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Mermaid Crowns

Mermaids have more fun. Just ask Isabel.

I’m a California girl born and raised. The Pacific ocean was a quick twenty minute drive from my childhood home on the central coast. The first coffee table book I purchased was a tome on the lore of mermaids. Nearly everyday I wear a hand carved mermaid that hangs from a cord around my neck. She is my taliswoman. So it is of little wonder that when I began planning a creative photography project during my first year in business that I set my sights on capturing mermaids.

My sister, Juliette made this crown with a shell pendant and strands of beads purchased during an annual excursion to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. She also incorporated sea shells, natural pearls, metal seahorse ornaments and artificial sea branches. Due to its flexible construction this crown can be worn by a child or an adult. The mermaid themed necklace was found in a thrift store by my keen-eyed niece Avalon, who learned successful thrifting from the master, her mother, Juliette.

Recently I have been surprised to hear more than one person say that they think the mermaid crowns are added to the images in Photoshop. Nope, not true. Folks are also surprised to discover that the mermaids are actually lounging in shallow water. Yup, true story. These conversations have compelled me to give a “behind the scenes” glimpse into how the crowns are made and how the images were captured in my backyard. I am a proponent of capturing images “in camera” and doing as little work in Photoshop as possible. The less time I sit in front of my computer the better.

Style 1: The base of the crown is formed by twisting and shaping 12-gauge floral wire by hand. Rough spots and cuts are covered with gaffer tape. The floral wire is wrapped with decorative pipe cleaners.

I found very little information on the internet to help me design the crowns. As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable”, so I proceeded with figuring it out. Inspiration came from how some fascinators are made. I determined a strong base was necessary and that it should fit over the head—from ear to ear—for stability. I also needed a material that could withstand hot glue to hold the various decorative elements securely. The gluing conundrum was solved by wrapping the floral wire with bushy, metallic pipe cleaners. As a bonus the pipe cleaners are available in a variety of colors.

Style 2: The base of the crown is formed with 12-gauge floral wire with rough spots and cut ends wrapped in gaffer tape. An inexpensive metal tiara is attached to the base by wrapping the ends on to the wire frame. For a uniform look and easy gluing of decorations all parts of the base and attached tiara are wrapped with pipe cleaners.
Get your glue gun ready. Both styles of crowns are now ready for decorative embellishment. This is the fun part of the project for my fellow crafters.

My sister, Juliette is an accomplished artist and I enlisted her help with decorating the crowns and assisting with the first photoshoot with Lindsey and Campbell. Juliette was dismayed to discover that I had not purchased high heat glue sticks (for its strong bonding capabilities and durableness in all weather conditions, including exposure to water). Well, that would have been nice to know. Unfortunately, it was too late to buy more, the stores were closed, so we used what was on hand. Ignorance is not always bliss. I also discovered that these types of projects use a lot of glue and that it is smart to buy extra long glue sticks. #lessonlearned

Upper right image: Our mom watches the decision making process as Juliette deliberates over what materials to use to decorate a crown. To add a floral accent to the “pink” crown, I selected artificial succulent flowers and then applied glitter to add a lovely shimmer. The crowns are decorated on all sides so I could photograph the mermaids from any angle. Juliette’s favorite glue for glitter is Mod Podge. When applying the glitter, do so over a paper plate so you can easily save leftover glitter and pour it back into the container. It pays to be a thrifty crafter.

It was extremely helpful to have separate folding table set up that contained all the decorative elements: shells, abalone, sequins, glitter, artificial flowers, faux seaweed, strands of beads, buttons, pearls, rhinestones, costume jewelry, blingy broaches, charms, filigree connectors, broken jewelry, thrift store jewelry, hat pins, assorted chains, and a mish mash of miscellaneous decorative items. As you can see in the image below, everything got pretty messy, but there was, thankfully, some semblance of a system in place.

We covered our work areas with heavy duty aluminum foil, which is especially helpful to protect the table from leaking hot glue guns. Juliette is detail oriented and applied glitter to the crevices of the sea shells by thinly “painting” Mod Podge with a toothpick.
The brooch was an inexpensive purchase from a craft store.

The styrofoam heads are really helpful with decorating and displaying the crowns. Because the frame is floral wire, the crowns can be adjusted a little by delicately pushing inward on the sides to fit a child’s head, or gently pulling outward to fit an adult’s head. The wire at the base of the neck helps the crown stay in place.

Refrain from gluing until you are satisfied with how the more prominent decorative elements are fitting together. Once you have the larger “anchoring pieces” selected and glued in place, then it is much easier to find smaller items to accentuate the design and fill in gaps. Use Popsicle sticks, toothpicks and tweezers to help press items into the hot glue. These tools will also help to protect your fingers. Regardless of how careful you are, the odds are against you experiencing at least one hot glue burn. Ouch! With that being said, to quote The Hunger Games, may the odds be ever in your favor.
The mermaid project was a family affair. While Juliette and I decorated crowns, my husband set-up the seasonal pool in the backyard. I lined the pool with netting decorated with sequins. We sisters were like parakeets with this project. Everything shiny and sparkly thrilled us. Juliette brought sea shells from her personal collection to add to the water and place around the happy mother and daughter mermaids, Lindsey and Campbell.
The studio has a plethora of costume jewelry to complement the showy crowns. At one point in my life, before I opened the photography studio, I was wondering why in the world I was keeping all this jewelry that I didn’t wear. Now I know the answer. My mermaids have so much fun draping themselves in “jewels”. It doesn’t matter your age; playing dress-up never gets old.
Lauren asked if she could decorate her own crown and I was happy to comply with her request, so we scheduled an art day, which was a blast. Art, music, snacks, conversation… what could be better? I made the base of the crown ahead of time and Lauren embellished it with pieces of jewelry, faux fauna and shells. After the photoshoot, Lauren generously donated the crown to the studio’s collection so you have the opportunity to wear it, too, if you like. Yay!

Just in case you are wondering, the bubbles in Lauren’s mermaid portrait are not added in Photoshop. My daughter was wielding the battery-powered bubble machine during the photoshoot. It was pretty funny seeing Maddie run around trying to master the best way to surround Lauren with oodles of bubbles. Lauren kept cracking up and a good time was had by all.

I am dreaming of using these necklaces made of Roman glass in a mermaid photoshoot. The beads are artifacts that are made from salvaged glass that is ~2,000 years old. Will you be the one to wear these beautiful antiquities?

I have plans for more mermaid photoshoots during the hot weather months, as well as creating other creative fine art images utilizing the shallow pool, think maternity and boudoir.

Would you like to explore your options? Contact me for more information: (833)277-8721 or artifactps@gmail.com.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions, or please let me know if you have suggestions to improve my crown making process.

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

“Always be yourself unless you can be a mermaid then always be a mermaid.”

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