Friday, April 4, 2014

Glimmer the Mermaid -- New tail creation and show offering

I haven't posted in the last few months because I've been pouring all my energy into creating this.

I call her Glimmer the Mermaid.  :) (She's got her own facebook page, that makes her real!)

I made the LED swimmable mermaid seashells at the end of 2013, and wore them to the NC Merfest convention and they were a huge hit.  When I got home, I decided the shells needed a light-up tail to complement them.  The rabbit-hole opened up, and I dove right in.

The end result is absolutely stunning, and I am completely delighted with it.  This was the most learning-intensive and difficult and frustrating project I've attempted in.. well, since college, I think.  I have had to learn so much in so many different fields, and I've encountered so many amazing people and communities along the way.

This tail uses about 180 Adafruit Neopixels and an Arduino Micro to control them.  It's got a bluetooth feature -- I can control it with my android tablet and change the animations and brightness of the lights.  I plan to add audio sensors and possibly motion or color sensors as well (that'll be phase two, I think).

It is designed to be swimmable.  I'm doing the first full water test probably next week, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I used enough glue that nothing shorts or zaps me.  Nothing has so far,  and all the partial water tests I've done have worked fine.. but strapping a big battery and a bunch of electronics on, and then going for a swim, makes me a little nervous.

Mermaid in the bathtub!

But.  Swimming Mermaid LED Tail!!!

This is a neoprene tail painted with Jones Tones.  I used the same basic method for the tail as I used for my last neoprene Ariel Mermaid Tail, but I spared no expense this time.  I used a competitor monofin (which I like SO much better than the Rapid).  I made the scales larger and added lots of rhinestones and gems and lace.  When the lights are off, it almost comes across as "Mermaid Wedding" -- but I love the fanciness and I love how the predominantly white color scheme goes with the lights, whatever color they are.

The lights on the top part of the tail are individual neopixels cast in resin for diffusion and waterproofing.

 The lights on the bottom are neopixel strips encased in Dragonskin silicone.   This keeps them flexible (almost to a fault -- I have broken them a couple times already!) and very waterproof.

Also I made a glowing tiara with more of the resin cast neopixel "jewels".  Because Glimmer needed a glowing tiara.

All together, the outfit is just stunning.  I never want to take it off.  This tail is significantly heavier than my other tails have been (oof, abs!) but it should be close to neutrally buoyant in the water.  

I got to wear it to the A's Game season opening party at the Oakland Coliseum this past week. They put me by the sushi bar, HA! 

Glimmer was very well received.  Although, with that particular audience, most people seemed to be more excited about the light-up seashells than the fancy animated tail.  (Men.  What can you do?)

Once all the bugs are worked out and the swimmability tested, Glimmer will be available for all kinds of wet or dry events and appearances.  I'm also hoping to do a lot of photo shoots as the weather gets nicer.   I want to do sunset beach shoots, and underwater cave shoots, and fancy swimming pool shoots and snowscape shoots.  I just want to wear it everywhere.  :)  

Edit: If you're interested in geeky details about construction or coding, I'm blogging about all that stuff over at my Fire Pixie Fashion Blog.. take a look.  :)


  1. I saw your picture on the Arduino blog. Amazing and well done project. The finished product really shows the effort and time you must of put into it. If you don't mind, I would like to do a post about this on my blog. I will certainly include a link back to here.
    Assuming you can power this from 9V batteries I would not be worried about the water except it ruining your creation. I think LEDs are one of the best inventions ever.
    You really light-up the shore.

    1. Hi Bill! Thanks so much.. and I'd love it if you posted about Glimmer. She does seem to want to shine. And I'm with you: LEDs are one of the best things in the world!

    2. FYI - I finished my post about your fins. thanks

  2. Oh my goodness, this is such a beautiful project. It's great you can control it with your phone. I haven't got that far yet but I've pinned this project. Thank you for sharing!!

  3. I was just wondering whether the Arduino has to have anything attached to it to enable it to communicate with your phone? Thanks.

    1. Yes.. I have a bluetooth dongle. The Adafruit EZ link works great and was super easy to set up. Unfortunately also super easy for a novice like me to break. :( And they're backordered and the moment. So I'm using this one from DFRobot instead:

  4. Congrats, Erin. It looks AMAZING! Glad you got it working.

    1. Thanks so much!! And thanks for all your help.. I'm overwhelmed with how supportive the online Arduino and LED community is. :) :)