STONINGTON — The Owl stool has the kind of curves that beg to be caressed. But as pleasurable as sliding a hand across the sensuous cherry or walnut is, better still is the sensation of sitting in one.

The success of the Owl furniture line, launched by Geoffrey Warner five years ago, has transformed him from fine craftsman to astute businessman.

His small workshop and gallery, Geoffrey Warner Studio on Route 15, a stone’s throw away from this fishing town’s village area, contains elements of both craft workshop and production facility. There are all sorts of large saws, planers and sanders—a collection that would make any basement woodworker drool—but there also are parts that Warner buys from other manufacturers, assembles and ships.

On a visit to the shop in mid-May, Warner and a helper were busy building a kitchen island they would use in a display for an upcoming craft show. Warner attends about six shows a year, he said, with about half his sales coming through those appearances.

But he hopes to change that ratio dramatically. Warner believes he can sell Owl stools to dentists and other health care professionals, opening up a much larger market.

“We do tables and desks and things like that for people, but largely what we sell are these Owl stools,” he said.

The Owl line name comes from a friend’s observation, Warner said. Holding up the unfinished wooden seat before it is affixed to its base, the two holes that allow for part of the human anatomy to enjoy the air render it reminiscent of an owl’s big- eyed face.

And actually, those “eye holes” are not just aesthetic. They are designed to relieve pressure on the ischial bones and cradle the pelvis in a way that eases back strain. A cellist with a broken back found he could sit comfortably only in an Owl stool, Warner said. A grant from the Maine Technology Institute will pay to study the stool’s ergonomic qualities, which could bolster sales.

Warner’s first version was a three-legged stool. Then came the four-leg version. Both are available in different heights.

Then he hit upon the idea of attaching the stool to a steel pedestal base with five wheels, which he calls the “Rolling Owl.” Using a vendor in Auburn who provides the pedestals in chrome, Warner experimented with adding color. The high gloss dark blue, orange, red, light blue, light green and black have been hits with customers.

Some versions feature seat backs, adding yet another option.

“We sell over 500 stools a year,” he said, so the operation has gotten to the point where he contracts with another business to use a computer-assisted tool to cut and shape the stool seats. They then are sanded, stained, sealed and assembled at the Stonington shop.

Prices range from $195 for stool kits, with the customer sanding, finishing and assembling the seat and legs, to $600 for the taller stools that might be used at a kitchen island.

Three part-time office staff help manage the 6-8 vendors he uses, and handle shipping and online purchases.

The next big step is what Warner is calling the “Pro Owl,” for which he has filed patent protection. It features the five-wheel base, though only in black and chrome, and the seat edges have been rounded off with a router to make it easier for a health care worker to lean over or slide off quickly. He hopes to have the Pro Owl included in a dental equipment catalogue.

Warner, 60, moved to Deer Isle 20 years ago from Providence, R.I., where he had attended the esteemed Rhode Island School of Design.

“There was no real community,” he remembers of that region, and so he was drawn to Maine to find it. That, and his love for sailing, although ironically, he’s had to sell his sailboat.

Stonington seems to appreciate his presence in the community. In 2012, the town sponsored a $25,000 state economic development loan for Warner’s business, which helped him expand the shop, purchase a delivery van and increase his marketing efforts.

Though Warner clearly relishes working with wood and crafting beautiful and practical furniture, he is engrossed in growing the business, pointing to a chart that shows Owl furniture sales quickly dwarfing commissioned work over the last five years.

“You’ve got to be creating something new,” he said.


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