All About Oberon Design

All About Oberon Design

  • The Founder - Brendan Smith
  • The History of Oberon Design
  • Oberon Today
  • The Administrative Team
  • Employee Benefits and Charitable Contributions

All of our products are handmade in Santa Rosa, CA. We don't hold inventory, we make it when you order it!

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Brendan Smith, the owner and founder of Oberon Design

The Founder

In 1967, Brendan Smith, the owner and founder of Oberon Design, embarked on a course of artistry that has occupied his life for over forty years. A talented musician and composer, author, gardener and entrepreneur, Brendan steadfastly adhered to a vision of quality and ‘do-it -yourself’ simplicity in his leather artistry and business practices that has stood the test of time. At age seventeen he began sewing leather with a needle and thread then borrowed a sister’s sewing machine. Wedging it inside his bedroom closet, placing a chair in the open door and hanging various tools and findings on the inside of the closet door, he provided himself with a mini leather shop. Many broken needles later, he purchased an aging industrial quality machine and graduated to an attic room where he set up his first real workshop.

When Brendan was seventeen, he cultivated two important relationships: an incongruous friendship with the cowboy owner of a local saddlery shop who mentored him in the nuances of leather craft. At this time he also made friends with a family who owned The Hide House, a local leather supply business. Oberon Design still works with The Hide House, a treasured and honored working friendship of forty-five years. With their help, Brendan developed his skills for precision and design, sketching in notebooks and spending long hours experimenting and creating in situ at the sewing machine. He set up his first retail venue in his hometown, making and selling sandals and hats during the Summer of Love. With his budding success as a craftsman, Brendan began to identify himself with a life of creative process.

A Short History of Oberon Design

The History

During his college years Brendan supported himself with leather craft, expanding into moccasin making, handbags, belts and wearable art in the form of figurative whole-head masks of extraordinary character. He published a ‘how to’ manuscript entitled Brendan’s Leather Book. Humorously well written and illustrated by Brendan, it was favorably reviewed and achieved a healthy round of five editions totaling over 40,000 copies. One Bay Guardian reviewer quipped that “It would charm the hide off a cow." Although out of print, it still enjoys a healthy circulation online and in used bookstores.

Brendan developed a following for his leatherwork during the seventies and eighties under the name Walking Foot Leather. His reputation grew out of his direct rapport with customers in his booth each year at the original Renaissance Pleasure Faires. In the late 1980’s he expanded his business to accommodate a large order for leather fanny packs for a national department store chain. From this expansion sprang the concept of leather journal covers whose popularity in museum shops and gift and book stores across the country lead to the creation of Oberon Design as a company that has flourished since 1992.

Oberon Design Today

Oberon Today

Beginning in the 1990’s Oberon Design became a vital and well recognized part of the handmade, craft revival in the United States, participating in elite juried venues such as American Craft Council or ACC shows and Buyers Market of American Craft, joining the ranks of the most highly recognized craftsmen and women in the U.S. In 1999, Oberon Design further expanded to include a Britannia metal casting shop that produces the hand cast buttons seen on most Oberon leather covers. As well as being the lead leather designer, Brendan also works in 3-D rendering programs to create the Oberon Design line of gorgeous metal jewelry, hair accessories and gift items.

At Oberon we’re proud of the fact that the design and casting of our Britannia metal line and all our leather work is done "in house." This combined with our source for domestically tanned leather, use of local and domestic businesses for resources such as non-toxic glues and dyes, thread, zippers, and other items used in our leather and pewter processes, in house production of catalogs and websites, make Oberon Design what it is today, a good old fashioned, hands on, hard working American company.

The Oberon Design Administrative Team

The Administrative Team

Brendan has worked with his sister, author and artist, Becca Smith, Vice President of Oberon Design, since 1995. After a long career in specialty wine & food in the Napa Valley, Becca brought her marketing expertise to Oberon and works in tandem with Brendan in both art design and shop management. She also directs the design and production of Oberon catalogs and websites, photography and graphic media working closely with David Alosi and artist Nancy Conkle whose graphic art is used in the creation of Oberon images. David Alosi is our web maestro, and graphics, media and Photoshop developer.

Our production manager Don Tucker has worked with Brendan since the late eighties and for many years managed the Oberon booths at both the California Renaissance Faires and the Dickens Faire in San Francisco. Donald works in tandem with Becca on production issues and works closely with Brendan on prototyping of new leather products.

Linda Havens is our accounting expert and Lola Briseno heads the order department. Amy Lanvin is our customer service representative.

Oberon Design is a small company of core crafts people passionate about the quality of the leather and pewter products made in our studio shop in Northern California. As a team we have a deep commitment to quality, pride of craftsmanship and customer service. Most of the folks making products at Oberon Design have been working together from ten to twenty years. This makes for a family atmosphere and a team spirit that contributes to the quality and commitment evident in our products. We try to have as much fun as we can while hard at work.

Employee Benefits and Charitable Contributions

Employee Benefits and Charitable Contributions

We're proud of the fact that we offer great pay and bonuses for our employees as well as a health care plan that includes vision and dental care. We also offer disability, sick days, 401K plan, and profit sharing programs. We believe in training and in-house promotions and provide money for relevant school classes and seminars related to advancement.

Brendan is a generous contributor to many Sonoma and Napa county charities, conservation projects, schools, and music programs. He also regularly responds to disaster relief funds and makes annual contributions to international and national political, environmental and human rights organizations. These include "Doctors Without Borders", prison writing projects, and the Lambi Fund in Haiti (providing financial resources to reforesting programs).

We contribute to the Toolbox Project, a social and emotional learning (SEL) 6th grade curriculum that enhances a child’s ability to learn. The curriculum teaches social interaction skills and concepts such as compassion, resilience, courage, tolerance, patience, generosity and empathy. We also support the children’s choir, VOENA. VOENA is a professional program (unique because of its no-audition policy) teaching children, ages 5-18, ethnically diverse music, instilling in them an appreciation and enthusiasm for different languages and cultures. VOENA participants perform musical scores in native languages from around the world, promoting peace through the exchange of culture.

We’d like to thank all of our customers for their enthusiasm, appreciation and trust in our integrity. It’s so fun to come to work every day knowing that others are keen to have what we make because it contributes to the quality of their life. That, and the fact that many of you understand the importance of supporting American manufacturing and craftsmanship and want to be a part of it’s renaissance! Hurrah for small business and the people that support them! Thanks for being a part of what makes us successful. We appreciate you!