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Backpacks, SDCC, and a newsletter -- oh my! August 06, 2018 10:03

From Jess: 

At San Diego Comic-Con last month, I teased a new product that I've been chomping at the bit to share with you: "Rescue Sirens" backpacks! The backpacks that I brought with us to the convention were samples and not for sale, but now I'm happy with them and have added all five designs to our online store! You can click the image below to check 'em out.


"Rescue Sirens: Mermaids On Duty" backpacks


Just like some of our new vinyl stickers and acrylic charms, these backpacks feature "Rescue Sirens" artwork by Kellee Riley; boasting bright colors, cute poses, and adorable faces, they really stand out in a crowd! If you know a little Rescue Siren-in-training, one of our backpacks makes the perfect back-to-school bookbag.

With a secret pocket on the lower back for your cash/cards and an interior sleeve for a 15" laptop, they're great for grown-ups, too. I used one of our sample backpacks to tote around everything but the kitchen sink at SDCC and was super pleased with how it held up.

Speaking of SDCC, 2018 was another wonderful year! It's so strange to me that Chris and I spend the first six months of each new year thinking about, planning, and making merchandise for SDCC, and then it arrives all of a sudden and it's over before we know it. The end of the convention always leaves me feeling a little out-of-sorts and bewildered -- like, this huge thing has come and gone, so what am I supposed to spend my time stressing out over and panicking about? (Just kidding; I have a million other things to stress over and panic about.)

After SDCC, Chris and I are exhausted and glad for a breather, but we miss our friends and fellow creatives, and, of course, the attendees. We never take enough photos during the show, but here are a few pictures that I shared on Instagram! I posted them as a pair of slideshows, so, you know, click the left and right sides to view them all.


We’ve been home from #SDCC2018 for a week now, and we’re finally starting to catch up on everything! 😅 As always, we had an amazing time, and we love getting the opportunity to see our friends, fellow exhibitors, and wonderful attendees. Here is just a small sampling of happy moments from the show! Post 1 of 2. 1️⃣ “Rescue Sirens” creator @jessicasteelesanders with her husband and co-author, @chrissandersart. 2️⃣ Artist @seangallowayart showing off a #rescuesirens commission that he drew for us. 3️⃣ Our friends and “Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist” collaborators, @delgaduck and @teresamtzjun. 4️⃣ Sneaking away from the convention center for an absolutely marvelous dinner with @coliegreno, @nathangreno, @tanyalehoux, and @jscottcampbell. 5️⃣ @jessicasteelesanders with stunning ladyfriends @tanyalehoux and @coliegreno. 6️⃣ @chrissandersart holding the first of two gorgeous original paintings by @pernilleoerum that we purchased... 7️⃣ ...while @jessicasteelesanders holds the other! Not pictured: the utterly delightful @kikidoodling and her husband, Nik; our dear friend and “Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist” illustrator @genevievetsai; awesome neighbor @terrydodsonart; brilliant and talented @whitneypollett; sweet @caseyrobin; and probably a million other of our beloved “art friends”! We need to remember to take more photos next year!

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We’ve been home from #SDCC2018 for a week now, and we’re finally starting to catch up on everything! 😅 As always, we had an amazing time, and we love getting the opportunity to see our friends, fellow exhibitors, and wonderful attendees. Here is just a small sampling of happy moments from the show, focusing this time on mermaids! Post 2 of 2. 1️⃣ Bryn and Zach, part of the fin-omenal @finfolkproductions team, stopped by to visit! (And when @jessicasteelesanders was wearing her Finfolk leggings, too: perfect timing.) 2️⃣ Over at the truly incredible @cfxmasks booth, @jessicasteelesanders got in touch with her inner sea monster. (We totally bought that mask at the end of the show.) 3️⃣ It’s not SDCC until @mermaidkalynn drops by... 4️⃣ ...and the same goes for @badkidbebe/@themergoth! 🧜🏻‍♀️🖤 5️⃣ Okay, this was real SDCC magic: @jessicasteelesanders and @chrissandersart first noticed this adorable Orange Bird dress (Jessica owns it in navy), and then discovered that it was being worn by none other than @lovelysundae, who recently drew an outstanding Kelby illustration! She was an ab-shell-ute joy to talk to. #rescuesirens #sandiegocomiccon #finfolkproductions

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As usual, we're already talking about what we're going to do for SDCC 2019!

