With the days growing longer and colder, reminders of summer are always welcome.  The whimsical design of the J.B. Schmetterling lamp designed by Ingo Maurer and Axel Schmid, with its realistic-looking insects and butterflies, brings nature to an indoor environment. Produced in 2011, the J.B. Schmetterling lamp is a limited edition art piece. The lamp is made of a mouth-blown glass bulb, based on an earlier model called Johnny B. Good, with handmade insects by Graham Owen.[1]

Graham Owen started his career by creating fishing flies, but as he explored the world of fly fishing, he concentrated on tying realistic fly patterns instead of ones that could be used to fish. Soon Owen was creating all sorts of insects as pieces of art.[2] The butterflies for this lamp were made from flexible free-formed plastic and other synthetics as well as more traditional  materials and methods of fly tying. Owen uses butterfly specimens as a study reference when making his reproductions.

The J.B. Schmetterling lamp explores the themes of nature and attraction. By having the insects circle around the source of light, an element of realistic behavior is added to the composition, making the insects seem even more real.

This lamp led to many other projects between Ingo Maurer and Graham Owen, from two other commercially available versions of the lamp, to installations at Design Weeks around the world, and custom-made lamps. Ingo Maurer is known for his innovative and imaginative lighting designs. The collaborations between Ingo Maurer and Graham Owen have resulted in items such as the Biotope wall, which uses natural sea sponges to dampen sound and is lit by LED butterflies made by Owen.


The J.B. Schmetterling lamp will be on view in the exhibition Making Design beginning December 12, 2014.

Audrey Sutton is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Fellow in the Product Design and Decorate Arts Department.



[1] http://www.ingo-maurer.com/en/products/j-b-schmetterling

[2] Alex Cerveniak, “Graham Owen’s Hollywood Flies,” MidCurrent, accessed March 10, 2014. <<http://midcurrent.com/flies/graham-owens-hollywood-flies/>>


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