STONINGTON, Maine — Every craftsman wants to find the product that strikes a chord with customers and seems to take on a life of its own.
Fine furniture maker Geoffrey Warner of Stonington has found that dream product — an ergonomically designed wooden stool that has been endorsed by health professionals as easing back pain, and happens to look cute to boot. He ships them all over the country and to places including Canada, Europe and Australia. But it all began with the economic slowdown that hit Maine artisans and craftsmen hard in 2008 and 2009.
“I called a meeting of a group of artists and craftspeople on our island. We came to my studio once a month to talk about what we could do to keep our cash flow going and our sales going,” he said. “My emphasis was for everybody to come up with one very, very simple design that was extremely economical and also smart and beautiful, and in my case, extremely comfortable.”
Enter the Owl Stool. The three-legged stool he played with initially had a solid seat with no holes cut into it. Warner took one reject seat for his own use and began hollowing out spaces in it to relieve pressure on his sit bones.
“I kept grinding it and grinding it,” Warner recalled. “Before I knew it, I was looking at two holes in the seat. My assistant said, ‘Geoff, it looks just like an owl face!’ Hence the name Owl Stool.’”
He kept refining the design, asking men and women to try it out in order to get the most generically comfortable prototype. At that point, it was clear he was onto something, although he didn’t know exactly what.
“We started selling it and going to shows,” he said. “It just proved to be extremely successful and people loved the comfort. We began to realize that people who had back pain and other issues were finding relief from sitting in these Owl Stools.”
Warner and his staff then consulted with Dr. Michael Aker, a Blue Hill chiropractor, to angle the seat correctly for proper spinal alignment.
“Our culture is all wrong for sitting,” Warner said. “When we go to school we’re told to sit in these chairs that are uncomfortable with no back support and no lumbar support. No one’s talking about posture. What the Owl Stool does is to remind people to sit up straight.”
The stools range in price from $195 for a kit to $625 for the best-selling Rolling Owl Stool. Warner said that he has sold about 500 stools this year, a 25 percent jump from last year’s stool sales. All the components are made in the United States, with the assembly happening at his Stonington studio.
“It’s been really rewarding, being a wood doctor,” he said. “I love it when we get feedback from our customers. There’s a number of people for whom it has changed their lives.”
For more information about Owl Stools, call 207-367-6555, go to the Geoffrey Warner Studio at 43 North Main St., Stonington, or visit the website www.owlstools.com. The website includes a list of places around Maine and New England to purchase or try out an Owl Stool.