Just five years ago, Abby and Bryn Roberts were in college and working at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.
One of the entertainment directors from the festival put out a call for mermaid tails and the sisters answered.
“So we didn’t know how to make mermaid tails up until then,” Abby Roberts said. “It was a brand new project for us and the creative directors let us take it on.”
Now, the sisters own their own business, Finfolk Productions, and produce custom-made mermaid tails at their in-home studio in Asheville, North Carolina.
The sisters have been making mermaid tails full-time for four years and the demand hasn’t died down — they currently have a year-long waiting list.
Abby and Bryn Roberts said mermaid tails have been popular since the first “Splash” movie came out in the 1980s.
A reboot of the original movie could be good news for the sisters — only increasing the interest in the mermaid world.
Disney is planning to remake the 1984 film with an interesting twist: Channing Tatum will star as the mermaid originally played by Daryl Hannah and Jillian Bell will play Tom Hanks’ character.
The sisters said a lot of their customers own their own entertainment businesses while others just use the tails in underwater photography.
“It’s definitely a global phenomenon that’s happening right now and we’re so excited to be a part of it.”
Thirty to 40 percent of their customers are actually international. The sisters have sold tails to clients from France to Malaysia.
The custom-designed, handmade tails start at $2,700 and increase in price with upgrades.
“Everything is completely custom-sized, custom painted, and they take us anywhere from 40 to 80 hours combined total working together to make,” Abby Roberts explained.
The pair can make tails in any size and take dozens of measurements to create the perfect tail for all shapes and sizes.
The tails generally weigh about 25 pounds and are “neutrally buoyant” in the water.
The sisters said putting on a mermaid tail is kind of like putting on a wetsuit.
“Once you’re in the water, their very comfortable, but built to feel like an extension of yourself.”
The tails fit snuggly to the body so it’s easiest to put them on in the water because you have to roll yourself into them.
“It’s supposed to feel like you’re in a second skin,” Bryn Roberts added.
The process of making the tails looks a lot like a science experiment and the sisters say that’s part of what makes their job so fun.
“We love what we do,” Abby Roberts said. “We’re mixing art and science on a daily basis. Art and science and owning a business, it’s kind of a lot to juggle but it makes things exciting.”
As for what’s next, well, the sisters said they are launching an exciting new product by the end of the year.
View the full story and video on Circa’s website.