Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Mike Van Daal, tailmaker & pirate - revisited

by Eleina Fae
[originally published in la Vie Sirene magazine June 2013]

Trouble ensued when Frederic in Gilbert & Sullivan's
Pirates of Penzance ended up as a pirate instead of a pilot as was originally intended.  It seems the same tragedy has befallen artist Mike Van Daal, the man who dreamt of being a commercial pilot, but now.... Well, you can see for yourself in this quick snapshot peek at the life of the professional mer-tail-maker of fabulous FlipTails who spends his free time helping his family with their landscape supply business... and engaging in wanton piracy.

It all started out innocently enough
A cutie plying his wares
Beta-fish testing his product 
In a word... wowzers!
But now a pile of perfection lays deserted 

as he goes off to pursue a life of piracy
A mer-maiden pleads with him to give up his pirating ways
...but succumbs to his rakish piratey charms
Good heavens!  I hope this is not all that's left of her!
More evidence of his handiwork washes ashore
Since his workshop is unattended while he's off pillaging the seas,
perhaps no one will notice if I borrow this hot little number....
I've been coveting it for years... Oh look over there!
It's Johnny Depp!

Editor's note:  While la Vie Sirene welcomes content contributions from its resident urban fairy, Eleina, her comments in no way reflect the views of the magazine or its affiliates.  In the interest of fair and even journalism, we did some investigative sleuthing to get to the bottom of her claims and went straight to the source.  Mertail-maker Mike Van Daal was utterly gracious in answering our questions and setting the record straight.  

As a male, what were your first impressions of mermaids? 

I have been fascinated with them ever since I saw “Splash”, and was just amazed at how realistic she looked. My mom said I ruined our VHS tape because I would rewind the underwater-scene so many times. It was nice seeing “The Little Mermaid”, and seeing that there were Mermen too.

The mer magnificence of FlipTails - 

Custom Mermaid Tails by Mike Van Daal
How did you make the decision to create a tail yourself? And how did you get into tail-making as a going concern?

That is the million-dollar question. I always swam in the pool as a kid with my legs tied together, and flippers on, pretending I was a fish. I finally made my own monofin when I was 15. Once I got bored with that, I decided to cover it with fabric, making it into a tail. I then kept wanting to make it more realistic, and that’s when the molding started.

Being one of the few males in the mer community, and especially a tail-maker, you must get thronged by women. How do you handle it all?

It can be very difficult at times. Being a one-man company, I don’t get a chance to answer as many people as I wish I could. I am however very close with my clients. Each order forms a special bond between the customer and me, and I really enjoy that. An order isn’t just “another order” for me. I take each one very seriously, and take my time making sure they are 100% perfect before they ship out. Yes, that takes a lot more time, and that’s why I am limited to the number of orders I can take.

What is the underwater merman experience like for you when you're swimming in one of your creations?

It's truly amazing. I love swimming in tails, especially ones that I created. It almost creates an “out of body” experience, and it's nice thinking I made it possible.

Rumor has it you moonlight as a pirate? What do you have to say to these scandalous claims?

Well, it's true. I do Jack Sparrow impersonations “on the side”, making appearances at events all over. I have been working on my costume for almost 6 years, and have over $7,000 into it.

As a man, what sorts of challenges do you see in the mer-community, and what changes have you noticed?

I haven’t really noticed too many challenges being a male in this community. I think it’s a pretty open community, and its nice not being judged. When I first started off, I got a lot of weird looks, and snide comments, but they have slowly disappeared.

At this point in your career you've already accomplished so much. What dreams have yet to be fulfilled?

I am so thankful for how far I have come since I started this business. Its gone further than I ever expected it to, and I couldn’t have done it without all the support from my fans. I have a few big things coming up that will probably be the highest point in my career so far.