Aurelia Gyldenscale (photo credit Joey Kirkman)
I recently posted a satirical piece on mermaids. However, I wanted to dive in deeper on the subject and gain some insight from a professional mermaid. Aurelia Gyldenscale is a Kansas City-based mermaid. She is known as the Heartland Mermaid. Aurelia recently discussed how she became interested in mermaiding, her creative process and advice to aspiring merpeople. For more info on Aurelia Gyldenscale, check out www.heartlandmermaid.com and her Facebook page.
What inspired you to become a professional mermaid?
Growing up, I loved to read fantasy books and books about world mythology. I don’t recall ever reading any specifically about mermaids, but it was the imagination and the adventure that I sought. When I got into college I had less time to read for pleasure. I think the opportunity to escape into a world of fantasy and adventure is what brought me to involve myself with the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. I worked at KCRF in several different positions for a few years. First as a henna artist, then as Queen of the Fae and the Princess of Denmark. In 2014, they were casting for mermaids, so I auditioned. After that first season, I fell in love with the character, the interactions and the mythology. I started working with Merbella Studios, out of Florida, to create my own custom silicone tail and started planning to take on more event appearances once it was finished. The rest is history.
Are there any challenges to being a mermaid in the Midwest?
It can be harder to find work when you’re not near an ocean and finding a place to swim can be a bit more challenging as well. Most people in the Midwest haven’t seen a monofin before, let alone a full tail, so a big part of the process is educating them about what it is, how I use it safely, and letting them know that I have insurance. It’s still worth the extra effort.
Aurelia Gyldenscale (photo credit J. Berendt)
How old were you when you designed your first mermaid outfit?
24. The first mermaid tail I’ve helped design is my current tail. At KCRF we rented tails, so I didn’t have much creative input in the actual tail itself. However, I’ve been making costume pieces and accessories for all of my Ren Fair and Circus characters for about six years. I’m a very crafty fish.
What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions about mermaids?
I feel like the biggest misconception about mermaids is that you have to fit into this stereotypical idea of what it is to be a mermaid in order to live the dream. You don’t have to have an incredibly expensive silicone tail or be a certain size or have a certain length hair to have fun as a mermaid. There are so many affordable options for fabric tails these days that anyone can realize their dream of being a mermaid. One of my dreams is to eventually open up a mermaiding school where I can help teach people how to be safe, maintain an active and healthy lifestyle, and harness their creativity while mermaiding.
How does your creative process work when designing outfits?
When I’m working on a piece, I usually go into a craft store knowing exactly what I want to do or where I want to go creatively. Then I try to find the materials, fail miserably, and come up with something new (and most of the time better) from what I see is actually available. For inspiration, I like to browse traditional mermaid imagery in art and popular culture. I’ve spent more than a little time on Pintrest weighing ideas as well. A big thing that is important to me is originality. My mermaid character may be inspired by different things I see or experience, but nothing in it is a copy. I want my props, costume pieces, and set items to reflect that goal as well.
What inspires your fashion sense?
I kind of go back and forth between a love of clean lines and minimalism and the “more is more” philosophy. So, it depends on the day how I’ll dress myself. I’ve also been a fashion model for about 6 years, which you would think would make me a fashionista. I think it’s done the opposite. I’ve spent so much time having other people doing my hair, makeup, and wardrobe for me that I like to not think too much about it all myself unless it’s a special occasion. The exception here is vintage clothing. I love vintage pieces. It’s a shame that it is hard to find them though (being 5’11”…women were so much smaller pre-1970s).
Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
Education, learning and growth are the most important aspects of my life. My favorite quote related to this is from Pablo Picasso: “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” If I see something that interests me, I go after it. I research it. I find a way to make it happen.
What advice would you give to merpeople just starting out?
Start slow. Learn about the community. Be safe. Mermaiding is such a new hobby and sometimes people get this idea that it’s easy. At the end of the day, our tails are sports equipment, not toys, and need to be treated as such when swimming. Always swim with a buddy, always check your equipment before going in, and always be considerate of the other people around you. It only takes one unsafe swimmer to get monofins and tails banned in a public pool. As for everything besides swimming, there are tons of online resources through the Mernetwork forum. Take the time to learn about it, especially before investing large amounts of money, just like you would any other hobby. Come to it with an open, friendly attitude and people will be happy to help.
Aurelia Gyldenscale (photo credit Joey Jirkman)