Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mizuko's Silicone Tail Project Part 1.

Hello everyone!
I've been putting off posting this here because I'm scared this whole venture wont live up to my expectations, but I finally decided to post because it is great motivation- and lets face it, I need good motivation.

This year I have decided to be a good girl and not spend my money on much (if any) lolita/cosplay... why? Because I plan on spending a lot of money making myself a silicone mermaid tail.
Its a pretty big project, but I've been researching this for about a year now and have finally decided to go through with it and dive in. Getting my Merbella's tail was the sealer: I want to make myself a tail as pretty as that. So I'm going to start documenting it on here, for those interested.

Making my own silicone tail is something I've wanted to do since I first started mermaiding. At first, I looked into latex due to it being cheep and easy to get- however I'm glad I didn't do it as I'd have a tail that would fall apart pretty easily. Silicone is the way to go. It is a lot of hard work, time and money. But I know I can make something I am proud of- something that people will be amazed by when I say "I made this". For my business, it will be a huge thing.

First of all,  there are some challenges. Unfortunately because I live in Australia, the particular silicone I need is hard to get. The only supplier in all of Australia is in my city, however they're charging $408 a gallon compared to $184 in the US... thats almost 3 times the price... so if all goes to plan I'll be using a shopping service and getting it shipped over from the US. Second challenge is that I live in a tiny flat with no garage/shed to work in. So I'm currently on the hunt for a shed someone will let me borrow for a few weeks! Haha!
Other than this, the third and final challenge is, of course, money. Because a lot of supplies are either shipped in or imported through other companies, the price of special Fx and molding supplies is ridiculous. I am considering starting a 'fund me' program- as any assistance would be incredible- but I'm not holding my breath. Haha! If I do, I'll link it on here so any readers can spread the word.

Anyways, even with all these difficulties I am still really keen to move forward with this project. To be able to make my own tail will be... well, incredible!

I started this journey with research. So much research. About a years research to be exact. There are no tutorials online about how to make silicone tails (yet! Some very kind mermaids on the Mernetwork are working on them!) and all the ones which are available are all half-done. I have to fill in the gaps with information I found scouring the internet, and via watching other peoples projects.
After this reasonably long time, I finally felt confident enough to start thinking about my own tail.

I decided this tail will be a recreation of my very first mermaid tail, the one I fondly call The Pink Peacock. It is unique in the mermaid world- I have yet to see a tail design like it- and it is very 'me'.

So with that in mind, I started sketching up ideas on how it would look in silicone.
Here is the final design sketch:

I wanted something different for the side/dorsal/ankle fins so I went with a girly look. I know the dorsal will create a little bit of drag, so this design might change! It really depends on how I feel once I've started the molds.

Next step was making a leg cast. This I was able to do over Christmas at home with my family. Because my Dad makes surfboards in his free time, he has a whole shed available and lots of spare fibre-glass. So after making a duct-tape mummy of my lower half, we cut me out, took the cast in a few centimetres and fibre-glassed the whole thing. This is to get the measurements of the tail exact.

Between now and then, however, my project has slid to a halt. Money and time have both not been on my side. I've made the patterns for the fluke and extra fins, but upon a sudden decision I am now also saving up for a $300 monofin to go into the fluke instead of my $70 Rapid monofin. The more expensive monofin is better for ocean swimming, and therefore will be more suitable for a heavy silicone tail, plus I fear my Rapid monofin may have developed stress points- which means it has lost some of its propulsion. This means I have to hold off making the mold for the fluke until I've got the new monofin, as there may need to be adustments made to fit it!

And thats where I am as far as this huge project goes :)
I dont have a dead-line, but I am really truely hoping to have this tail completed by the end of July. Its a big ask, but I have to do it. Its strange to explain- its like I woke up one morning and thought 'its now or never'. Perhaps its my 80's "I have to have it now" attitude. Who knows? But I decided it is more important than lolita or cosplay (although I already have a cosplay project in the works for AVCon again...) and therefore I have to spend my money wisely until this tail is completed. And really, at this point, the hardest thing with this will be the money.

Wish me double, tripple the luck! XD

Friday, March 8, 2013

Autumn Wardrobe Essentials- Yumetenbo

Wow, two posts in one week. I'd better slow down before I get dizzy. lol.

Before I knew it, Summer was done and dusted. Not going to lie, I am genuinely sad that its over, and also a little worried I'll be suffering the 'Winter Blues' this year. Summer being over normally makes me upset, but this year I fear will be a bit harder. I'm already wishing for hot days on the beach!

