When Anne Johnson and Arra David needed hangers for their coats and towels in 2003, they didn’t do what many do, and head for the nearest big box store.
“Nineteen years ago, we created our first item ‘Coast Hooks’ because we wanted a one-of-a-kind, good-looking way to hang our coats and towels at home,” Johnson said. And they’ve been rocking ever since.
The two own Sea Stones in Windham, NH. They are members of the American Made Collective, and their product list has grown exponentially since those first stone hooks.
“Our work has expanded to include not only home decor and gifts, but barware, tabletop, outdoor sculpture and much more,” Johnson explained. “We still make everything by hand in our busy little studio, close to the forests and seacoast that inspire our designs.”
“When we started in 2003, we had one item. In a few months we had two. Then four, then eight, and now we’ve had hundreds of different items and variants, and a bulging notebook of ideas for new work,” David added. “We are still amazed by the number of useful, beautiful, and durable creations that rise up from the raw elements of water, stone, and hardwood. And we’ll continue to bring the best of those ideas to life.”
While some makers and artists also own retail locations, Johnson and David have chosen to focus on design, creation, and distribution.
“We do everything we can to support our wholesale customers, the store-owner pros who already have the close relationships with the final customers” Johnson said. “This lets us focus on design, quality, and service.”
David describes that Johnson’s background in art gives her a keen eye for balance and harmony, which helps when working with stone, as it calls for customized techniques and novel tools. That is where David – a mechanical engineer and craftsman, takes over. “Part of Arra’s normal care and feeding is to put him in the workshop and let him make tools,” Johnson revealed.
Inspiration for their products and designs continues to come from simple daily awareness.
“Most of our designs start with a personal need or inspiration, and we talk and work closely with our customers and respected colleagues to refine designs so they have wide appeal,” Johnson said. “Of the many items that have made it to success, we can’t think of one example that didn’t evolve and improve along the road from idea to final version.”
“Inspiration ambushes me anytime, anywhere, and I welcome it,” David added. “Sometimes it comes from seeing something eye-catching and letting the idea wander around in my head. Sometimes it comes from paying attention to things that need improvement, rather than accepting the typical solution.”
The duo’s studio continues to be the center of activity, and space is at a premium, as one might expect with a successful small business.
“Our workshop had plenty of room when we started and is now bursting at the seams with tools, materials, and a wonderful group of artisans collectively called Rockers,” Johnson said. “And with the strong and rising demand for skilled artistic work made in the USA, we’re pleased and proud to be sourcing everything locally and making all our creations right here in New Hampshire.”
Small businesses face unique challenges, and Sea Stones resolves them resourcefully. They minimize
Their success as a local, handmade in America fine craft company sets them apart from others. There are many things that need to be in balance for this to happen and they have found the right recipe for their business to survive and thrive. They are excited when they receive a kind word or thank you note from a customer that is as passionate and sees the same beauty in stone that they see. They are proud that we
they can support and employ specialty stone and wood artisans as well as creative individuals who genuinely care about their products. And most of all, on days when the whole workshop is alive and loud with the sounds of tools and machines that they custom-make, when the entire company pulls together to meet a big shipment deadline, and when they can all stand back and look at their collective work, they are proud of their accomplishments.