And there's my cue to bring up my last topic for today: the "Rescue Sirens" newsletter, the most reliable way to find out what we're up to. Chris and I love keeping you up-to-date on what we're doing, but we've noticed a big difference in social media reach over the past couple of years; Facebook shows our posts to only a fraction of our followers unless we pay for more views, and Instagram is quickly heading in that direction, too. Lots of people just plain aren't hearing from us. The solution, it seemed to me, was to start an email newsletter and talk directly to you.

How can you join? When you purchase something from our online store, you have the option to subscribe to our mailing list; you can also do so by visiting our signup page. If you missed our introductory email, you can read it now! Future newsletters will include sneak peeks at what we're working on, event information, and maybe even some subscriber-only exclusives. It's also the first place that we'll announce new products (such as the backpacks!). I'll probably use it to share blogs with you, too, so you don't have to remember to check the website every month.

All in all, I expect to send out only a handful of newsletters per month. I hope you find this a fun and useful way to stay in the "Rescue Sirens" loop!


"Rescue Sirens" at SDCC 2018 July 17, 2018 00:00

From Jess: 

That time has come around again! Chris and I are headed down to San Diego for Comic-Con International (affectionately known as SDCC), and, while this year's focus at our booth is on Chris's sketchbook full of personal artwork (his first in five years!), we're also bringing with us some fun new "Rescue Sirens" accessories that I've been dying to share with you all.

First up: stickers! Last year's weather-resistant vinyl stickers were really popular, so 2017's designs are making a reappearance along with eleven more sticker styles to collect! WOW!

Let's take a look at the new ones, shall we?

"Rescue Sirens" mermaid stickers by artists Gabby Zapata and Kellee Riley

Aside from a brief teaser on Instagram, I haven't had an opportunity yet to really talk about our awesome new artwork from two of our favorite artists: Gabby Zapata (top) and Kellee Riley (bottom).

Chris and I love both of their respective art styles for different reasons, and we're already beginning to use these massively appealing illustrations in our online merchandise -- and, of course, these stickers! Want to plaster your world in Gabby's and/or Kellee's drawings of our lifeguard mermaids? Then swim by booth #4616, where we're selling each mermaid sticker for $4.00 apiece. (We also have a clear sticker with the "Rescue Sirens: Mermaids On Duty" logo in black for $3.00.)


And we can't forget our stickers from last year, which are Chris's chibi-style drawings of the Rescue Sirens -- also $4.00, with the round "Rescue Sirens" emblem available for $3.00.

In the past twelve months I've developed a bit of a... problem... with acrylic charms. (I can quit any time I want, I swear!) Maybe you've seen them on Etsy; these charms are typically sold as phone charms, something to hang on your Nintendo 3DS or other handheld console, tiny keychains, or even necklaces. I've amassed quite a collection, and I knew that I wanted to create our own for SDCC this year.

"Rescue Sirens" acrylic charms by Chris Sanders

Ta-da! I turned Chris's chibi drawings into cute little charms, about 1.5" in height with the image visible on both sides, and I attached them to straps that you can loop onto--well, just about whatever you want! But did I stop there? Ohhhh, no.

"Rescue Sirens" acrylic charms by Kellee Riley

Because the charms are double-sided, I really wanted to take advantage of that, so I asked Kellee if she would mind drawing two versions of each Rescue Siren: one in her lifeguard top, and one in her mermaid top. How cool did the charms turn out as a result?!

