It’s quite a treat to spend time with Steven Soria and to visit his incredible Make Smith Leather Company, a workshop and store located at the end of an alley adjacent to Elsie’s Bar.
Steven is a third-generation leather craftsman who combines his fine arts training with his family’s artisan heritage. There’s so much to see in his workshop, and my eyes wander from belts to tote bags to wallets, all works of art, lovingly rendered. The place also offers one of the most fantastic smells, emanating from the bridle and latigo leather used in his products. Most of his work is for the Make Smith brand, but he also manufactures custom products for private labels as well.
Then there’s Steven’s unique and engaging personality, which comes out as he explains his work and the different materials used. It’s simply amazing that such a one-of-a-kind space like this still exists in Santa Barbara.
Here, Steven puts down the leather to answer the Proust questionnaire.
What is your most treasured possession?
My uncle Fred’s round knife. It a leather-working knife that was passed down to me from my father. Traditionally it is used in the saddlery industry.
What do you like most about your job?
Creative alone time. I like designing in the shop with the music cranked up real loud, a hot coffee, and a challenging project at hand.
What is the most difficult or exciting project you’ve ever had?
“Make Smith Not War” posters all over town.
What is your motto?
“Always be knolling.” It’s a quote from Tom Sachs, a contemporary artist who lives and works in New York City. Knolling is the process of arranging related objects in parallel or 90 degree angles as a method of organization.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
An “ideal workshop” — clean, perfectly designed, and ready to rock!
What is your greatest fear?
An unhappy customer, and/or an angry bear.
Who do you most admire?
People that recognize and act on an opportunity for greatness.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Fancy coffee beans.
What is your current state of mind?
What is the quality you most like in people?
Respect. Honesty. Creativity. Thoughtfulness.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
What do you most value in friends?
Loyalty and the eagerness to cook together — there’s gotta be a word for that.
What is your most marked characteristic?
My visual likeness to John Lennon.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Dude, where’s my car?
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would like to have Jedi Mind capabilities.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My eyesight. I have the gnarliest pair of eyeglass goggles you ever seen.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I’ve never had a cavity.
Where would you most like to live?
Who makes you laugh the most?
Louis C.K. and my dog; his name is Hairybaby. He’s a cat trapped in a poodle/terrier mix breed body.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Susan Harris, creator of The Golden Girls sitcom.
On what occasion do you lie?
When considering the feelings of those affected by misfortune.