Today we're traveling back to sunny Florida for a visit with Julie Komenda... Artist, crafter, and mermaid! We mermaids always seem to be busy, and Julie is no exception.
Julie: I was born in Miami, Florida, where I had great art teachers all through school. I went to the University of South Florida and got my degree in English Lit, so I have a good foundation in mythology and actually had a class on the literature of the occult. That experience made the world more colorful, more symbolic, more layered... Weeki Wachee became home after years moving around the US with my family. Every place we lived - Texas, California, Washington State, Alabama, Colorado, Florida (and more) has it's own unique beauty, which widens and influences my work. I am married with two grown sons.
Cynthia: How did you get interested in mermaids?
Julie: I have 4 sisters, and the name I give myself is Manysisters. I have always loved the Andersen tale, as well as the stories of selkies and other water people. Mami Wata, the Great Mermaid Mother of the Caribbean, permeates the air in South Florida in her subversive, sultry way. We had an above ground pool when I was a child, and of course we all tried to mimic tails with our legs together. I am a huge comic book fan, and Superman had a Mermaid girlfriend, Lori Lemaris. How I wished I was her!
Cynthia: Tell us about your involvement with Weeki Wachee Springs.
Julie: Several years ago I interviewed the Former Mermaids for an article I was planning to do for a magazine. Afterwards, Barbara Wynns invited me over and we became friends. I was able to swim with Barbara and Vicki Vergara Smith in the great Spring and have been hooked ever since.
I wanted to be part of that atmosphere, to have some type of artistic access, so I nagged my way in so they would let me sell a poster of the famous Adagio pose at the 60th reunion. Since then, the State of Florida has taken over the park and provided many volunteer opportunities for me to do art or work on community events. I have been a member of the Friends of Weeki Wachee as well as on the Board, and I love to spread the gospel of Mermaids wherever I go! Currently, I am photographer for Sirens of the Deep Adult Mermaid Camp. Life is good!
Julie: Yes -- I am laughing now, because I make myself compartmentalized. Batik is my favorite medium, but I am a painter, sculptor, quilter, fabric designer… if it can hold color or shape I will try anything. My subjects include lots of sports, landscapes, underwaterscapes, dance, corn, flowers, of course Mermaids -- it's all good! I recently started making ceramic beads to use in my bracelets -- sea urchins!
Cynthia: Who has been an inspiration to you?
Julie: I am inspired by my family, which expands and evolves in so many ways. The Former Mermaids, Barbara Wynns and Vicki Vergara Smith, especially, because they guided me through the Spring and empowered me both physically and artistically. I am inspired also by the great illustrators Kinoko Y. Craft and Ivan Bilibin. Craft has kept Faerie alive in her classically rich, beautiful style. I would buy every Celestial Seasonings Tea box that has her illustrations! Carolyn Turgeon is a wonderful writer that keeps me off balance with her twists on familiar tales. Karen Kay is amazing with her ability to draw groups together and make a movement happen. But really, art wise, Comic Books are IT. As a child of seven I went to New York with my family and went to DC Comics on Lexington Avenue where I was greeted with great surprise and treated to a tour of the studio and offices that have informed every thing I do.
Cynthia: Have you attended or do you plan to attend any mermaid gatherings?
Julie: Every Sirens Camp I get to meet mermaids from everywhere! This was reunion weekend at Weeki Wachee. I could not believe the history and wealth of charm in the park! I would love to go to some gatherings in the US as well as UK.
Cynthia: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Julie: We are our own Mermaids. Tail or not, I felt the Mer-spirit come over me when I accepted that the world will take me as I am, so why not be who I was meant to be? I had a long 20 year break from making art. When the break came, I had my arms elbow deep in dye, and my hands actually remembered that this was where they belonged. My body memory was showing me, through comfort and joy, that my path was before me. And when I jump off the dock at Weeki Wachee, another path opens.
Cynthia: Thank you very much, Julie! You can follow Julie's adventures, in art and mermaids, on Facebook.
Mermaid Shelly and this blog were mentioned in a recent article in Shine from Yahoo, 'Shine tries it: the mermaid trend'. In this article by Piper Weiss, the author gets her tail wet and states, 'Breaking news: Mermaids are real. Kind of.'
Best wishes and starfishes,
cynthia (at) goldmermaid.com