Chris and I also asked Gabby if she could do the same thing -- but with an added twist.

"Rescue Sirens" acrylic charms drawn by Gabby Zapata

Gabby drew each Rescue Siren in her mermaid form AND in her human form! She did an amazing job coming up with poses that would work for both versions, didn't she? That's harder than it looks, but these all turned out super adorable.

On the human side of the charm, you'll notice that the extra space surrounding the girls' legs where their mermaid tails are on the reverse is a solid block of the color that I've been using to represent each Rescue Siren -- aqua for Nim, coral/pink for Kelby, blue for Echo, purple for Pippa, and yellow for Maris -- with similarly-colored straps to match.

Each double-sided charm costs $10.00, and you can add a color-coordinated necklace for $2.00.

In addition to the stickers and charms, we'll also be bringing a limited number of our first set of enamel pins, which we debuted in 2017.

"Rescue Sirens" enamel pins

We're down to literally a handful of our Nim pins, so please show up early if you'd like to snag one. I did set aside a few Nim pins for Etsy; after SDCC, I'll be selling three more full sets, along with individual pins from our remaining stock, but I don't recommend waiting until then if you don't have to. Last time we opened online orders, they sold quickly! Each pin sells for $12.00.

And, last but never least, we'll have signed copies of our fully-illustrated, water-resistant children's book, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up," and our novel, "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist," for $20.00 apiece.

"Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up" and "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist"

There are also some new products that we have in the works that we've yet to add to the website, and we're going to be giving SDCC attendees a first look at those at our booth, with an opportunity to order them online -- right at our booth! -- before anyone else! Stay tuned for more about that as the week goes on.

Speaking of online sales, our intention as always is to make our SDCC merch available in our shop and/or on Etsy after we return (and recover) from San Diego. So, if you can't make it to SDCC, you can still add to your "Rescue Sirens" collection!

Okay, fishes. Let's do this!

SDCC takes place at the San Diego Convention Center from Wednesday, July 18th (Preview Night) through Sunday, July 22nd. "Rescue Sirens" is located at booth #4616 (Chris Sanders Art).

Brand-new merch for SDCC 2017! July 17, 2017 21:30

From Jess: 

Holy cowfish, it's already that time of year again: San Diego Comic-Con! Even though we start planning for the next SDCC the moment we pack up our booth to go home (well, before that, even), the convention still always seems to sneak up on us, and now it's here!


We have a few new goodies that we'll be selling at our booth (#4616), and I wanted to give you a sneak peek before SDCC's Preview Night on Wednesday...

PINS

Enamel pins are exceptionally popular right now, and with good reason: they're like tiny bits of treasure to covet and collect! And they look better than ever, too, with intricate designs and even cool extras like glitter. As pin fans, ourselves, we felt it was long past time to make some "Rescue Sirens" pins, and Chris's adorable new chibi-style drawings of our five mermaids seemed like the perfect test subjects.

"Rescue Sirens" mermaid enamel pins

(Click to enlarge.)




Chris and I are so pleased with how they came out, and we have the awesome guys at True Metal Works to thank for being so kind, patient, and knowledgable! We highly recommend working with them; John and Mike made the whole process really easy and fun, and, of course, the pins themselves are the ultimate reward. So satisfying!

Given that this was our first try at making "Rescue Sirens" pins, we only had a small batch produced, so we'll be limiting pin sales at SDCC to one pin per design per person (in other words, you can buy one entire set), with a capped number of each design sold each day. Sometime later this summer -- like, after we recover from SDCC -- we plan to offer a small online sale on Etsy so people who can't make it to SDCC have a chance to add some pins to their collection, too!

STICKERS


Now, as I mentioned, our supply of pins is pretty small. However, if we run out of pins at SDCC, you can still get Chris's super-cute chibi-style "Rescue Sirens" illustrations as high-quality, weather-resistant stickers!


