The Family Tradition Continues in Santa Barbara
Make Smith Leather Co. was founded by third-generation Santa Barbara leather worker, Steven Soria, who grew up surrounded by the craft in his parents shop. Soria started his own business as a custom workshop, inspired both by fine art techniques and artisan traditions, putting his focus on handmade one-of-a-kind leather goods.
Steven was raised in the leather shop that his parents still operate; so needless to say, the craft is in his blood. Submerged in that entrepreneurial environment, he had always dreamed of having his own business one day. Make Smith is, as Steven puts it, “A business pseudonym for me to work under so that I can work out my creative/functional design endeavors.” Without question, Soria is devoted to the craft. One of the unique aspects of the business is that he is genuinely interested in spreading the love of leather working. He leads classes to teach people how to use the tools and make products such as belts, wallets and bags. “Educating your customers is the smartest thing you can do…they need to understand the value of the materials and skilled labor that they are investing in by purchasing the product.”
Soria and the popularity of his products speak to the fact that we are seeing a renaissance in hand-crafted leather goods all over the U.S. “Its amazing to see the growth in the US and what that has done to overload the demand for domestic leather tannerys like Herman Oak, Wicket & Craig and the ever famous Horween” explains Soria. When customers buy Make Smith products they have the guarantee that their purchase supports a local business and that product is sourced from domestic US-made materials.
In step with the growing appreciation of hand-made goods is the understanding that quality is well worth the investment. Make Smith guarantees the quality of their products “for as long as that brand is burned onto their bag. No questions asked.” To this end, Steven and his team also talk about the fact that buying hand-made from the artisan him/herself is also very much about investing in an ongoing relationship. In the era of Amazon Prime, the resurgence of this hip and savvy consumer concept is an invaluable aspect that shopping local provides.
As to Steven’s vision for the future of Make Smith, he explains, “We work with leather now, but plan to expand into word working and metal-smithing so we can release a furniture and home goods line.” Judging by the success of Make Smith so far and the high level of craftsmanship displayed in their product, a product line expansion will be more than welcome by his loyal customers. “Santa Barbara and the greater SB county area has been nothing buy extremely supportive. I couldn’t see opening my business anywhere else. I grew up in Santa Barbara, my family and friends are here—and that all feels real good to me. We just keep living and learning.”
Be sure to check out some of Make Smith Leather Co.’s incredible products at Makesmith.com.