Les Parapluies de Paris: Parasolerie Heurtault in Viaduc des Arts

Les Parapluies de Paris: Parasolerie Heurtault in Viaduc des Arts
In its series on exceptional artisans and their crafts, TV5 in the U.S. recently ran a program on Michel Heurtault‘s Parasolerie in the arcades of the Viaduc des Arts in the 12th arrondissement. (The Mairie de Paris has dedicated the arcades to the finest of traditional arts and crafts, “l’artisanat français.”) TV5 toured his boutique of new and refurbished antique umbrellas and parasols, a rainbow of open-and-closed colour, fabric, styles and displays. Heurtault provided lively, informative and engaging commentary. He is clearly in love with what he does and charmingly shared his craft just for the visit. Most people these days think of umbrellas and parasols simply as utilitarian devices that protect against rain and sun, made cheaply of nylon in the Far East. We consider them disposable, expect to lose them soon enough, and then find another at street vendors, department stores, malls and online for $5 and up—except when it rains, when umbrellas command $10 or more. But some of us know that umbrellas are more. My father positioned industrial reflective ones to soften or enhance light in his professional photographic work. All through the 1950s and 1960s, I remember Alicia Rhett—who played India Wilkes in Gone with the Wind—always carrying a dainty parasol in a white-gloved hand as she visited my father’s shop in summertime Charleston, where she lived, photographed and painted as a portrait artist. Back then Charleston ladies opened parasols on the street. Of course, umbrellas and parasols of all sorts have been part of the fabric of human history, culture and fashion from China to Egypt to France and portrayed in all media. For example, in Japanese prints, Impressionist paintings, and the movie Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. And there are also “les parapluies de Paris” at the Parasolerie Heurtault. Michel Heurtault has spent 20 years learning and building on his craft. His stunning, magnificent parapluies and ombrelles, individually handmade works of art, run the gamut from classic to “farfelu,” not only in form, but also in coverings. They are “green,” biodegradable and recyclable.  In the Parasolerie Heurtault, you’ll find “haute couture” parasols of linen and cotton or of silk from 200E to 890E; a complete range of handmade umbrellas for men and women from 300E to 2,000E; vintage umbrellas from the 50s and 60s; a rare collection of canes, parasols and umbrellas from the 19th and early 20th century; and a large choice ofaccessories, fabrics and frames for made-to-order umbrellas and parasols. He also restores and recovers antique ones from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, drawing on an extensive stock of frames, structures and parts, like hand-carved handles. Coverings range from silk from Lyon, lace from Caudry, ribbons and lace trimmings from St. Etienne, along with cottons and linens from the North of France. In addition, he usesantique tools, instruments and parts, which are indispensable in working with original forms and re-creating their unique look and feel. His collection of over 1,000 can be rented by film companies. He hopes, however that they may one day be available to the public in a traveling exhibit covering a broad range of French craftsmanship of ombrelles and parapluies. In all of this, Heurtault appears to be unique, the last such artisan in Europe. Parasolerie Heurtault Viaduc des Arts85, avenue Daumesnil, Paris 12th (note this is a new location as of 2011)Tél : +33 (0)1 44 73 45 71Open: Tuesday-Saturday, 9am-7pm  

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