A Good Place to Hatch an Idea
Industrial designer Gregg Emmel’s Egg LA studio holds an Earth Day Open House
By Christina Campodonico
If you can dream it, industrial designer Gregg Emmel can probably build it.
The founder of Egg LA in Culver City has designed everything from a motorized tie rack to a cryogenic tissue freezer. He’s created hundreds of products and secured nearly 50 patents or trademarks during a 30-year career of figuring out how to make things work and look good while doing it.
Emmel, 53, opens up his studio design guild to the public on Friday in celebration of Earth Day and to showcase his Knotz Massage Tools, a line of products he designed to help him deal with crippling back pain following a car accident and aid the environment.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Emmel’s Turtle Knotz will benefit the non-profit environmental protection group Save the Turtles.
“I had a herniated back and I actually had this wood knot that I was just laying on, and I conceived of something that would go up my spine,” Emmel says of conceptualizing the Knotz massage tool.
A paperweight-size piece of resin, wood, granite or marble with a bell-curved shaped lump on it, the Knotz can be used for self-massage either by lying on the tool or rubbing it against one’s body.
“It probably took me less than an hour to sculpt it out and actually lay on it and start working it. It’s one of those things where you’re around something, brainstorming, and you have these epiphanies.”
Epiphanies and pure gumption have long inspired Emmel’s career, which started in his early twenties when he was offered a job working for the Stansbury Company, a design firm based in Beverly Hills at the time.
“I basically called [every design firm] from San Diego to Seattle and I had two interviews. The guy in San Francisco said I didn’t have enough machine shop experience, and the guy in L.A. hired me because I had machine shop experience,” remembers Emmel, who started doing metal and woodworking in high school shop and studied these trades in college.
His career took off in L.A. as Emmel, encouraged by his boss at Stansbury, started his own company at age 22. That company and a few business partners later morphed over the years into Egg LA, which has designed advertising sets and props for brands such as Toyota, Lexus, Infinity, Bush Beans and Old Navy.
You might think that the “Egg” in Egg LA comes from the “egg” in Gregg, but the guild’s name, much like Emmel’s Knotz, comes from a Eureka moment that the designer had with his former business partner.
“We were kicking names around and his wife said, ‘What about Egg?’ We looked at each other — ‘that’s it!’”
Finding inspiration is not always so instantaneous for Emmel, who usually derives his designs from the wants and needs of his clients’ projects, but there’s one design element that keeps him intrigued: asymmetry.
“I’m kind of an asymmetrical person,” says Emmel. “I’m inspired by the off-center, the unusual — things that aren’t just, you know, mundane. I don’t like square boxes. If I’m ever in purgatory or hell it will be in a dry-walled white room. Square. No flavor. Gah!”
Knowing Emmel’s disdain for symmetry, plainness and order, it should be a treat to see what’s happening inside his studio.
Egg LA’s Earth Day Open House is from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, April 22, at 11505 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. Knotz Massage Tools start at $29.95. Call (310) 313-1489 or visit knotzmessagetools.com.