Five Questions for 'the mermaid man'

By Beth A. Birmingham | Aug 01, 2014
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Dick Johnson stands in front of Mermaid Island on his lawn in Rockland.

Rockland — The arrival of the annual Maine Lobster Festival usually means lots of arts and crafts on display at Harbor Park in Rockland. It also means that local artist Dick Johnson will be molding another new piece for his Mermaid Island.

The former art teacher from Regional School Unit 13 has spent the last 10 years sculpting his famed mermaids in his tent at the festival, in between demonstrating the art of pottery making and showing his pieces.

Johnson, a Portland native, did not start in the arts until his college years at University of Southern Maine — where he met his wife Su. Now retired, he plans on doing a few more shows and displaying his works at his home on Lake Avenue.

Not only does he mold the mermaids, he sculpts gypsies and wizards along with his style of pottery. He does bronze castings and blueberry pottery as well.

He took time out before setting up at this year's festival to answer these five questions:

Why mermaids?

"I like sculpting the figure and it fits in with the festival and the ocean. I wanted something that represents a frozen piece of time."

What is the most difficult part of the process?

"Moving them — some of the pieces weigh upwards of 400 to 500 pounds. Also, forming some of the 'parts' tastefully. I want it to be looked at as an art form, not a voluptuous nude piece."

How do you come up with the poses?

"It's usually through family experiences. Like the 'Sisters' are two sisters kind of consoling each other. And the one from 2012, I had asked my daughter to lay on a rock and pose like a mermaid. I try to sculpt them as if they don't know people are looking at them."

Do you have a favorite artist?

"Rodin ... he worked on projects long-term like 'The Thinker.' I like the idea of that, thus Mermaid Island."

When you are not sculpting what do you do?

"I play folk music. The instruments I play are acoustic guitar, mandolin banjo and the accordian."

If you have a candidate for Five Questions, email Beth A. Birmingham at

Comments (1)
Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Aug 02, 2014 21:17

I have been admiring these mermaids for sometime and just remembered to bring  my camera yesterday to capture them.  It is great to read about their creator.

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