Kawaii Shark ita bags are almost finished! October 31, 2019 18:03

From Jess: 

After missing out on anything Halloween-related at all in 2018 due to being in the middle of principle photography on "The Call of the Wild," Chris and I tried to make up for it this year! I brought my Katrina Van Tassel costume back to the after-hours Halloween party at Disneyland Resort when Chris and I attended earlier this month, we visited Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights together for the first time (and I hadn't been to HHN Hollywood in the better part of a decade, although I worked as a "scareactor" at Universal in Orlando for seven years back when I lived in Florida), and I even released some special Halloween-themed pins based on Chris's cute witch drawings. Oh! And I wrote a guest blog on Chris's website comparing the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" segment of Disney's "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" to "Beauty and the Beast."

All the while, my Kawaii Shark ita bags were being assembled, and they're nearly done now! Here are a few progress shots for you:

Once the bags are completed, they'll ship to me, which will probably take about a month -- maybe longer if they get stuck in Customs (cross your fingers that that doesn't happen). After I receive them, I'll mail them to everyone who placed a pre-order, and then I'll make the remainder of the bags available on my pin-related website, (Nothing listed there is active just yet.) I might also re-list the bags on the "Rescue Sirens" Etsy shop, but I'm trying to move away from Etsy and their fees if possible. Whatever the case may be, I hope to have the Kawaii Shark ita bags in-hand and up for sale just in time for the holidays!

In the meantime, I also plan to do a "Rescue Sirens" pin shop drop next month, so our adorable enamel pins illustrated by Kellee Riley and produced by yours truly will be available online for a limited time.

I hope your October has been fun, safe, and delightfully spooky, and I'll see you in November!

Kawaii Shark Ita Bag Update/What's With All the Pins? September 30, 2019 23:42

From Jess: 

My Kawaii Shark ita bag, designed as a companion piece for our “Rescue Sirens” enamel pins, is in mass production! Hooray! While we wait for the bags to finish being manufactured and shipped, I wanted to give you an up-close look at the bag and its functionality.

Let the video clips commence! (The first and third posts contain multiple clips.)



I want to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone who pre-ordered this bag and made it possible to produce it. I'm really proud of it, and I hope you'll all love it as much as I do! If you missed out on the pre-order, I'll be making the bags available once they're in-hand and everyone who participated in the pre-sale has received theirs.

Now, on to a related question: Jess, what's with all the pins? I thought you wrote mermaid books.

I do write mermaid books! I've also been spending most of this year assembling a pitch book for an animated series, coming up with episode ideas, guiding the creation of additional concept art, and meeting with companies. But finding the right home for "Rescue Sirens: Mermaids On Duty" isn't an easy task, and we're still searching. I'd be lying if I didn't say this was frustrating and disappointing.

And that's one reason that I've been producing enamel pins as a side project these past nine months. They're fun, easy, and fast! When you've been working on something for years, it's nice to be able to finish a project; it's the difference between running a sprint and a marathon. It's really rewarding to see a concept through to completion.

My husband and co-author Chris has been working on his current film, "Call of the Wild," for the past couple of years, and it's all but consumed our lives. We're both really looking forward to getting back to "Rescue Sirens"; we miss writing together, and we miss expanding the world of our lifeguard mermaids. But in the meantime, I want to keeping creating little bits of treasure, like the mermaid pins that I've been making, to bring Nim, Kelby, Echo, Pippa, and Maris to life in new ways until we can finish the second novel.

But I understand that not everyone is into pin collecting or ita bags! That's why I've made an Instagram account solely for all things pin and pin-adjacent: @pinsofsteele. That's where I'll be posting most of my pin announcements, as well as future updates on the Kawaii Shark bag.

Kawaii Shark Ita Bag and New Enamel Pins May 27, 2019 10:30

From Jess: 

My husband Chris and I have been itching to get into the enamel pin game for years. Before he met me, Chris had an enamel pin produced of Ogo, the main character from his webcomic "Kiskaloo" (around 2009 or 2010?); then, in 2012, we had four different pins made based on some of Chris's cute pin-up drawings. We didn't really know the first thing about pins, though, and we weren't super stoked with the results, so we've never sold any of those.

In 2017, we decided to finally try again with our Chibi Rescue Sirens pins: five adorable, extra-cartoony pins of each Rescue Siren, along with the series emblem.

By late 2018, I wanted to get more involved and level up our pin game. I teamed up with Kellee Riley, one of our wonderful "Rescue Sirens" artists and a great friend, and I learned all about the ins and outs of enamel pin design and production. (If you want amazing mermaid pins, they really don't get better than Kellee's, available in her Etsy shop.) Once I was semi-capable of adapting artwork into pins myself, I was off to the races! I've been cranking out new pin designs ever since, which we'll be debuting this July at San Diego Comic-Con.

First up, though, is this gorgeous 2" Nim pin, which Kellee adapted flawlessly from her own artwork and I had produced: 

Rescue Siren Nim mermaid enamel pin by Kellee Riley

Isn't it stunning? I can't stop staring at it!