Pretty much me on March 1st:
But, Adelaide Autumn's aren't terrible. My hometown is full of native trees and scrub, so when Autumn/Winter hits its just a change in sunlight and rainy weather- sometimes it happens so fast its a shock to the system. But in the city there are enough non-native trees that they show the change gradually; leaves turn orange, red, yellow and gently drift off to carpet the roads and sidewalks. Its terribly romantic.
This helps ease everyone into the idea of Winter. Kind of like eating a chocolate every day from December 1st to Christmas. Because of this, I decided it was time to ease myself into the idea of cold, rainy nights and crisp, chilly days. The best way? Updating my wardrobe essentials!

As for personal taste and choice: go nuts. I'm doing my own wardrobe essentials list in the colours/styles that I love because its what I know best ;D Unfortunately leaving it late this year, I only caught the tail-end of the Winter range from Japan. Now stores are moving into Spring/Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but if you look around you can nab some great bargains, or things that a perfectly multi-seasonal. I prefer to buy from Japan for many reasons, but mainly because they LIKE colour! I've checked a few popular Aussie web stores for winter ideas and I'm afraid most of it looks dark and dreary. Great for Mode style, but not for my tastes! I try to steer away from too much black when buying from Japan because of this- its easy to find in local stores!- but its a useful addition to any wardrobe; black tights/shoes/coats/dresses can be worn in so many different ways for different looks.

A web store I always check first is Yumetenbo. They have sexy, hime/romantic, work ware and accessories (and clothing for kids too!) at a reasonable price. So I decided to sort through all their things for a good Autumn wardrobe essential list! The best thing is, its possible to buy directly from them through Rakuten, so if you see anything you like in my list jump on there!

Autumn Wardrobe Essentials Update:

Coats: One simple (I'd recommend black or cream) and one in a style/shape/colour you love. The simple one in a plain colour can be layered over anything, left open or done up. The other one can be a statement! Wear done up or open with a plain dress/outfit beneath.

1 or 2 Jackets: make it a blazer or bomber jacket, as these are pretty easy to match with anything- over dresses, shirts, t-shirts, etc.

3-4 oversized cardigans and sweaters in cream and pastels. These go with everything! Over a dress, top, AS a top, they keep you warm and add an extra touch to a layered outfit. Try to go with thick, warm pieces as this is their best purpose (besides looking cute!). Oversized sweaters look really cute with a faux-collar or collar-necklace!

Dresses: Like any season, a dress will never go out of style. For me, even my short summer dresses can be worn in colder weather. Pair a floral t-shirt dress with an oversized sweater or cardigan, some warm skin-coloured tights and don't forget the lovely Liz-Lisa style skirt/shorts to wear underneath in case of windy days!

 Over-the knee in flats and heels
Short boots in flats and heels
Short boots are 'in' for Winter in the Southern hemisphere, but I still love OK boots. Stock up on two different styles of both (they dont have to be expensive! Look on Taobao), or just throw some OK socks on with the short boots! Luckily here in South Australia it doesn't snow, but rainy days still take the fun out of wearing cute shoes- so be sure to spray them with special water-proof coating to protect them!

Tights and Leggings: black, cream, skin coloured, lacy, tattooed, etc. Tights will be your best friend if you want to wear dresses every day! My best advice for really cold days? Layer them! It works and is extra warm! If you don't mind paying a little bit more, you can get the 'thermal' tights/leggings which actually heat you up 2 or 3 degrees, but as far as I was aware they only come in black at the moment. Lace or printed tights liven up a black dress/jacket.

A pair of jeans: still not completely happy with wearing pants, but a good pair of skinny-legged jeans are super simple and warm. I'd personally go with a navy/dark blue, but I do love the pastel coloured ones too! (My thighs look twice the size in the lighter coloured ones though, blegh) Pair with some cropped boots or cute flats, an oversized sweater and a fluffy warm hat for casual-cute.

1-2 pairs of 'skorts': The handy skirt-short combination which Liz-Lisa is very fond of are an awesome multi-seasonal buy and great for layering under dresses that might be a bit short/breezy for winter. They are also very warm! They are cute on their own with some tights, paired with an oversized sweater over a shirt and some boots. I'd recommend getting them in plain colours to start of with- cream or pink, as they are easy to match under dresses or with a colourful top.

Accessories: Again some things that can be worn year after year! Hats and scarfs in both plain colours, patterned, fur, etc, can be combined with anything in your closet! I found myself wearing a fluffy white scarf almost every day through last winter- it went with everything I wore. It doesn't get so cold here that we need gloves, but its possible to find some cute cream/black pairs in shops closer to Winter-time that work well with oversized cardigans/jeans outfits.