Ranging in size from 3" to 6.3" tall and 3" to 4.75" wide, these stickers feature a beautiful satiny finish and remarkably accurate colors. We're crazy for them, and we can't wait to make more! (I'm envisioning a giant "Rescue Sirens" emblem on the hood of my little red sports car.)

WATER-RESISTANT CHILDREN'S BOOK

I've saved the biggest news for last (of course): we'll be debuting our very first fully-illustrated "Rescue Sirens" children's book at SDCC this year! You may recall a work-in-progress copy that we brought with us to NC Mermania in January, and we're so proud to finally share it in its finished form.

"Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up" has been in the works for a while. My background is in marine conservation education and animal care, and I really miss spending my days teaching kids about the ocean and the fascinating creatures that call it home. I thought it would be neat to start a companion line of "Rescue Sirens" books for readers who aren't quite old enough for the novel series, and, in this first volume, I wanted to tackle the topics of invasive species and responsible pet ownership in a fun, accessible, appealing way.

That's where incredible artist Dylan Bonner comes in! You've seen Dylan's artwork before; last year, we commissioned him to draw each of our Miami Beach mermaids individually as well as in a group shot, and we were so delighted with his style and with our experience working with him that we approached him about illustrating our first children's book. What a dream come true when he agreed!

To me, Dylan's artwork brings to mind the best of classic children's book illustrators such as Disney Legend Mary Blair, who not only illustrated children's books that are still in print after over six decades (!), but also did character designs for beloved Disney animated films like "Peter Pan," "Cinderella," and "Alice in Wonderland." Dylan's illustrations have that same sort of timeless feel to them, and we knew that he'd be the perfect artist for our children's books.


"Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up" follows Nim and the other Rescue Sirens as they hurry to catch a number of exotic fish dumped into the Atlantic Ocean by a thoughtless millionaire who'd grown bored with his enormous Australia-themed aquarium. The story teaches readers about the dangers of releasing pets -- both to the pet and to the local environment -- and positions Nim as an example of a responsible pet owner when she adopts the abandoned zebra shark that she's befriended and promises to always care for her. With animal facts sprinkled throughout and Dylan's bright, engaging illustrations, this slim 32-page paperback has already become a favorite bedtime story in the homes of our beta readers!

And one of the best parts? "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up" is water-resistant. How cool is that?! When I was but a tiny wee Jess, I used to wish that all of my books were waterproof so I could swim and read at the same time -- and that's why "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up" is printed on synthetic paper, which is both rip-resistant and splash-proof. If the book gets wet, simply wipe it dry!

To keep your copy looking shipshape for years to come, please remember: DO NOT leave the book to dry on its own. If a wet book is allowed to dry while closed, the pages can stick together and can cause ink transfer when separated. With just a bit of tender loving care, however, your book will come through exposure to water looking good as new! For all those little mermaids and mermen out there, this means that you can safely bring "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up" to the pool or the beach, or combine bath time and story time.

What adventures will your book go on? If you pick up a copy of "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up," share your photos with us on Instagram by using the hashtag #rescuesirens -- we'd love to see them!

If you and your family enjoy "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up," remember, it's only the first in our planned line of children's books! I have storylines in mind centering around each Rescue Siren that teach valuable lessons about marine conservation issues while giving kids ways to apply what they've learned and to take action in their own backyards. When it comes to making a difference, every little bit helps!

ONLINE MERCHANDISE

If you've just gotta have something but you can't make it to SDCC, all hope is not lost: we'll be offering very limited online sales of our pins and stickers later this summer, while "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up" should be available for purchase on Amazon sometime before fall.

Plus, we'll be rolling out some awesome new merchandise in our online store -- http://shop.rescuesirens.com -- over the coming weeks! Chris and I have had a lot going on behind the scenes lately, and it's thrilling to unveil some of those projects at last. We hope that you like everything as much as we've enjoyed making it!

