For quite some time now, there has been a growth in the home-made, and hand-spun industry in Buffalo. Spurred on by a renewed interest in supporting local businesses, and the arts community in this region, this growth has led to the birth of a new (or, a retro as it might be seen) breed of entrepreneurs in Buffalo. One such homespun based business is Mermaid & Weasel on Main Street in the University district. Founded by owner Diana Miranda, and her husband John Gaeddert, Mermaid & Weasel is a whimsical shop where she creates popular icons out of crocheted yarn, and also sells a plethora of interesting, humorous, and often very adult humor based goods that you simply cannot find anywhere else in the city.
I sat down with Diana recently to discuss Mermaid & Weasel, her dance fusion company, and what the future holds in store for all of her endeavors.
Mermaid & Weasel is your store, when did you decide to open Mermaid & Weasel?
We opened last year on March 14th in 2015 for Pi Day. It was a Saturday, and the nerdiest day of the year; it’s also Albert Einstein’s birthday. So that seemed like a good time to open.
What was it that precipitated opening Mermaid & Weasel? What inspired you to open such a whimsical shop?
Well, I was a teacher for a very long time, turned nanny, and I was with the same family for three and a half years, but when you’re a nanny and you’re forty you need to move on with your life. And I actually came up with the idea of opening a cafe; a nerdy cafe, where we’d have salads named after Star Trek and Dr. Who, and sandwiches and coffee. But that was a little out of our budget. So, we don’t have a lot of stuff in Buffalo like this. I was a math, and science teacher, and my husband is a Dungeons and Dragons nerd, so we’re a couple of super-nerds, so I took all the money I had. I was also a Buffalo News carrier, so I had some money, and I just decided to go for it. Although I kept my newspaper job for a while, but that gets exhausting, and it takes a toll on your body.
Yeah, newspapers are very heavy.
Yeah. So I wanted to be my own boss.
And how have you enjoyed it so far?
It’s very scary. It’s like being on a frightening roller-coaster. Some days you’re like, “I’m going to do this and be successful!” and you have these highs, and then there are days where you make a dollar, or nothing, and you feel like, what the hell is going to happen? So it’s a scary roller-coaster.
Do you do anything besides the shop for income?
I do direct a dance troupe, and teach dance class, and we get the occasional big gig, but I do teach.
I know about your dance troupe because I’ve photographed your dance troupe before, and of course you just did a great performance at Dance Days of Buffalo. What is the name of the troupe?
It’s “Relativity Belly-Dance,” named after Einstein’s theory of relativity. So it’s a little nerdy.
What is the style of dance that your troupe specializes in?
It’s called American Tribal Style Belly-dance. It’s a fusion of North African, Middle Eastern, and Spanish Flamenco. It’s a set vocabulary of moves and dance formations. There are some cues so when we dance it’s all improv, but it’s a lot of body language. It’s pretty fascinating.
It looks pretty fascinating, every time I’ve seen your team perform, and it’s been a few times now. You said that you teach dance as well. Where is it that you teach dance?
I teach at a little studio in North Buffalo on Kenmore Avenue called, Habibi Of the Nile. It’s actually a friend’s, she refurbished her garage into a studio. It’s a cute little studio.
How long have you been doing that?
I’ve been teaching since 2007. I was with another troupe, but then I branched out and started Relativity Belly-Dance. So I’ve been teaching since early 2007. I’ve been on my own for the last five years.
Is there a general theme to Mermaid & Weasel?
We’re known for having these things that are “filthy.” Not in a sex-toy kind of way, but….
In an adult humor kind of way?
Yeah! You can get socks that say, “Hell Raiser” on them, or you can get cute little socks with pugs on them for children. So we have a lot of very cute, quirky, off-beat stuff. It’s pretty nerdy, or geeky.
What is your biggest seller?
No matter what we do every week, no matter how good, or how bad, the Square app shows you what you’ve sold and the categories. Socks are always number one. Those yarn creations called Amigurumi, are always number two, and buttons usually. We make buttons out of comic book pages and stuff.
Where do you hope to go with Mermaid & Weasel? I know you said that you’re probably going to be moving from this location, but where do you hope Mermaid & Weasel is going to take you, professionally or personally?
I would love to have a bigger location at some point. I don’t want to open one or two more stores. Just one store, a bigger one where I can have a bigger variety of merchandise. We hope to vend at more Cons across the country. We have two big cons Cons coming up and the Allentown Art Association’s Fall Festival. So, having a bigger location, and vending more.
Tell me a little bit about your creative process. What inspires you to create the things you make?
Well, a friend told me this is how my mind works. If I see something I really like I said, ‘oh, I have to make that!’ At Buffalo Art Infringement Festival, I had a little installation called the Happy Little Hooker Room, and I was looking for patterns for crochet. But then I saw on this website, you see the little balloons behind you? I stopped everything so I could make those little balloons, that are that bucket right there. So, I do what’s popular. I’m going to make a bunch of little cacti for the Con, or Pokemon, or when something really popular comes out like Deadpool, I designed this little Deadpool. I don’t know if that really counts as a creative process; I’m very ADD when it come to what I make. Sometimes I make things, like the little Pokeballs, I made ten of those all at once. I don’t have a system, or time management (laughs). I made a jellyfish today, and finished some Pokeballs, but I don’t know how to manage my time. The creativity kind of just takes over.
If you can tell everyone in Buffalo one reason why they should come and visit Mermaid & Weasel, what would you tell them?
Other than you should support local? I think, that you’ll find something here that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. So, if you want something really cute, and fun, maybe for a gift, you’ll find it here. Not many people carry the things that we carry here. It’s a very unique place.