Other thoughts:
Layer layer layer. I love the way Japanese gyarus can make an outfit look so well thought out just by adding an extra piece to an outfit. This is why sweaters, cardigans, tights, socks, shirts, singlets, can all be worn in so many different ways! It takes practice, I think, and its something I am still trying to get 'comfortable' with (by which I mean happy with the way I do it! Lol!) but I know with time I'll like what I put together :P Which means that anyone can get good at it!

The popular colour of Japan's Spring is currently mint. This means that a lot of mint things sell out fast online! Statement pieces in mint are great for Mode style

I personally try to make sure my wardrobe can be mixed with mermaid/ocean things. My statement pieces are often sea-inspired, be it a t-shirt, jewelry, dress, etc. So I try to get things that work with ocean colours- mint, blue, cream, coral. Although I still throw in pink because I love it, and having these array of soft colours really says 'me' when I add it with my mermaid pieces. This makes my style really personal.

Well, I hoped that this cluster-filled post may have been helpful! :D I find its good to write lists of things you need for seasons, and things you might no longer need in your wardrobe.
Hopefully this Autumn will be full of good outfits and great shopping! hehe!

Thanks for Reading!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Merbella Studio's Review

This is a review of Merbella Studio's, the business whom I purchased my professional tail from. Raven is the creative genius behind these incredible tails, tops and accessories!
Within a few weeks of seeing that Raven was selling tails, I began saving like a mad person. I knew the exact design I wanted, as I'd started a fabric tail just like it, so I was more determined than ever to have such a realistic, beautiful tail. I wanted a professional tail to take my Mizuko business one step further- I couldn't afford the 100% silicone tails, but I knew I could save up enough for her just as amazing neoprene/silicone designs!

~I was really hoping to have some professional photos from my shoot a few weeks ago for this review, but unfortunately the photographer has not given them to me yet, so I'm sorry for the iPhone photos! The only nice photos I have are the ones underwater! ^_^ ~


Cost: $1000 for tail ( plus $130 for elaborate shell bra and $80 for scale bra )
Features: Pure dragonskin silicone on a neoprene lining, a finis wave monofin, raised and rounded scales, personalized paint job.
Use for: Professional and Recreational mermaiding!
Overall Rating: 5/5 (I would go 10/5 but that would just blow everyones minds! lol!)

The Process:
I sent Raven an email in early August, however due to her spam problems I resent it to her new email a week later and got a response right away. She gave me the cost for the tail as well as for an elaborate shell bra, which I both ordered! I sent her a dodgy Paint picture of my design, and I paid that same day. There was a gap of two weeks between sending payment and receiving the measurement chart, but Raven was apologetic for the delay- I sent my measurements through on the same day again (I made my partner measure me twice, then I measured myself twice too! Haha! Cant be too careful!) and waited for the next news.
Unfortunately, my wait felt rather long! I'd ordered around the time of the huge silicone shortage- Raven was waiting for supplies before she could start any tails! I didn't hear anything except Facebook updates until December, when I received some money from Christmas and decided to add a scale bra to my order. Raven replied instantly, and said my tail would be done shortly.
Sure enough, about a week later she linked me the first photos of my tail being painted! I was so excited I think my neighbours heard my squealing. A few days after were photos of my scale bra!
Around early February I was booked a big gig, and although I hadn't heard anything regarding my shell bra I sent Raven an email asking if I could have the tail and scale bra sent asap, and I would pay for the shipping of the shell bra separately when it was ready. She was happy to do so and within two days had shipped it out and I paid via Paypal for the cost.
Living in Australia, postage was super expensive, but thankfully my parents decided to help me out! (Thanks Mum and Dad!) However, it only took 4 days to arrive (minus the weekend). It was in a huge sturdy box that just fit in the back of my car when I picked it up! Unfortunately, I had to finish work for the day and spent the next 4 hours staring longingly at the box beside my work desk- I didn't want to open it until I was home with my partner! It was tough. Haha!

The box in the back of my car!!
Pulling the tail out of the box was one of the best things ever. It was safely surrounded by styrofoam balls and the top was folded gently near a corner. Raven had also sent me a beautiful hair piece and cute earrings as extras!
Hair clip and earrings that Raven included in my order as a gift!

