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Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Passion for Parasols

When I was a kid, my grandma gave me the coolest little parasol. It was green, and it doubled as an umbrella. She bought it from this wonderful lady in Dahlonega, Georgia, who would paint your name and fanciful little designs on your parasol. (As of two years ago, she was still doing them at Gold Rush Days.)

Years later, my class made a field trip to something called the "China Exhibit" at the High Museum of Art, and I bought myself a beautiful waterproofed paper parasol (green again, as it happens), and I toted that thing around until it eventually disappeared.

Well, I'm fair-skinned and burn easily. Make that really, really fair-skinned, and really, really prone to sunburn. Despite having a decided goth streak, I love the sun, and I love to be outside in it. (I've relegated my inner goth to a part of my soul that mainly gets to play with my wardrobe and Halloween.) For years I've relied on hats and sunscreen, but I hate sunscreen. I hate putting it on, and I don't trust most sunscreen after doing a bit of research.

Last year, I remembered my beloved parasols from my childhood. Why wasn't I using a parasol anymore? I've always loved how they look, and I see them all the time around where I work, carried by the Hispanic and Asian women who walk everywhere. And hey, it's certainly an environmentally friendly approach to sun protection!

So began my hunt for the perfect parasol. My first acquisition, after much research, came from Luna Bazaar, who have the most amazing assortment of paper parasols! (Their main clients are brides and event planners, so they have a rainbow of colors. There are even a few nylon parasols, and they've announced that they'll be adding lace parasols.) I settled on the henna design painted paper umbrella, one of only two waterproof parasols. It stands up to rain quite well, though I wouldn't use it in high winds. (That's only because I'm protective of it, not because I've had a single problem with it.)

As a result of my parasol hunt, I found several examples of belly dance routines with parasols. Since I have a bit of an addiction to props in belly dance, that's just up my alley! I also saw one example of a paper parasol breaking during a routine, so I knew I needed a regular parasol for dance.

I found it this year at the Georgia Renaissance Festival. It's a beautiful red lace parasol, with a sturdy black wood handle and metal ribs. (I found an identical one on sale online.) I had seen several black ones at various conventions, marketed to the steampunk set (yay steampunk!), but this was the first red one! I love that it's so unusual. I hope to have a dance solo worked up in time for my troupe's December show.

Now I'm buying a couple more paper parasols. I'm feeling the lure of the unusually shaped ones, so I've looked at the grass green scalloped parasol and the powder blue star parasol, both from Luna Bazaar. Then again, the gilded blue parasol is gorgeous... (That's also from Luna Bazaar. Have I mentioned how much I love them? And that most of their parasols use sustainably grown wood for the handles and finials?) Eventually I'm going to get the butterflies and flowers parasol or maiden oiled paper parasol, both very Asian designs from Asian Ideas. They also have a lovely square parasol, which is certainly distinctive.

Apparently the recent appreciation for multicultural designs has been having its effect. I've found some other sources, too.

Oiled paper parasols from Japanese Style
Very elegant fabric pagoda parasol-umbrellas from Bella Umbrella
Paper parasols from Asian Import Store
A wide range of distincive parasols from Pamela's Parasols
Asian-style parasols and umbrellas from Oriental Decor
Silk, nylon, lace, paper, and oiled paper parasols from Asian Ideas

Photo by Michael Connell on Flickr

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