Don Featherstone: Father of the Plastic Lawn Flamingo

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Don Featherstone in 1996

You may not know sculptor Don Featherstone, but you’ve seen his signature creation grace myriad suburban lawns over the past six decades as an icon of Americans’ affection for tacky.

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Featherstone, who died June 22 at age 79 in Fitchburg, Mass., was the father of the pink plastic lawn flamingo. He created the original in 1957 for Union Products, a Massachusetts-based plastics manufacturer. Here are some facts about the artist and his famous bird.

  • Featherstone’s employer began making plastic lawn birds to take advantage of an innovation — injection-mold technology that allowed the mass production of three-dimensional plastic sculptures.
  • Based on pictures in National Geographic magazine, his prototype flamingo took about two weeks to model both halves.
  • During 43 years at Union Products, he created more than 650 different types of plastic lawn birds, including a swan and an ostrich.
  • He once told the Boston Globe:An empty lawn is like an empty coffee table. You have to put something on it.”
  • In 1987, the company added Featherstone’s signature to each bird’s backside.
  • He told Smithsonian magazine in 2012 that he had never seen John Waters’ 1972 low-budget cinematic classic Pink Flamingos and characterized it as a knockoff.
  • He kept 57 of his own pink flamingos in his backyard to commemorate the year that he created the first.
  • A pink flamingo, appropriately named Featherstone, appeared as a character in the 2011 animated movie Gnomeo and Juliet.
  • In a 2013 article in the British newspaper Guardian, Featherstone’s wife, Nancy, revealed that the couple had worn identical outfits each day for the past 35 years: “As we spend all of our time together, we always eat the same food, too, which is good because we have matching stains on our outfits.”

 

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Photo: Charles Krupa/AP

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