As a kid, I wished I was a mermaid. In all the pictures I’d seen, it looked like such a fun life: sitting around on rocks and messing around in the sea all day, and easily beat other mythological female role models. I had no idea about their real job as dangerous women who lured men to their death, but why wouldn’t you want a tail? And beautiful hair? When I told a friend at infant school that I had a “real” mermaid suit in my loft, I was gutted when she said she had one too. I knew I was lying, but what if she wasn’t?
I never found out, but I did continue my interest in this strange mythical creature, and have been given many wonderful objets d’art on the theme, including these three jewellery pieces.
The myth of the mermaid has many roots. In Greek mythology they are the dreaded Sirens, in Scottish folk tales they are Selkies, or seal-women, who, like Hans Andersen’s Little Mermaid, have to pay a high price to take human form. But whether a femme fatale or a tortured soul, their image endures in folk art in many cultures. The Victorians loved them. Medieval church carvers loved them. Hoax mermaids still get made from monkeys and fish every now and then.
They represent danger and death, the pain of humanity, impossible love and from a feminist perspective could easily be critiqued to death. But I think they also appeal to artists because despite being a hybrid, and a freak of nature, they make interesting and beautiful images. As well as a whole catalogue of whimsical nonsense.
I used to make mermaid dolls by pulling the legs off plastic dolls and making them papier mache tails. Unfortunately I can’t find my one remaining example to take a snap. But I can share my collection: a wondrous array of mermaid plaques, pictures and a Christmas decoration.
These all work particularly well in the Jostified Bathroom. But I really should have painted them both with the same shade of gold.
And this one adds beautifully to the Christmas decorations tree. She’s my most recent addition, one of Paperchase’s best in a while.
This one is from Istanbul. Painted on glass, it’s a (probably faux-) folk art piece, in which a mermaid actually has a snake’s head for a tail and a rose growing out of her back. It’s brilliant – a monstrous hybrid and yet still so beautiful. It’s in my bedroom (the bathroom has no more wall space…).
Sister Jost brought this one back for me from one of her jaunts. Indonesia I think. I’m glad she has wings too. She’s lost her mirror, but that hair looks like it needs quite some work to coiffure, so luckily her comb is still at the ready.