Q&A with Product Designer J Schatz

Q&A with Product Designer J Schatz

Marcia Prentice
Jul 27, 2011

You probably know product designer Jim Schatz from his popular egg bird feeders. Many of his products are inspired by the egg shape: the egg bank, egg bird house, egg lamp, and egg planter. I am not sure what the inspiration behind the poodle butt sculpture is, but I love it nonetheless. J Schatz's products have a very unique design and personality to them. I was intrigued to go behind the scenes and ask Jim about his personal experience designing the line…

Apartment Therapy: Where do you find inspiration for your product line?

J Schatz: I find inspiration all over the place, but the natural world has been the biggest source of inspiration for these designs. I strive for designs that are interactive with nature - the birds, light, the elements, but that can also stand alone as art aside from their functional purpose (people have hung feeders and birdhouses in indoor spaces). I see these designs as complementary to the larger canvas of the landscape. The landscape I am in the most is my home by a creek in the woods and the garden my partner Tom and I have cultivated there. We are in state of perpetual discovery – of the native plants-flowers, trees, stones and fossils, fish and mammals and birds – so many birds - that surround us. It's a small spot – about a quarter acre on a steep hill next to the Genegantslet Creek – it's proven to be a limitless source of wonder and inspiration for us (including our 14 year old dachshund, who has a unique perspective).

Apartment Therapy: What was your very first product and how did the design come about?

J Schatz: The very first product was the Star Egg Nightlight, also known as the Egglamp. It was created in collaboration with my late partner, Dan Llaurado, who encouraged me to move beyond conceptual art and into the product sphere. The light projected from the pinholes reproduces the filament shape from a clear bulb as "stars" in a dark room. It is one of our most popular products - a favorite of children who dream peacefully under the stars in their bedroom sky.

Apartment Therapy: What is your favorite product that you have designed?

J Schatz: All the bird feeders: the Egg Bird Feeder, Mobile Bird Feeder and Hummingbird Feeder. I love coming home after a day at the studio and spending time watching all the birds interact with the feeders year round. They are a special joy and encourage me to continue creating.

Apartment Therapy: You love to incorporate bright colors into your designs, what does color mean to you?

J Schatz: Color is both exciting and challenging. The Johannes Itten Color Star is part of my "Bible" and I refer to it often. I love bold colors and how they set off other, more subtle elements in the landscape. I want a collection that can work together as a group or singly in the environment. When I was photographing the Hummingbird Feeder outdoors there was a particular time of day when the light filtering through the trees and was a perfect complement to all the colors in the Hummingbird Feeder collection. At dusk creekside, the water turns cobalt and the bright white Egg Bird Feeder suspended nearby always makes a perfect picture of serenity. Color – always created by ever changing light - means that I am alive, that everything is in motion and that nothing is what it was a minute ago.

Apartment Therapy: What is the most gratifying aspect of being a product designer?

J Schatz: Making, living with, and sharing the products we design with my friends, family, and the people who enjoy them. Making products involves special techniques unique to each piece that are then shared with my team. The hummingbird feeder is the most difficult product to produce to-date. We would not have been able to produce it seven years ago when I first started the company. All our pieces are individually handcrafted by people I care about. Teaching them to make our products and learning and improving the process as we create pieces is a joy. We take a lot of pride in the result and the teamwork involved. Living with all the prducts is important because true to our mission, if a product does not inspire wonder, we won't produce it. Sharing these pieces is gratifying as it represents the best of my talents and is an expression of my self, my interaction with nature, and the day-to-day environment I am in.

Apartment Therapy: What is the future of J Schatz designs? What new products are on the horizon?

J Schatz: J Schatz is continuing to develop new products that inspire wonder. We are working on a new collection of bowls, planters, and bluebird houses. I am also working on conceptual pieces. Conceptual work is as important as the functional and informs the imagination. Perceive a frame for life's work. Ask questions each morning. Move a direction off course. Move a direction on course. Flow in the direction of gravity. Bind it in beauty.


Images: J Schatz

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