cast a mermaid face

Creating a Mermaid for the Adventure Coast: Destination Mermaids – The Tail Trail

By Diane Bedard Posted on May 26, 2022

The Florida Mermaid Trail was launched in 2020 with individually crafted bronze mermaid character statues hidden throughout downtown Brooksville for visitors to find. A map was drawn by Lee Middleton, a versatile local artist who knows the area and its mer-lore well. Brooksville Main Street, with the Lowman Foundation, and Florida’s Adventure Coast worked together to create the Mermaid Trail and it has been wildly successful, attracting tens of thousands of people to experience Brooksville’s local businesses, historic homes, murals, and brick-lined streets.

Fast forward to 2022, the year that Weeki Wachee Springs State Park will celebrate its 75th Anniversary and to celebrate, a mermaid-themed tail trail is being created throughout Hernando County.

This trail will feature 30 life-sized mermaids creatively painted by selected artists on display from Bayport to Richloam. This exciting concept has been deemed “Destination Mermaids – The Tail Trail” and it is a public art project sponsored by the Florida Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau, Brooksville Main Street, and the Hernando County Fine Arts Council.

The call for artists is open until May 31 at 5 pm. The trail will launch on October 13, 2022. It’s the 75th Anniversary of Weeki Wachee Springs and it is in celebration of the long history of mermaids in our community. Several local businesses and agencies have agreed to sponsor and display these 80-pound statues, standing 6’ tall and 32” in diameter, at locations throughout Hernando County.

Creating a Mermaid Statue

Each mermaid will be cast from the likeness of an original Weeki Wachee Mermaid for authenticity.

John Athanason, former marketing manager for Weeki Wachee Springs, was the “mermaid wrangler,” according to Tammy Heon, Manager of Tourism Development. He was the one to select Kristy and explained why. “When I worked with Weeki Wachee, Kristy always represented what a Weeki Wachee mermaid should be. She is a great swimmer and always represented the brand. She was a mermaid for seven years, during which time she was featured in brochures, billboards, and even 3D videos,” John explained.

John Athanason and mermaid Kristy at the face casting for the mermaid statue. Image by Diane Bedard

John is now Hernando County’s Tourism Marketing Specialist, where he brings his warm smile and charisma to all areas of Florida’s Adventure Coast. He filmed the process to create a “making of a mermaid” video for Florida’s Adventure Coast. You can watch the video here:

YouTube video
Watch the entire process with this video by John Athanason for Florida’s Adventure Coast.

The Process of Casting a Mermaid’s Face

Kristy was chosen to be the face of the mermaids and her face was cast on April 28 by Rosetta Adkins, a special effects artist at Universal Studios. Rosetta does these types of projects through her own company, and DJ Johnson, a representative of Reliable Finishes & Unique Creations, the company that will be creating the statues for Destination Mermaids: The Tail Trail, assisted.

The casting process is detailed and can be messy. Kristy was a trooper. After sitting in the chair, she had her hair tied back and covered in plastic wrap. Plaster bandages are cut to 6-8” and 12-30” lengths to prepare them for creating a mold of this young, vibrant lady’s face.

Rosetta Adkins puts the Aljanet on Kristy in the first phase of the casting. DJ Johnson is gloved up and ready to help. Image by Diane Bedard.

“I am excited to be a part of this,” Kristy said, “a little nervous but very excited.”

Meanwhile Rosetta mixed water and powder into a gooey compound called Aljanet. “I have used this to make all kinds of monsters over the years while working in Universal Studio’s Monster Shop,” she shared, while using a drill motor to derive the perfect balance. “It can be quite tricky to get just the right consistency.”

Next, Rosetta gently patted the Aljanet over Kristy’s forehead, her nose and around her eyes, chin, and cheeks. The excess oozed down Christy’s face and Rosetta gently managed the Aljanet to make Kristy as comfortable as possible, making sure there were nostril holes to help Kristy breathe while the product settled. She covered Kristy’s eyes with the stuff after protecting them with petroleum jelly.

mermaid kristy plastered
Mermaid Kristy waits in the makeup chair after Alajel has been applied to her face. In the background, Rosetta and DJ are preparing the next step of the process. Image by Diane Bedard.

“Try to smile,” said DJ. Rosetta gave him a look that said, “Really??”

After a half hour or so, Rosetta, a graduate of special effects school in Orlando with 17 years’ experience at Universal Studios Monster Shop, began placing the soaking bandages over the Aljanet, creating a solid exterior to protect the gel relief.

Then began the process of removing the mask from Kristy’s face and preparing it to be processed into the face of the Trail’s statues. Kristy held still through the whole process, keeping a little smile under the mask, to make each image even more inviting.

After peeling the mask from Kristy’s face, some plaster was poured into the negative mask to create a positive mold. Rosetta mixed with precision, poured the mixture into the recently removed negative and swirled it around carefully to ensure each part was filled and no air bubbles were left to mar the surface. Then the “face” was laid to rest.

The mask mold was cleaned up and smoothed in places. It was laid to dry while Rosetta and DJ cleaned up their supplies.

Artists are Needed to Paint Destination Mermaids: The Tail Trail’s Statues

The statues will portray a mermaid out of water, sitting on a rock. Each statue will be painted and decorated by juried artists, ensuring the artwork will be both beautiful and unique.

Artists are encouraged to apply to paint a mermaid by submitting their design, four portfolio photos, a written description of the mermaid, an artist’s statement and contact information by Tuesday, May 31 at 5pm to [email protected]. Those who are selected will receive a $1,000 honorarium and no politically-themed mermaids, corporate logos, religious icons, professional or collegiate team Mermaids will be accepted. For additional entry guidelines, interested artists should visit https://floridamermaidtrail.com/call-to-artists.

mermaid kristy and her face
Mermaid Kristy after the casting was complete with her face cast – still smiling. Image by Diane Bedard

Each Statue will be Sponsored with a Map to Guide the Way

Mermaids on the Tail Trail may be sponsored by local businesses for $3,500. Each sponsor may choose from the approved designs (in order of receipt of contract and payment). Each statue will be placed on a permanent cement pad that will include a plaque with the names of the artist and sponsor, ensuring the business’ legacy of sponsorship is captured for all time.

“The goal is to garner national attention,” states Tammy Heon, who directs a team of five to bring more visitors to Hernando County. “I chose Reliable Finishes to create the statues after interviewing companies from all over the U.S. Greg Becker, owner, was so excited about this project, showing how he visualized the concept and answering all of my questions that it was easy to select them,” Tammy explained. Reliable Finishes and Unique Creations is in Melbourne, Florida, and will be pouring each mermaid individually.

Rosetta Adkins shows us the finished casting which goes to Reliable Finishes & Unique Creations for final touches before becoming part of the mermaid mold for Destination Mermaids: The Tail Trail. Image by Diane Bedard.

Destination Mermaids: The Tail Trail Things to Know

painted mermaid statue
  • 30 Life-sized mermaid statues will be painted by visual artists and placed throughout Hernando County to create a trail celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
  • The Mermaid Statues will be unveiled at a ceremony at the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park October 13, 2022, and then moved to their permanent locations
  • The statues have a casting of a real Weeki Wachee mermaid’s face for authenticity
  • The statues are being created by Reliable Finishes & Unique Creations in Melbourne, Florida.
  • The program was created by Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville Main Street, and the Hernando County Fine Arts Council.
  • The Call for Artists concludes May 31, 2022, at 5pm.
  • Statues on the Tail Trail may be sponsored for $3,500. Visit Destination Mermaids: The Tail Trail sponsors page or contact Brooksville Main Street or Florida’s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau for more information.

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