SDCC 2016 highlights August 08, 2016 12:42

From Jess: 

"It's the most won-der-ful tiiiiime of the year!" If you visited our booth at San Diego Comic-Con, you might be surprised to find me singing Christmas carols in July, but this convention really does mark the most wonderful time of the year for us.

SDCC is an equal parts exhausting and exhilarating four and a half days spent in our 10'x10' booth on the San Diego Convention Center's exhibit floor, debuting new products and spending time with some of the most creative people on the planet. It was at SDCC last year that we introduced the world to "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist," and some of the most thrilling moments of SDCC 2016 involved people who bought the book twelve months ago dropping by to say hello and show their appreciation for our lifeguard mermaids. We thought we'd share a few of those with you!

The first of those people is Becki Santana, who swung by on Preview Night to show us her beautiful Kelby Cortez cosplay. Becki dressed as Kelby in her human form, rocking her lifeguard gear and even her spot-on perfect reading glasses. Wow! We love talking to Becki, who's smart and funny and so kind, and she brought Kelby to life in a very real way. She posted two sets of gorgeous in-character photos on her Tumblr that you can take a look at here and here. Naturally, we also asked to take some pictures with her!


The next day, Chris and I arrived at our booth to find a fin-tastic surprise waiting for us: Sabrina Stein of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, wearing a totally handcrafted Nim costume! Sabrina's cosplays are always a pleasure to see and show an immense attention to detail, but this one takes the cake for sheer ingenuity.

Mermaid costumes present a major challenge when it comes to mobility, but Sabrina solved the tail issue brilliantly by painting a hoop skirt to resemble a rock and then building Nim's tail around her waist (including the dorsal fin on the back!) and down the front of the "rock." When she wanted to walk, Sabrina could simply pick up her foam tail and stroll off. The illusion was so convincing! Even knowing how the costume is constructed, it still looks like Sabrina-as-Nim is seated comfortably in the middle of aisle 4600. We loved it! Her hard work warmed our hearts.


Speaking of hard work, Joanne Garcia of Fierce Fantasy Designs delighted us with a sweet and generous handmade gift: a necklace featuring the tiniest Nim sculpture inside a bottle! Joanne makes and sells bottle necklaces like this in her Etsy store, and we were so touched that she took the time to make one for us! The ability to work in such small scale, and inside a bottle, is incredibly impressive; I may take a video of it later, since photos just don't do it justice. It's so cool that I can carry a miniature Nim around with me wherever I go!


One of the best things about SDCC is getting to reconnect with friends and people whose work we admire, and Chris and I were excited to see Robert Short again after meeting him for the first time at SDCC 2015. Robert's an Academy Award-winning makeup and special effects artist whose work you've seen in "Beetlejuice," "E.T.," and -- if you're a fan of mermaids, which you probably are if you're reading this! -- "Splash," and he's always such a pleasure to talk to. He's full of great stories, and his work on Daryl Hannah's mermaid tail in "Splash" continues to inspire after three decades! You can check out Robert's work at his website, www.robertshortfx.com, which has a bunch of cool photos and videos from all the projects he's been a part of in the past forty years.


There are marvelously creative people wherever you look at SDCC, and we asked three of them if they would draw our Rescue Sirens for our original artwork collection: artist and designer Morghan Gill (upper left), who painted Nim in gouache and iridescent paint; visual development artist, children's book illustrator, and animator Bill Robinson (lower left), our awesome neighbor from across the aisle, who drew Kelby; and comics artist Terry Dodson (right), who also drew Kelby, using Copic markers and Pitt pens.


Let's take a closer look, shall we?

First up: Morghan Gill's gouache painting of Nim. This is something else that I should record as a video! Morghan included iridescent accents in this piece -- golden highlights in Nim's hair, glittery blue scales, and even a silvery sheen on the jellyfish -- that add such a life and sparkle when they catch the light. We're crazy about Morghan's use of shapes and color in her work, and Chris and I were thrilled to score one of her original paintings. Nim and her jellyfish companions look mer-mazing!


