FITCHBURG , Mass., June 24 (UPI) -- Donald Featherstone, an artist and sculptor best known for creating the pink plastic flamingo -- the iconic American lawn ornament -- died Monday in Fitchburg, Mass. He was 79.
Featherstone's death was confirmed by Dean Mazzarella, the mayor of Leominster, Mass., where the late artist designed the plastic flamingo for Union Products in 1957.
Mazzarella described Featherstone, who suffered from Lewy body dementia, as a "local classic."
Born in Worcester in 1936, Featherstone studied art at the Worchester Art Museum. He went on to work for a novelty items company called Union Products, where he worked for 43 years.
Featherstone designed 750 products for the company, but his most famous by far was the pink plastic flamingo, a lawn ornament that became synonymous with American kitsch.
Featherstone told the Leominster Champion in 2006 that he modeled his flamingo after National Geographic photos.
"You can't go locally and buy a flamingo, so I got some books, and one that had some good shots was National Geographic. I made the silhouette, then put on the clay and that's how it all started," he said.
Featherstone, who retired as president of Union Products in 2000, won the 1996 Ig Nobel Prize for his famed creation. The Ig Nobel, which parodies the Nobel Prize, awards "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think"
Featherstone has said that there's more to the plastic flamingo's "tacky" reputation.
"They have been called very tacky, but more than not, they've been called fun," he said.
"I loved what I did, it's all happy things. You have to figure, my creations were not things people needed in life, we had to make them want them. Things I did made people happy, and that's what life is all about," he said.
Featherstone and his wife, Nancy, married in 1976. Nancy told The Guardian in 2013 she and Donald wore matching outfits for 35 years.
"All it is is a positive reflection of the nature of our relationship. We're a matched set," she said.