While working at Sunset Elementary, Savannah Tobey, a junior from Washington studying elementary education, was asked by the well-known YouTuber Mermaid Kariel, “Do you know how to babysit, and do you know how to sew?” Savannah answered truthfully that she did know how to babysit but sewing was not a skill she possessed. After she was shown a few times how to sew scales onto a wet suit, Tobey found herself creating mermaid tails for the professional mermaid, Mermaid Kariel.
As time passed on, Tobey said she realized she had a talent for creating these tails and bringing a real mermaid experience to life. She eventually moved from sewing tails as a part-time job to a full-time job, and her work at the elementary school became her part-time job. Tobey explained, “I now only have to work at the elementary school two days a week, and I now spend all my extra time making mermaid tails. On average it takes me about 20-24 hours to make one tail.”
Other individuals outside of the mermaid community have seen Tobey’s work and have commented on her skill. Blair Houk, a junior from California majoring in business, said, “When I saw her work, I was really impressed with how well she put together all these tails and how they looked. They are beautiful to touch and, needless to say, I wasn’t surprised. This work is her calling in life, and I fully support it.”
Tobey has learned a lot sewing the mermaid tails as well as witnessing the selling of the tails. She said although she has not worn any of the tails, people from all over the world want to have their own custom-made tails. Some people order the tails to be a certain color or the bottom fins are to be shaped a specific way. Tobey also explained there are people who love to follow other mermaid individuals and each tail can cost over $5,000.
“One of the things that is really interesting is I never knew how to sew, and now I am fairly good at it. Also, there are actually a lot of people from the United States and Australia who pay a lot more money than I have.” The tails sold and sewn by Tobey are all customized so that no tail is the same. Tobey said she is responsible for sewing the tails correctly and in a specific colored pattern.
Tobey loves to take the tails anywhere she can like Hukilau Beach or other areas on the island. She also expressed how each tail has many hand-sewn sequins, which are tiny, shiny plastic objects sewn together to look like scales. Tobey said she actually enjoys making the tails and having them at the house because they are always a good conversation starter. The tails are more than just a fun hobby, she said, and provides Tobey with a little over two-thirds of her income during the year.
Danna Usevitsch, a senior from Arizona studying math education, said how her roommate, Tobey, “has a number of eccentric hobbies, so I wasn’t too shocked when she started making mermaid tails. At first, I couldn’t get over the idea there was a mermaid here on the North Shore. But after I saw the tails, I realized they are pretty cool and it’s an interesting business.”
Usevitch added the only down side to the mermaid tails is sometimes the sewing needles get mixed in the laundry, and she finds random sequins in the house.
As Tobey continues to make more tails and more memories, she said she hopes her customers are satisfied with the product they receive. She also advised students to find something new to do to keep them progressing.
“Sewing mermaid tails is not that hard, but it is a lot of extra time that I have to put in to finish the tails. It’s been really fun to not just sew them, but also be able to see pictures of them being used and swam with,” said Tobey.