Priscilla Troy: Parasol Purveyor
West Marin Citizen - Business Women of West Marin - by Ellen Shehadeh
NICASIO, California, September 11, 2008

If former Southern belle and showgirl Priscilla Troy has her say, parasols will become the green and happening answer of global warming.

In her creatively cluttered Nicasio studio perched high above Lucas Valley Road and only a stone’s throw from Skywalker Ranch, Troy, a self described “flirty 61-year-old, “
Designs and markets a variety of what she terms “Shade Art” under the name Priscilla’s Parasols.  Not your mother’s parasol, if she even carried one, these sun umbrellas come in a variety of designs and shapes, from triangular to octagonal, and in modern fabrics like hemp and other UV resistant materials that appeal to the modern city woman or the coquette wannabe.  You may have seen some examples of her wares sported by the Inverness Garden Club Ladies in the 2007 Western Weekend Parade.

Don’t be misled by her easy laugh and buoyant manner, Priscilla Troy has not just sailed through life – although she has done a bit of sail racing and kite flying too.  Troy has weathered many setbacks including the loss of her Art Deco carriage house in the 1991 Oakland/Berkeley Hills Firestorm.  Resilient, perhaps from being one of the oldest of nine children, the loss of her home and all her possessions turned Troy towards art and creating pieces from found objects.

Troy attributes contracting melanoma several years ago to countless family beach vacations.  The disease eventually called for an inspired and Southern intervention-
Chic parasols to avoid the sun.  “They don’t give you hat hair,” she says.  Then adding
With a significant tone in her voice, “And they also get you noticed.”  About the cancer, she casually tosses it off, “It will probably get me in the end.”

Priscilla’s Parasols is just her latest business venture.  Three years in the making and self-financed, this endeavor seems to meld her backgrounds and careers in art, design and 35 years of advertising.  Her advertising career began in her hometown of Atlanta, but soon she and her husband, Jim, found themselves in Berkeley….”There was a huge learning curve,” she rely admits.  However Berkeley and the “women’s lib” ethos took hold on the transplanted couple.  Priscilla, by now mother of one son, became a working mom in advertising, while Jim stayed home.

At age 55 after a long advertising career, she decided to make a serious study of art and
Enrolled in Graduate School at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied New Genres.

In preparation for launching Priscilla’s Parasols, Troy found a small factory in a remote Chinese village near a bamboo forest that has been manufacturing parasols for a thousand years.  This choice allowed the rural families to stay together rather than split up for work only available in the large over populated cities. Armed with computer drawings and other high tech materials she visited the charming but ancient former school building and saw the village people doing all the work by hand. “High tech for low tech” was not successful until simple drawings were made labeled “YES” and “NO.”

These days she has a marketing plan, a website, handsome logoed samples which will soon go out to chic gift shops in wineries and resorts and zillions of ideas including marketing to the tattooed who must avoid the sun to preserve their skin art.  If you simply must display your tattoo, you can now have a replica imprinted on a personal parasol.

There are plans for a coffee table book using the hundreds of old photographs she has collected over the years, and a new experiment to recycle the dried rose petals from her garden to make paper.

She has designed playful facemasks for those wishing to avoid diseases or wind damage from sailing and was hoping to have these ready for this summer’s Olympics and the polluted Beijing air.  Funding problems thwarted this project.

If you see a spunky stylish blonde strutting her stuff and carrying a parasol when you’re out and about in West Marin, most likely, its Priscilla.  Stop and chat.  She makes most of her best sales this way.