When planning our road trip up Highway 1 for the Wildflower Tour we knew we had to make a stop in Santa Barbara to visit our friend Steven Soria of Make Smith Leather Company. He came to Desert & Denim this past February and showcased some serious craftsmanship (axe making workshop anyone?). Steven’s studio and shop are just as impressive and beautiful as the hand made products that come out of it. From the open sliding wooden door to the groovy tunes playing in the California air- It’s a day dream realized! Read about how Make Smith came about & then check out these amazing leather fortune cookies!
Where do you live?
I live in the downtown area of Santa Barbara, CA – “The American Riviera”. Aka “paradise town land”
When did you start Make Smith? Were you working another job?
I started Make Smith about 5-6 years ago while working various freelance graphics design gigs and working for my dad part time in his leathercrafting shop.
How did you decide to turn Make Smith into a business?
I grew up in the family trade, which is leather crafting, so for me it really wasn’t a giant leap. It was more of a quick transition from working for myself as a website designer, to product design. Luckily I didn’t have the industry and materials obstacle of learning about leather. But, running my own business was already a natural thing for me. I grew up in a small mom and pop shop, so I know the terrain.
How many people are there on your team?
We currently have four people staffed in our team. And a dog.
What is the best part about what you do?
Guiding a constantly evolving ship, creating objects that get reaction and educating artisans and consumers. Gosh, So many things…
What has been the hardest part of running your own business?
Time management and making sure that I am not getting jaded and turning myself into an old shop troll. We work long hours and work pretty hard, but I try to find time to poke my head out into the blue Santa Barbara skies and dip my toes into the Pacific to recharge my crystals.
Where do you hope to see Make Smith in 5 years?
I’m hoping that by 2021 robots will have take over the world and they will make the leather goods for us. Then we can all spend our time BBQing at the beach, collecting sea shells, drinking wine and making driftwood art.
What product that you make is your favorite?
I still really LOVE our tote bags. I think simple is ALWAYS best.
How do you come up with new goods to launch?
New goods are a combo of my vision for what Make Smith should be making, balanced against consumer demand. It’s imperative for a business to understand trend, but stay true to their own vision.
What inspires you?
Music, Art, people, lovers, family, friends, obstacles, fears and desires.
Do you have any advice for those looking to have a career doing what they love?
What phase of LOVE are you in? Consider how “making money” and the pressures of “turning a profit” might change your relationship with those feelings of LOVE.
I love what I do… in a old LOVE kind of way. A way that’s respectful and humbled by the difficulty of the craft, the history of my family and how this business has provided of our well being. I look forward to the future and get excited to see what’s possible.
Check out the Trail Vibes Make Smith created for us!