Mermaid tails from Sirenalia are available in both fabric and silicone, along with accessories like tops and headdresses, Russo said. A Sirenalia silicone mermaid tail starts at about $1,800.
“I really love costuming of all kinds, and the challenge of creating a functioning costume was really attractive to me,” Russo said. “The mermaid costume has to function. That’s what really drew me into (creating) it.”
Sirenalia also offers “mermaid transformations” in which people dress up as mermaids and have pictures taken underwater. The company even hosts what Russo calls “mermaid retreats.”
“A mermaid retreat is a vacation for mermaids,” she said. “It’s really just an opportunity for mermaids to get together and swim and be mermaids with like-minded individuals.”
Merpeople all over the world admire and relate to the image of the mermaid for a plethora of personal reasons.
“I think it’s different for everybody,” Russo said. “For me, it’s really about a connection with the water. The idea of something that lives in the water but is kind of a human fantasy really resonated with me.”
Russo plans to host a retreat in San Marcos during Mermaid Week in September and expects a great turnout. A portion of the retreat price will be donated to a nonprofit, and a spot in the retreat will also include entry to the city’s Mermaid Week events.
“We will be able to bring in a lot of mermaids,” Russo said. “We have a really big following. We work really closely with the mermaid community, so we’ll be able to bring in a lot of mermaids from all over the country (to San Marcos).”
Working with the city of San Marcos is a “dream come true,” Russo said. The first place she ever saw a mermaid was at an Aquarena Springs show. It was there that she began to learn firsthand how the image of the mermaid can inspire activism.
“(San Marcos) was where I had that first magical moment and, from that point on, I felt like I had a connection to the water, and pretty quickly, responsibility,” Russo said. “When you care about something, you feel responsible for it and you don’t want to see trash in the river.”
Russo said she looks forward to Mermaid Week and believes it will be great for the people of San Marcos.
“Celebrating mermaids is a great way to celebrate the river besides getting drunk in a tube—not that there’s anything wrong with that,” she said.