Leatherworker Randi Obenauer draws from her diverse background of craft skills and the medium of leather inspires her design process. Her educational background includes fine arts, textile arts, fashion design and trade certification in automotive upholstery and industrial sewing.
How long have you lived here?
We moved to Powell River and bought our dream home almost three years ago. My son was born here and we just love it. I grew up in Logan Lake, which is a town of about 2,000 people, so it’s funny when people say, “How do you like living in a small town?” and I say, “Powell River is kind of a city.”
Can you describe what you do?
I hand-make leather bags and accessories and have a custom upholstery business where I specialize in creative motorcycle seats. They’re sort of the sisters of my leather craft. I started making one-of-a-kind leather bags using my upholstery background, so I use very heavyweight leather and industrial hardware. About five or six years ago I started getting back into upholstery under the niche of custom motorcycle seats. It’s such a beautiful expression of that trade. Each one is essentially a small, one-of-a-kind sculpture.
What is your artistic process?
Because of my trade and fashion-design background I get to marry a lot of different skill sets. I ride motorcycles myself and truly love the culture, and make bags I want to use myself. I really believe in leather as a long-term, durable material that will eventually biodegrade, but last lifetimes of wear and tear first. Most people’s perception of fashion design is this spotless, mostly empty white studio, but I have a workshop and it’s an industrial trade that I do. I’m proud of that, of being a female tradesperson.
What inspires your aesthetic?
I draw a lot of inspiration from vintage leather pieces. I also grew up horseback riding, so that’s probably subconsciously where my leather love comes from. I really thrive on the math and three-dimensional shape-building of the process. A huge part of my inspiration is the materials and the process.
What are you excited about for 2018?
I’ve been refocusing on making one-of-a-kind pieces and that’s been amazing for me as a designer and maker. Another big thing I’m working on this year is making diaper bags. I have a pretty full plate in 2018, but eventually I’d like to volunteer and do some children’s workshops.
For more information, go to randiobenauer.com.