We cornered our friend Steven Soria in his Make Smith workshop in downtown Santa Barbara to get more on his story.
SeaVees: Your family has quite a history in leather.
Steven: I grew up in the family business – a third generation craft. My grandpa and his brother were saddle makers. When they came of age at 35, they opened their own shop. They were veterans from WWII, so they really bootstrapped the business.
My parents then took it over in the 1960s.
SeaVees: From saddlers to Make Smith, how did that happen?
Steven: My grandpa was servicing the ranchers and farmers. But in the sixties, Santa Barbara went through a huge boom, pushing all those people out. The business really had to change into more urban products so my parents shifted it to luggage and purses.
SeaVees: And what was your transition with Make Smith?
Steven: My parents still have the luggage repair shop but I think I had a particular knack for making one-of-a-kind pieces. They really encouraged me to pursue the fine arts: I studied painting and sculpting at Cal State Long Beach. When I came back to the shop I saw an opportunity to make smaller, specialty pieces of high quality. That’s when I started Make Smith.
SeaVees: What was the atmosphere like growing up in the shop?
Steven: I would wake up from naps inside an open suitcase. My play toys were hammers and cutting straps. I was making stuff because I wanted to do what my dad was doing. Watching my parents work was always interesting to me. I am very aware that the time I spent in the shop was so rare, not normal – but in the best sense of the word. I am grateful for that.
SeaVees: It seems like you have a very unique relationship with your parents.
Steven: My parents met in high school. Got married really young so my dad always felt more like a brother to me. I grew up in a hippie time during the craft movement – my dad was great with leather, my mom made all of our clothes. So they really were my mentors and advisors as I navigated my own way. They always encouraged my vision. It was a very creative design focused atmosphere.
SeaVees: Do you see your kids working with you?
Steven: Hah! Well, I am pretty young. It’s hard to imagine a family running around here. But, yeah, I think it would be really cool to share it all with them someday. That’s what life should be about.