filed under Craftsmanship , People

Leatherworking Legacy – This is UGG

Steven Soria

Steven Soria was destined for leatherworking. Born into a family of saddle makers, he grew up playing with edge creasers, beveling tools, and leather scraps. Today he owns and operates Make Smith Leather Co. in downtown Santa Barbara, where he still works with (and learns from) his father. In honor of Father’s Day, we sat down with Steven to talk about how his dad has inspired his craft.

The beginnings of Make Smith…
My grandfather and his brother were saddle makers up until the late 1960’s. My dad grew up around the shop and eventually ended up taking over. By this time much of the world had changed, moving away from a need for saddles, so the leather shop became more of a repair shop for travel goods. Eventually my mom started working there, too. I was raised around the family business, so my play toys were tools and leather. I eventually went on to explore fine arts and integrated our family trade into my practice.

I officially started my business on September 6, 2013. That was the day that I opened my doors to the public and my current location in downtown Santa Barbara. I was already selling online and doing custom leatherwork, but I wanted more of a presence. It’s here that I created a collection of designed goods and opened a small shop branding it Make Smith.

Steve and Steven Soria

Leatherworking is important to me because…
It’s a huge part of my family tradition, and I feel a deep connection to that when I use the tools I inherited.

My first memory of my father…
The earliest thing I can remember is watching him stitch on his sewing machine and my head wasn’t even as tall as the machine table. I pretended to help him…but I’m sure I was just keeping myself busy.

Growing up…
My dad is a super playful guy. He liked to mess around with us a lot and play games, get rowdy outside, and he’d balance that out with crafting projects in his shop.

Working with my father…
It’s fun. He likes to talk a lot. I’m not sure how much work he gets done these days. He’s going to retire this year, so he’s short-timing it!

Leatherworking

I always call my father when…
My sewing machine misses a stitch. No joke. He comes over and fixes it.

The most important lesson my father taught me…
Always be curious and open to finding inspiration in the most random places. One little thing, like a new tool or an old leather bag, can influence a new direction for the business.

Our Father’s Day traditions….
My dad and I see each other a lot, so we just do whatever he wants to do. We change it up every year.

I admire my father most for…
He’s a lot mellower than me—and patient. I’m learning this more as the years roll on.

At the Table

My father’s catchphrase…
A nickel is a nickel! This expression is spoken with excitement and in slight mockery of the older generation. He learned this from his father and uncle—my grandfather and great uncle—who grew up in the Depression and were very frugal. We all use that saying. It reminds me to work hard and efficiently.

Style advice from my father…
Haha! None. I like this question, though. I guess I’ve always stolen little bits of his style over the years. Right now he has a handlebar mustache. Not sure I’m ready for that yet, but we’ll see.

If/when I become a father…
I will teach my kids how to work with their hands so that they can take care of themselves.

Make Smith Axe
[Photos by Blake Bronstad]

 

Shop Father’s Day gifts here. And follow Make Smith Leather Co. and UGG® for Men on Instagram.