RESIDENT HIGHLIGHT: Clifton Artist and Teacher Wows with Hand-painted Parasols
Most people own an umbrella. Some are clear plastic, others are white, a few are black, and the most daring ones might be polka dotted or striped. They float above our heads, a protection against the rain. Sometimes, on especially sunny days, they’re even an extra UV protection layer.
But can umbrellas be described as nice? Are they ever really a part of people’s outfits? Do they have the same amount of character as a prom dress or a favorite, worn, T-shirt? Can they be used at weddings or concerts or talent show performances? Marisol Rodriguez answers these questions through her art. Her small, Clifton-based business, Parasols by Marisol, sells hand-painted umbrellas that fit into people’s wardrobes, work with fancy updos during rainy special events, and even make for great vacation photo-ops.
A creative soul, she studied art history at St. Peter’s University, and encouraged her students to create and express themselves as a first-grade teacher of 25 years. But how did Rodriguez go from art history student and first grade teacher to the owner of a small, flourishing business? The idea began at Hawthorne’s Art in the Park but took off after a 2019 school talent show.
“We had lost the [school] music teacher that year,” Rodriguez explained, “and so we had to come up with our own song, so I…thought of Singing in the Rain.” By this point, she had already done a few umbrellas for herself. “People liked them, you know?” “[The other teachers] really thought it was cute,” she continued. “Everyone came out of the school, all getting wet, because they didn’t want to use their [regular] umbrellas…but I had my painted one.”
It took a while to get the materials right - Rodriquez struggled with making sure everything was waterproof - but when she did, her hobby turned into a first-grade talent showstopper. “I really got into it…Every chance [our first-grade class] had…we’d paint a little bit of the umbrellas…and when the show came, the parents kept [asking], you know, where we got those umbrellas from.”
Rodriguez stops speaking and gives a small chuckle. “I had a few at this point, but I really got [inspired] when I saw the children walking around with the cute little umbrellas…so then my mind just became more creative and with the pandemic…the school closed, and I had to do virtual…and after June that year I decided to take a break and not go back…to start Parasols by Marisol.”
Now, Rodriguez sees inspiration in the world and the people around her. “I think my umbrellas are really people-oriented,” she told me. “They’re like moving canvases.” Rodriguez’s umbrellas always start big - she might be thinking about nature or what makes a person smile - but as she plans and puts paint to parasol, her work becomes gradually specific. Rodriguez even does commission work for vacations, bridal showers, and other events.
So, as Gene Kelly sings, “come on with the rain!” Even if it pours, Marisol’s Parasols paint color into overcast skies, reminding us that joy can be found anywhere. Currently, Rodriguez is busy preparing for a Summer Workshop at the Clifton Arts Center this weekend, with additional classes later in July and through August. Children and seniors are welcome and tickets are still available.
You can find Marisol Rodriguez on Instagram, Facebook, or on her website. Rodriguez lives with her husband in Clifton, where she also hosts art-making events and classes.
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