Babes Ride Out

Roll Call | Meet Randi Obenauer of Aro Upholstery

Roll CallAnya Violet
Photo by Wendy Dyk @wendall

Photo by Wendy Dyk @wendall

Photo by Wendy Dyk @wendall

Photo by Wendy Dyk @wendall

Photo by Wendy Dyk @wendall

Photo by Wendy Dyk @wendall

Photo by Wendy Dyk @wendall

Photo by Wendy Dyk @wendall

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Nanaimo BC, on Vancouver Island, but I grew up in rural BC in a town no one has heard of: Logan Lake, population 2500.

How long have you lived in where you live now?

Last year my partner Sean and I made some big life goals happen by buying our dream home - a charming country house on an acre with a massive workshop, a creek in the yard, tons of fruit trees, about 5 hours North of Vancouver, in tiny Powell River. I’ll always be a small town girl at heart!

Tell us how you got into upholstery?

Between art school and fashion school I did a college trade certificate program in 2004/05 called Automotive Industrial Upholstery & Trim. I was sick of being a broke student and was excited to put my sewing skills to use and become a female in the trades. I worked in a few auto and furniture shops between going back to school and launching my first business Ora Leather goods in 2006. I kept up with freelance upholstery work over the years, and started honing my skills on custom motorcycle seats about 5 years ago. Aro has snowballed from there.

Is there a favorite piece that you have worked on?

I did a two piece seat for my friend Owen for his chopper, light tan leather with diamond pleats. Owen has put a lot of miles on it, and he rubs used engine oil into the leather when he does oil changes…the result a couple years down the line is a totally unique seat that perfectly embodies what I love about leather - it just keeps getting better with time and wear and tear!

What is the hardest part about what you do?

Saying no thank you to jobs, but I have to do it more and more often. I am one woman, and my love for this trade lies in creative custom work, I just can’t book in basic black vinyl repairs or uninspiring giant stock seats anymore! 

What inspires you?

The passion my clients bring to the table inspires me. Wether its their very first bike and they’re trying to make it look as good as possible, or an exciting build from an experienced bike builder. I love taking the whole project into scope and working with the lines of the frame, the paint schemes, and getting creative without going too over the top. Leather as a medium also inspires me, I love anticipating how a hide will patina and change over time.

When were you introduced to Motorcycles?

My rad Uncle Kirk has been riding since the ‘60s, he has been an inspiration my whole life. I have fond childhood memories of him taking me for rides on his bikes, and of him showing up at our home unannounced with packs of biker buds. John Angus (the infamous @jangbang on instagram) gave me the real talk I needed about 4 years ago to finally get my own!

How do motorcycles and the community play a role in your life?

The Vancouver motorcycle scene is so diverse and wonderful, I continue to meet so many inspiring folks who are in love with riding and helping each other out. Norman of Motorcycle Magazine is the first person who comes to mind anytime anyone mentions the local motorcycle community, he is so enthusiastic and all-inclusive and has been living the dream and connecting riders for decades. 

What kind of bike do you ride and why?

My first bike which I still own, is a1977 Honda CJ360T. I put 2000 miles on it my first season doing trips all over the PNW with my boyfriend Sean - such a fun beginner bike that was cheap to insure. I also have a 2012 Yamaha XT250 that starts every damn time and is cheap on gas and perfect for exploring the backroads around Powell River. I have a 1983 Honda XR185 that was the best $300 I ever spent - its basically the yard bike that all my friends get to ride, as long as they chop some firewood. Such a fun bike to put a first time rider on in the safety of my yard haha. I also just acquired a chopper!!!!!! Its a 1957 Triumph T100 built by Owen Williamson with paint by Maiko ‘Mo’ Gomyo. Its the perfect size - tiny. Its almost ready to run and I am too stoked to ride it!

Dream bike?

Shrimpy! My tiny chopper!

Best moto trip you have ever been on?

Two years ago Sean and I took my XT250 and his ’77 XT500 in our van down to Joshua Tree for Christmas. We pulled the bikes out in Northern California to check out some hot springs, and then froze our butts off riding around in the desert and canyons around Joshua Tree. I would go back in a heartbeat - hopefully to Babes Ride Out!!!

What are your goals as an artist?

I am so honoured to have so many creative custom seat projects come my way, I hope this keeps building so I continue to feel challenged and inspired.

How did you first hear about Babes Ride Out?

I first heard about Babes Ride Out through Jill and Born A Bad Seed.

What is it like owning your own business?

Owning two business (Ora and Aro) is amazing, I am so grateful to work in my own workshop in my yard where my mutt can be a wild freedom dog and the beach is 2 minutes away. The roller coaster of busy/slow times of the year has its challenges of course, but every year I learn to keep working hard and rolling forward and having faith that it’ll all keep growing. I love working with my hands and I see every motorcycle seat as a sculpture. It feels good to thrive on my creative passion, thank you all for your support!!

Any advice for women thinking of starting their own business?

Don’t sell yourself short! There is no shame in having a hobby or a creative passion, but in business you need to pay the bills AND pay yourself - start off on the right foot with mentorship and some money advice. But first and foremost, do what you love and stay true to why and how you love to do it, or your business will start feeling like a job, and thats no fun! Also, don’t let anyone treat you like you’re pretty good “for a woman”, or bully you or undercut you, ever.