Morghan offers sketchbooks, stickers, original paintings like these, and even a soft little plush shark named Pango (you know how much we love sharks, so we bought one of our own!) in her Etsy store; you can also follow her artwork via her Instagram.

Next: Bill Robinson's Kelby sketch! Bill's Flimflammery booth was across the aisle and to the left of ours, so Chris and I sat behind our table and chatted to one another about how appealing Bill's artwork was and how he had such a cute, fun style -- and then Chris suggested that I go over and ask if we might commission a drawing from him. Now, why didn't I think of that? I walked across the aisle and asked Bill if he would draw one of our Rescue Sirens; he very kindly agreed, and, in no time at all, he'd given us a gorgeous underwater scene showing our tiger shark mermaid and some fishy friends. What a beauty!


Bill sells books and prints in his Etsy shop, although it is, as of this writing, closed for vacation because Bill is currently in Iceland with Light Grey Art Lab, teaching character design to other artists in one of the most picturesque places in the world. Stay up to date and see more on his Instagram!

And that leads us to Terry Dodson's Copic-and-Pitt sketch of Kelby! We've followed Terry's art for years; if you read comic books, you've doubtlessly seen his distinctive and immediately recognizable work, since he's worked on a ton of titles and properties in the past two-plus decades ("Spider-Man," "The Avengers," "The X-Men," "Wonder Woman," "Superman," "Harley Quinn," "Poison Ivy," and "Star Wars" are just a few). I'm so fond of the way Terry draws women: more realistic than most women in comics, but no less beautiful or appealing. The word that comes to mind when I think of Terry's style is "striking." I always have to stop and take a better look when I spot one of Terry's covers in a comic shop. He's just so original!

Although I'll happily talk your ear off about mermaids or sharks or ocean conservation, I'm super shy when it comes to everything else, and I carry a dread fear of coming off like a total dork in front of people who I look up to... like Terry. However, I very badly wanted to see what one of our Rescue Sirens would look like in his style, so I gathered up my courage and ran over to his booth to ask if he was still taking commissions at SDCC, and, if so, whether he would mind drawing the Rescue Siren of his choice. Terry and his wife -- a great talent in her own right, Rachel Dodson inks Terry's drawings! -- were both incredibly nice and easy to talk to, and I was ecstatic when Terry said that he'd sketch one of our girls.

He chose to draw Kelby, who's had her peaceful swim interrupted by a rather shocking greeting from a jellyfish -- the setting as well as the sense of action and story instantly identifies Terry as a skilled comics artist and leaves me wanting to see what happens next. Chris and I are really honored to add an original Terry Dodson drawing to our art collection, and we look forward to the next opportunity we have to talk to both him and Rachel.


Want to see more of Terry's work? Like Morghan and Bill above, you can follow Terry on his Instagram account, and you can even purchase some of his original comic book pages in his online store.

You can also view larger versions of these (and other illustrations) in our "Guest Artists" gallery, which features "Rescue Sirens" artwork that we've commissioned -- like the above images -- as well as a handful of our favorite fan art pieces. It's just such a kick to see our lifeguard mermaids depicted in other artists' styles!

With San Diego Comic-Con 2016 in the bag, Chris and I are already making plans for SDCC 2017. We want to thank each and every one of you who came by to say hi and talk to us about "Rescue Sirens"; SDCC is a lot of work, but you make it all worth it!

For those of you who can't make it to SDCC (whether due to geography or to the fact that SDCC badges sell out in about seventeen seconds), we have some good news: schedules depending, Chris and I are looking to exhibit at more conventions next year, so you may see us pop up at shows like WonderCon in Anaheim or maybe even an East Coast con! As soon as we know more, we'll let you guys know here on the "Rescue Sirens" website as well as our usual social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.