Melissa Strash was browsing in a thrift shop about 50 years ago when she spotted a mermaid.
Strash, of Everett, has been fascinated with the mythical sea creatures since childhood. This one, made of painted porcelain with rosy cheeks, blond hair and a blue-green fin, reminded her of the illustrations in children’s books about mermaids she read as a little girl.
She bought the mermaid wall decoration, most likely made in the 1950s, for just 50 cents.
“It was just the cutest,” she recalled.
That was just the first of many mermaid items that Strash, 67, has collected over the years. Today Strash has more than a hundred items in her collection, but she displays only her favorites in her mermaid-themed bedroom.
“They’re priceless to me,” she said. “Most of them have memories attached to them or just are so sweet that I couldn’t part with them.”
A wreath made of seashells and a mermaid house constructed of sea glass are her most prized items in a collection that includes figurines, statues, dolls and paintings — many of them vintage or collectibles.
Strash only collects mermaids that are made to look like friendly Disney characters. Think Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” and not the scary ones from “The Pirates of Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” She likes to think of mermaids as beautiful metaphors for womanhood and freedom.
When Strash bought her north Everett home in 2001, she decided to give her collection the placement it deserved in her bedroom. But she went beyond just setting out her favorite mermaid collectibles.
She painted the walls to create a beach-like backdrop for her display — even adding grains of sand to the paint for texture. The ceiling is painted cream to look like a seashell, and the door and window trims are tinted aquamarine to remind her of the sea.
Her bedroom is now her favorite room in the house. The retired pharmacy assistant likes to cozy up with a good book and hot coffee — in a mermaid mug, of course.
Every once in a while, she’ll look up from the page at one of her mythical mementos and remember how she got it.
Her mermaid candle holder, which has tiny holes in the fin to make the flame visible, came from a gift shop in Seaside, Oregon in 2002. Coastal towns are a gold mine for mermaid collectors, she said. She also has scored while shopping in Ocean Shores in Grays Harbor County and Cannon Beach in Oregon.
Strash’s friends and family know how much she loves mermaids, so they’ve helped her expand her collection.
Her newest was given to her by an artist friend. She made Strash a mermaid sculpture made of paper and embellished with glitter and gold. She replaced the mermaid’s face with a small picture of Strash.
One day when her brother, Daniel Strash, was visiting Everett, he made a remark that she still beams about.
“That one looks like you,” he said.
He was pointing at the blond-haired mermaid that started it all.
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, email@example.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
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