Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Letter to Black Mermaid Productions About African Mermaids

We recently received the following email (reprinted here with permission) and thought it was important to share with you.

Dear Folk at BMP,

Despite the name of your site/company, and much searching else where, I have been unable to find any illustrations of Black, as in African, Mermaids. Caucasian mermaids abound, but African? I live in West Africa for much of the year and the mermaid legends abound, there are many stretchers [sic] of water where fishermen will not venture in order not to disturb the "Mammi Water" as mermaids are called in Pidgin English. Perhaps this could be soon rectified. My African step daughter frequently asks me why there are no pictures of Black Mermaids like her, she is young enough to believe my stories, but as she gets older it might just occur to her that we have become conditioned into racially stereo typing mermaids.   If you know of any sites of pictures of African mermaids please let me know, or may be one day we will see some really Black Mermaids on your site, not silhouettes of white ones.   I am a commercial diver by trade and alas despite years at sea I have never yet seen a mermaid of any colour.


Nick Roddy 


Hi Nick,

Thanks for your email. You've brought up a very important topic and we hope we can answer it and perhaps give you and your stepdaughter some hope in your quest to discover some African-inspired mermaids.

Historically, we named our business Black Mermaid Productions because we wanted "mermaid" in the name and then we thought of allocating her a "word" (text) colour to distinguish her from other businesses with mermaid in their name  – we tested all colour variations by saying them out loud and decided that 'black mermaid' sounded the best. We all evoked wonderful mental images of what she could look like and a good feeling from that name. Jozef then designed the fantasy-like logo silhouette because we essentially work in the fantasy comics genre and it resonated with the essence of our brand. Our logo is a silhouette but we have never attributed a real-life colour to her if. Indeed if she was spotlighted – her "in the light" colour is really in the eyes of the beholder who can endow her in any way he or she likes.

We have two mermaid properties we are working on – Elf~Fin (mer-elves) and Mermist Seas (our spin on traditional mermaids). When we put together our cast in both projects we actually sat down to consciously make sure we represented different archetypes, different ages, different body shapes, different skin colours and cultural diversity that parallels the world we humans live in. 

In Elf~Fin: Hyfus and Tilaweed, the closest representation in the first issue we have to an 'African black mermaid'  is the character of Barrha who is one of the Elders in the first community we visit (see: http://blackmermaidproductions.blogspot.com/2009/02/elffin-leaks-peeks-5.html). 

In the second issue our cultural mix will become very obvious in the second community we visit.  

These characters have more of an animation design to them than our second property – Mermist Seas – which will not be published for several years. Our character Korozon is the closest we can show you at the moment to what we think an African merman may look like but we will assure you that there will be many "black mermaids" in the story. You can see Korozon in the top colour horizontal panel as he swims underwater on http://www.blackmermaid.com/spheres2.html

You can also see another character Tiro in our limited edition print (see above.)

We are working on the notion that Elf~Fin: Hyfus and Tilaweed will be published in the latter half of 2010. This is aimed at adults.

However, the second book in the series – The Wells of Shekimminon – features children as the major characters so hopefully the story will appeal to your step daughter and also provide her with the black mermaids she is hoping to find in books.

The information about the Mammi Water is fascinating and we're certainly going to research this area of mermaid mythology because neither of us are familiar with it. Thanks for the tip.

In the meantime, we think this is a very important topic so do we have your permission to reproduce your letter on our blog with our corresponding answer? 

Julie and Jozef

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Witchy Halloween Black Mermaid™ Out Now

We've just released a new design in our signature line of Black Mermaid gifts and collectibles. This one's called "Halloween Moon" and she's from the Celebration Black Mermaid range. Jozef Szekeres, of course, is the designer as you all already know.

We're also introducing new products into the mix – environmentally friendly organic T-shirts and Sigg water bottles, as well as journals, postcards and keepsake boxes. The throw pillows are our personal favourites.

Please support our CafePress Shop. Outside of you looking sexy and fabulous in the clothes or mounting some of Jozef's artwork on your walls for your loved ones to sigh about, just feel good knowing that you're effectively becoming Black Mermaid Productions patrons every time you place an order or spread the word. You see, any income we make from sales helps keep Jozef painting Elf~Fin: Hyfus & Tilaweed full-time without him taking on other freelance work to pay the rent. Ultimately, every order you click through our CafePress Shop brings us closer to publication.

PLEASE NOTE – This Halloween design will only be available this year until 31 October 2009 (11.49 US Pacific Time). So make haste and BUY NOW for yourself, your children, your parents, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your friends, your entire neighbourhood, your school, your workmates – heck, all the people in your world who celebrate Halloween!

Fortean Times Mermaid Feature

The October 2009 edition of the Fortean Times which examines the world of strange phenomena akin to the X-Files, has a cover story on mermaids – "Mermaids: Myth or Reality" (BTW, we like the font the publisher used on the front cover especially the swirly 'S'). The cover story features three articles – 

(1) "Fishy Tales" by Paul Chambers 

[An] "unnatural history of the British mermaid" offers an overview of the life and times of a controversial creature rarely seen in marine zoology textbooks.

(2) "Mermaids in Myth and Art" by Gail-Nina Anderson
Mermaids and their fishy kin have been with us for a long time, but where did these alluring hybrids come from? [The writer] traces the mermaid lineage, from Mesopotamian carvings to Disney films and Barbie dolls.
(3) "How to Make... a Mermaid" by Alan Frisell
[The writer] shows you how to make your very own Feejee Mermaid out of a few inexpensive and easily obtainable household materials.
Great stuff! You can get order a subscription from Fortean Times. This is a great magazine – I (Julie) should know – I have the entire collection except for three issues. 

