Well, there is no “us,” just me –- a retired geography professor turned umbrella maven, inventor, and plein air painter.
Umbrella maven? How did that happen?
It all started in July of 2008 during painting trip to Northern California. I was excited to use my new, expensive, telescoping umbrella – supposedly the only umbrella I’d ever need. I quickly became frustrated with this new umbrella, as I was constantly adjusting clamps and bungee cords in a futile attempt to keep it from sinking to the ground or flying off whenever a slight breeze came up. Basically, the umbrella only worked in a vertical position – good for high noon painting on a windless day and that was about it. This umbrella was such a disappointment that I gave up trying to use it and just painted in the sun.
My next disappointment came when I returned home and discovered that the paintings that I was quite pleased with in the field were too dark to be displayed indoors. The message was clear; I needed to use an umbrella. I dragged out all five of my umbrella set-ups – each of which was dysfunctional in its own way, and vowed to design an umbrella that would work. I became obsessed with the project.
I spent many late nights searching for clamps and peculiar hardware on Goggle images. I ordered all sorts of clamps that looked like they might work, only to discover that you really do get what you pay for; and only the best would do for my umbrella. I found an umbrella manufacturer in China with a good reputation. I scanned diagrams and sent them to China as email attachments. After several months and hundreds of emails, I had my first of three prototypes. More design issues needed to be worked out and the umbrellas were tested on windy days. Next I secured a freight forwarder, a letter of credit, and a company that would inspect my order in China. Slowly, my obsession was becoming a reality.
I think my husband was flabbergasted when the umbrellas actually arrived. Once the umbrellas were delivered, I had to work on suppliers for the clamps, the rotating arm, and hardware items. I installed a drill press in my kitchen and had an expensive drill press fixture (jig) made to order. I began doing light assembly work and web site design in my “spare” time.
Now I have two more products and a warehouse/art studio down the hill from where I live. Every girl needs a warehouse. I’m thinking of writing a novel called “A Warehouse of Her Own. Stay tuned.
How did I think of the Palette Garage? That’s a story for another part of the blog. It involves grizzly bears and a long drive across the Great Basin.