The really awesome part: Kellee currently has a limited number of Nim pins for sale in her Etsy shop, so you can buy one RIGHT NOW! Please go throw money at her if you can; I'm so grateful to Kellee for being my "pin pal," and she deserves all the success in the world. (Not only because she's a wonderful person, but also because that means she can keep making pins! Mwahaha! I need my KelleeArt fix.)

In addition to our Nim pin, I'm crossing my fingers that I'll have a Kelby pin finished and in-hand by SDCC, too. I've adapted Kellee's artwork for Kelby and the rest of the Sirens, and I'm currently deciding on the best pin manufacturing home for them that's capable of faithfully producing each design (glitter, screenprinting, and all).

In the meantime, though, I have a sneak peek (read: factory photos) of two sets of pins that any ocean enthusiast or mermaid fan will want, whether that's to fill empty spaces in their pin boards or simply to add a little flair to a jacket lapel or hat (or whatever else you feel comfortable poking holes in, really).

Tiny seashell filler pins
Tiny seashell filler pins

These itty-bitty 0.5" filler pins are inspired by the cute seashells and coral you can find on the beach in one of my favorite video games, "Animal Crossing." I love shell-shaped filler pins and use them all the time in my pin layouts, so I wanted to make my own set (including more than just your traditional scallops). This is the result!

But that's not my biggest pin-related news this month.

Have you heard of ita bags? An ita bag (which can take the form of a purse, a backpack, or a convertible combination of the two) has a main compartment for holding your items (phone, wallet, etc.) as well as a secondary compartment, which features a clear vinyl window. Within this compartment, you can display enamel pins, embroidered patches, pinback buttons, photographs -- whatever your heart desires!

Ita bags have their origins in Japan, and they're quickly gaining popularity across the world. There are a lot of really appealing ita bag designs out there (and I own several!), but the type of bag that I wanted most didn't exist, so... I made it.

Meet the Kawaii Shark ita bag, by Rescue Sirens.

I'm so proud of it! I designed it from scratch, and it's everything I'd hoped for in an ita bag. What you see here is the first sample bag that I received from my manufacturer, with a revised sample waiting to be photographed (I added an interior label and altered the tooth position a tiny -- and I mean tiny -- bit). The front of the bag (the display compartment) is about 12" tall by 10.5" wide at its base, and the shorter main storage compartment behind that is about 4" deep, giving you plenty of room for both your pins and your daily essentials.

How do you display your pins, you ask? While Kawaii Shark comes with a removable pink satin "pillow" to stick your pins to...

Kawaii Shark ita bag by "Rescue Sirens: Mermaids On Duty"
Kawaii Shark ita bag by "Rescue Sirens: Mermaids On Duty"

...I highly suggest using the pillow as a cutting guide and creating your own ita bag inserts using stiff felt. That's what I've been doing, and it works like a charm! I'll probably write a blog post next month demonstrating that and recommending my favorite felt, and showing off some of my favorite pin layouts displayed inside the bag.

Once I nail down overall costs and decide on a retail price, my plan is to open up pre-sales in the "Rescue Sirens" Etsy shop. Pre-sales will be offered at a discount in thanks for being awesome and ordering early, and that will pay for the cost of mass production. Once the bags are produced and shipped here, I'll send them out to people who pre-ordered them, and then I'll sell the rest of them at the standard price. I expect the entire process to take about two months from the time mass production begins, assuming everything goes swimmingly.

Sharks are such a passion of mine, and shark conservation is a big part of "Rescue Sirens," so I thought this would be the perfect bag to display Rescue Siren pins, Kellee Riley's mermaid pins, ocean-related pins, or anything else you can dream up. (I just made a "Jurassic Park" pin layout a couple of nights ago!) I can't wait to share this with all of you, and see what you come up with to display in your ita bag!

If you're not doing so already, please follow us on Instagram for updates, and/or sign up for our mailing list to learn when our ita bag pre-sales go live (and for more information on when our pins are available).

"Rescue Sirens" x Planet Love Life January 23, 2019 08:26

From Jess: 

Happy New Year! I hope your 2019 is off to a mer-velous start. Here at "Rescue Sirens" HQ, we're kicking off this year with a project that I'm really thrilled to announce: a collaboration with our friends Rob and Melody Webster over at Planet Love Life!

What's Planet Love Life all about?

From their website:

"Planet Love Life is making waves to save lives: Ghost nets are the silent killers of the Ocean. Fishing nets & ropes entangle & kill over 100,000 marine animals every year. We have created bracelets from salvaged fishing nets. Each bracelet represents one of the 300+ marine animal species that are affected by fishing gear lost at sea. Buy a bracelet - save a life!"

Both Chris and I have purchased multiple ghost net bracelets from Planet Love Life, to wear ourselves as well as to give as gifts to our fellow ocean lovers (we've even featured them in a past Mer-May giveaway), and now I'm proud to offer our own series of salvaged ghost net bracelets inspired by the lifeguard mermaids of "Rescue Sirens"!