Movie Mermaids 3 – Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Okay, the lead "mermaid" character is more a goldfish girl but people are still classifying her as a a mermaid. This Japanese animated feature was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki (he of Oscar winning Spirited Away fame). Some say it's a modern take on Hans Christian Andersen's  The Little MermaidFor a detailed plot summary go to WikipediaThe English language version has the following talent amongst its voice cast – Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin and Tina Fey. There was a great article by Justin Norrie published in the Sydney Morning Herald (Arts & Entertainment section on 15-16 August 2009) entitled "Swimming against the tide" but unfortunately we can't find it online. It tells us that:
Although Miyazaki has experimented reluctantly on some of his movies with light touches of digital and computer-generated animation, he was determined this time to do things the old-fashioned way. The result is 170,000 hand-painted cells that give the picture a lush quality and subtly flowing movement not usually seen in feature-length animated films.

Amazing work all round with genuinely brilliant storytelling!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

MEDIA RELEASE: Black Mermaid Productions™ Launches New Baby Black Mermaid™ Product Range

16 September 2009
Black Mermaid Productions™ (BMP) has just launched its third range of Black Mermaid™ brand goods, gifts and collectibles – Baby Black Mermaid™ – on its CafePress Black Mermaid Shop.
The Black Mermaid™ range of images is based on the popular BMP corporate logo – a reclining mermaid silhouette that has become an identifiable part of the BMP business brand for over 15 years. BMP is, in fact, an Australian creative team made up of Jozef Szekeres (artist) and Julie Ditrich (writer) that specialises in fantasy and mermaid-related comics and graphic novels.
There are six designs in the Baby Black Mermaid™ range featuring an infant version of the enduring BMP corporate logo – “Sleeping” [pictured], “Drifting”, “Cutie” [pictured], “Tummy Roll”, “Tail Flip” and “Floating”. There are 24 products for each design, and the items range from organic infant and toddler wear to teddy bears, throw cushions, environmentally friendly water bottles, greeting cards, and framed prints that are perfect for nurseries.
BMP artist, Jozef Szekeres, designed the collection and says, “We absolutely adore our Black Mermaid logo so it was exciting to re-conceptualise her as a baby and to open up the brand character and reputation to a whole new audience”.
This series of designs has drawn a collective ‘awwww’ from the people who have seen them,” says BMP Director, Julie Ditrich. “So far the ‘Sleeping’ and ‘Cutie’ designs have been the favourites of new mums and grandmothers we’ve talked to face-to-face here in Australia, although we’re interested to see which designs will appeal most to our customers from other parts of the world.”
Baby Black Mermaid™ will now be joining the Undersea Black Mermaid™, as well as the limited time release Celebration Black Mermaid™ ranges on the CafePress Shop. In the next week, BMP will be adding two more Celebration designs, which are timed to holidays and festive occasions – Halloween (which will be available until 31 October 2009 – 11.59 US Pacific Time) and Christmas (which will be available until 25 December 2009 – 11.59 US Pacific Time).
The feedback we’ve received on our Black Mermaid products has been excellent. People enjoy looking at her over and over again and carrying her with them in the form of accessories or even drinking their cup of coffee every morning from a travel mug emblazoned with her image. We’d like to thank all our loyal fans for their support and for also joining our FaceBook group for friends and supporters of the Black Mermaid™ logo," says BMP Director Jozef Szekeres. “In fact, we love wearing her ourselves and are in the process of starting various collections of specific products – the throw pillows are our current personal favourites.
You can visit the CafePress Black Mermaid Shop at: http://www.cafepress.com/black_mermaid.
For further information contact Julie Ditrich or Jozef Szekeres on:
Phone: (61 2) 9606 4728
Email: blackmermaid@blackmermaid.com

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sneak Peek – Baby Black Mermaid™ Range

Jozef has just delivered six designs in our new Baby Black Mermaid brand of clothes and collectibles which we will be released on our CafePress shop on Tuesday 15 September 2009. Here is an early look at two of the designs – "Tail Flip" and "Drifting". We will also soon be releasing the next two designs in our Celebration Black Mermaid range – the Halloween and Christmas designs. We'll keep you posted. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mermaid Treasures 15

I was recently given a delightful mermaid blockmount for my birthday. which has since found a central place in my mermaid room that is attached to my studio. The artists' name is Monique Cannon – she's also a groovy chalk artist from Queensland, Australia. The picture is called "Mermaid on Sand" (Item # BLK239) if you're thinking of buying it. It's actually part of a three blockmount set rather like a triptych (see top picture – mine is the third piece). I rang up Monique and the distributor Splosh the other day to get permission to feature the pieces on this blog. The latter told me there are lots of other mermaid goodies available from them in the form of frames, signs, artboards, trinket boxes and ceramic wall hangings. Retailers can order them from Splosh Australia. The products are available from all good gift/homeware stores OR customers can phone Splosh directly on +61 7 3208 4077 and the customer service department can let you know where your closest store is for the stock you're looking for. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

MUST READ ARTICLE: Book Packagers Exploiting Comics Talents

Colleen Doran has just written a passion-fueled article that emanates from a genuine need to help naive freelancers fight back against the "unsavory practices" of some book packaging companies that are screwing over their talent. If you are going to read anything this year about protecting your rights then let it be this article - "Your Lives Will be a Lot Simple if Some of You Would Just Listen to Me Right Now". Colleen has long been an advocate and champion of creator rights and she doesn't hold back here on giving you solid advice, providing you with resources and challenging you to take responsibility for your professional lives. Black Mermaid Productions even get a mention, and she's right – we did utilise the services of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and were assigned a brilliant attorney who saved a bundle of our original characters from extermination, whom we adore, are still in contact with and whom we visited in New York two years ago when we attended the New York ComicCon. In our capacity as the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio Holders, we are going to suggest that Colleen's article is mandatory reading for our members.