Original pink flamingo will fly back into stores

Don Featherstone, creator of the original pink flamingo, sits with the plastic creatures in 1998 at Union Products Inc., in Leominster, Mass.

The Associated Press
Published: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

BOSTON - The original pink flamingo lawn ornament, the symbol of kitsch whose obituary was nearly written after its central Massachusetts manufacturer went out of business, is rising phoenixlike from the ashes and taking wing to upstate New York.

A manufacturer that bought the copyright and plastic molds for the original version plans to resume production in Westmoreland, N.Y. HMC International LLC will pick up where Union Products Inc. left off last year when it shuttered its Leominster, Mass., plastics factory after 50 years of flamingo making.

J.C. Waszkiewicz, head of family-owned HMC, said Thursday he expects retailers who buy his firm's flamingoes wholesale will appreciate subtle design differences between knockoff versions and the original by Don Featherstone, who studied art before Union Products hired him in 1956 to expand its lawn ornament lineup.

"Once I began discussions about buying Union Products, I started examining the different products on the market, and I realized Mr. Featherstone created a great-looking flamingo,'' said Waszkiewicz, whose firm closed on its purchase of Union Products in April for an undisclosed price. "There are other people who have tried to capitalize on his design, but none that I've seen hold a candle to the quality and detail he created.''

Waszkiewicz's firm expects to resume Featherstone flamingo production by Labor Day. After Union Products ceased production last June, uncertainty surrounding the fate of the original led aficionados to snap up remaining stock in retail stores and secondhand Featherstone flamingos, in case those models became unavailable for good.

The molds are based on flamingos Featherstone sculpted from clay, working from photos of the graceful birds in National Geographic.

The ornaments hit the market in the late 1950s when the color pink was in vogue, and America's exploding population of suburbanites sought to add flair to their lawns.

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