Salvaged ghost net bracelets made by Planet Love Life, inspired by the lifeguard mermaids of "Rescue Sirens"

Crafted with care by Planet Love Life, the bracelets are available in six different colors and varying widths/textures to please the most discerning mermaid or merman:

1. "Rescue Sirens" Red & White (two thin ropes, single knot)
2. Nim Aqua Seafoam (single thick rope)
3. Kelby Coral Pink (single thick, wavy rope)
4. Echo Navy Blue (single thin rope, three knots)
5. Pippa Purple (single thick, wavy rope)
6. Maris Marigold (single thick, wavy rope)

Each bracelet is adjustable using a lobster clasp from about 6"-7.5" and includes a custom etched "Rescue Sirens" charm (photos forthcoming). While a ghost net's durability poses incredible risks to animal life out in the ocean, here on land it means that your bracelet is waterproof, and resistant to corrosion from both fresh and salt water. Talk about turning a negative into a positive!

Not only can you feel good about keeping these pieces of ghost net safely away from sea creatures, but your money is directly helping the plastic pollution problem, too -- 15% of net proceeds from the sale of these bracelets will be donated to Earth's Oceans Foundation, a California-based non-profit organization dedicated to repurposing plastic waste to reduce (and one day eliminate) the presence of plastic in the world's oceans and on its beaches.

I'm so stoked to finally be able to offer these! Even before I discovered Planet Love Life, I wanted to write a future "Rescue Sirens" children's book about the girls collecting beach trash and recycling it into cute jewelry, so this is really a dream come true. Rob and Melody are true kindred spirits, and we're lucky to know them.

Want your own "Rescue Sirens" bracelet? They're available now in our Etsy shop!

With the craziness of the holidays finally behind us, I have a bit of time right now to process and ship orders, so I've also listed our first run of "Rescue Sirens" enamel pins AND -- for the first time online -- all three variations of our double-sided acrylic charms. Yay!

New and upcoming MERchandise September 20, 2018 17:00

From Jess: 

Oh, man, you guys, what a summer it's been! Usually San Diego Comic-Con represents the pinnacle of our summer busy-ness, but 2018 just hasn't quit! Beyond a bit of unexpected traveling (Wyoming is stunning this time of year!), my husband and "Rescue Sirens" co-author Chris has begun filming his first live-action/CG hybrid project, 20th Century Fox's "The Call of the Wild" (based on the classic Jack London novel), and his schedule is all over the place -- which means mine is, too, haha.

That, and I'm still hard at work on my super-secret "Rescue Sirens" project. It's not a book (although I'm working on that, too!), but I can tell you that it does include brand-new artwork from Gabby Zapata, Kellee Riley, and "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" illustrator Genevieve Tsai (plus a couple of new artists, who I hope to introduce to you soon). I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be able to show this stuff to you before too long.

In the meantime, I've been slowly adding more merchandise to our online store. Being able to switch gears mentally and work on something completely different, like backpacks or throw pillows, is a great break from my current project, and I'm tickled pink with some of our newest goodies.

Let's see... since my last update about the backpacks, I've added an awesome beach bag, featuring Gabby Zapata's adorable artwork; a new premium throw pillow in the same print; and kids'/youth mermaid scale leggings in the five Rescue Sirens' signature colors (aqua for Nim, coral for Kelby, blue for Echo, purple for Pippa, and gold for Maris).

Gabby Zapata "Rescue Sirens" mermaid beach bag

Gabby Zapata "Rescue Sirens" mermaid throw pillow

Rescue Siren Nim aqua mermaid scale leggings for kids

My plan is to eventually add leggings that mimic each Rescue Siren's tail pattern (not all of our mermaids even have scales, after all!), but, for a start, this classic mermaid scale motif looks great and pairs really well with our kids' T-shirts. The best part is: these leggings are designed to be worn on land or in the water, so they help provide sun protection for little legs while swimming! I'll create adult versions, as well, but I wanted to debut the kids' line first.

As always, if you'd like to share photos of you or your guppies sporting your "Rescue Sirens" gear, we'd love to see it! Tagging your pictures with #rescuesirens on Instagram is the best way to show them to us.

In addition to all things "Rescue Sirens," I've also been running my husband Chris's online store, and I've been using it as a testing ground for a warehousing and fulfillment service. So far, I really like the way it works, and I'm thinking of warehousing some of our "Rescue Sirens" items, too. What does that mean? You'd be able to purchase our books directly from our website (signed copies!), along with vinyl sticker sets and maybe even our enamel pins! This service ships worldwide with affordable pricing, too, which has been a very big priority for us. And, because I won't be mailing stuff out of our home, it frees up more time for me to write and create new "Rescue Sirens" content! Talk about a win-win-win.

Last, but not least, I'm testing high-quality "Rescue Sirens" art prints so you can add a splash of mermaid magic to your walls. Want to know when the prints are available? Remember to sign up for our newsletter! I don't have quite as much time for social media right now as I'd like, so the newsletter allows me to get all the latest announcements directly to you without spamming Facebook or Instagram.

That's a wrap for this post... see you next time!