Although I have never owned a silicone/neoprene tail before, I can honestly say I am so impressed with Raven's craftsmanship. Firstly, the paint job is more beautiful than I had expected. Raven had followed my design but made it look so bright and vibrant, I am really in love with it! I'm a pastel girl who loves her pink and baby-blues, so this tail is just perfect. I wanted gold along the waist line to help blend, and it really does blend so well into my skin!
The silicone is amazing, I love the feel when I poke it. Lol. It has been molded and then stuck over the top of the pre-sewn neoprene, so it fits PERFECTLY. My one issue is that when I sit up if I'm not careful I do get a bit of a plumbers-crack; but this is because of movement/swimming which pulls the tail down JUST enough that if I dont re-adjust before sitting up, the clients get an eye-full. Haha! This is possibly from my own shotty measuring skills, as I can recall getting a few different measurements on my waist-to-ankle measurements and I went with the average. :P I know for next time! Haha! Other than that, as I said, the fitting is perfect. Nice and tight on my knees, calves, and hips! Stretch is not lost, either, I was surprised at the amount of movement I still had- it was comfortable. The scales are all raised and rounded- a few appear like they had air-bubbles in them during the curing process, but personally I really love the look. It looks so much more organic and realistic! The fluke/scale area is completely seamless- or at least I cant see it no matter how hard I search! The fluke itself has the neoprene exposed on the very end (the silicone does not join at the seams), and I'm assuming this is for drainage/air release purposes, however I haven't seen them in action, even with swimming.
As for the seams, the actual tail has two silicone seams and two inner neoprene seams. Both run down the sides of the tail. The neoprene was sewn before the silicone was added (this is an assumption, however) so these seams dont even matter! The silicone scales themselves have been molded in two pieces and stuck on front/back, overlapped and cut really well. I dont think the seams are messy- they blend in naturally. I've found ONE scale that flops around a wee bit near my calf, because when I roll it up my legs I feel it, but there are no gaps or untidy bits (I'm happy to fix this singular scale with a drop of silicone myself, its no big deal). You can only notice the seams if you look closely, and lets just be honest- this tail is so pretty I still get taken aback by it. Lol!
Super unattractive photo of me trying it on as soon as it was out of the box! lol!
The total weight is around 5-6 kilograms- it is heavier after swimming due to the neoprene soaking up water, but probably only by 1 or 2 kilos. It feels really substantial- there is NO way I will tear or poke a finger through it! I'm still careful with storage, I lay it flat and out of the sun, and I make sure its completely dry before storing it away. That is all basic tail maintenance, though! Lol! This is a sturdy tail, for me doing children's parties this is great- kids pull on the fluke, sit on it, etc, but I've had no damage and I'm not particularly worried about damage because its so well made. Raven is open to help repair damage too, which I think is wonderful!

So far I've only been able to swim in it properly once outside of gigs, as I dont have a proper drying-stand and I'm afraid of mold. Lol! However, this first swim was incredible. Despite being layered with neoprene, I had no buoyancy issues- I could sink and float just as easily as I normally could. This was probably the most surprising thing for me! My surfing wetsuits make me float- but this tail felt almost neutral.
The second awesome thing about this tail: it suctions to you. I've read how full silicone tails suction to your legs like a second-skin once they get water in them, but I did not realise it would happen with neoprene too. I have to roll onto my back and get someone to hold my legs up to drain the tail of water- and only then can I managed to wiggle out! What does this mean when swimming? Oh man. It felt like I was just wearing a monofin. It was so cool! I felt faster, more agile than in a fabric tail, even though my legs are more restricted.
I personally love how the tail is floppy at the end of the fluke, underwater it looks so beautiful! I get a small bit of drag around the waist area at the back, but its fixed with a simple belt. Because of this drag the tail does creep down slightly- as I mentioned above- so that if I sit up without pulling it up I show the top of my bum crack. I dont see this as a fault, especially because the belt solves it, and once you get moving it is so amazing to swim in.

Scaled Bra:
Dodgy photo of the scale bra... sorry about the quality!
The scaled bra is really cool. It fits snuggly, and does NOT slide down when swimming! The silicone scales overlap the natural bra band which actually grips my skin to prevent slipping; I've also had a lot of people comment on how natural it looks because of this. I have big boobs/a small back and this bra is really lovely without showing off the full extent of my cleavage! I dont feel like I have to cover up for children's parties (I've had little boys say 'naughty mermaid' in the past when I wore just bikini tops! LOL!). I've even wore this top to a dress up party because I wanted to show off how cool it was. Haha!

Final Thoughts:
As far as the wait goes, it is totally worth it. This tail is just amazing. I feel so privileged and lucky to have one! It may not be a 'super professional' 100% silicone tail, but as far as professionalism and make goes, this is top of the market. I can and will be using this tail for years to come! The top is just perfect too; I am still waiting on my shell bra but I have no doubt that it will be absolutely incredible, as is everything Raven produces. The feel, fit and movement in this tail is amazing. The urge to start saving for another one is hard to resist. I'll finish this review off with the best description that comes to mind when I look at my tail: Dream-like.
Thank you so much!

Find my mermaid page here: