Some of the most fascinating people you’ll ever meet can be found climbing at Brooklyn Boulders Chicago. Just ask Kipp Zavada. Kipp is an early BKB member who has truly become a part of the BKB family. He even built the long, show-stopping table anchoring the Active Collaborative Workspace. Whether he’s art directing, building sets, building furniture or bouldering our walls, Kipp proves that BKB’s community is as strong and interesting as ever.
It’s sort of space you can hang out in. There’s more than just a bench against the wall and then you come here and climb and leave.
HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT BKB?
From my girlfriend. I don’t have a Facebook anymore. I’m not too cool for it, it’s just what happened. My girlfriend is who got me into it. It seemed like this place kind of came out of nowhere. You know, swooped in, great location, sounded really interesting. the people that were putting it together … obviously if this was the third location, they knew what they were doing. It was immediately really exciting. This sounds really cool.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU COME IN HERE TO CLIMB?
Three to four times per week and usually for three hours.
HOW LONG AGO DID YOU START CLIMBING?
I started in 2011. That was when I started dating my girlfriend. She had been in it for a year or so already. It was in another city. I moved down here in August of 2011 and almost immediately stopped climbing because there wasn’t anywhere to go. There was a couple of small facilities, so you’re really limited in Chicago unless you go way out in the suburbs. For people who have to work or to go out in rush hour, it’s not worth it. So when this place was opening, we were really excited because it was really convenient.
WHERE DID YOU MOVE FROM?
Milwaukee. There was great community at the gym we went to and it was nearby.
WHY DID YOU MOVE HERE FROM MILWAUKEE?
I moved down here for work. We had both kind of gotten out of school. She’s a physical therapist and was coming down here to work for the Rehab Institute. And I work in the film industry. It was just sort of obvious. It was an easy move and we needed it for work opportunity.
This is really a social atmosphere. And it seems like a non-competitive atmosphere … starting to come here, I’ve met way more people than I had living here for the past few years.
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF BKB?
Well the space is really cool, so it was sort of … in a way I’m kind of used to gyms sort of not being very aesthetically-interesting.
LIKE ROCK CLIMBING GYMS OR ALL GYMS?
Just rock climbing gyms. Just like a converted building. You’re there for the rock climbing and you don’t really pay attention to anything else. So it was really interesting to be in a really interesting space. I know that this building had already been here and it was really cool. Immediately, I thought, OK, so rock climbing isn’t going to be the only thing going on here.
DO YOU LIKE THAT?
Definitely. I think it really facilitates a really interesting community because of that which is great because of the gyms we had gone to in the past, you really get to know everybody. This is really a social atmosphere. And it seems like a non-competitive atmosphere. I’ve already met so many people living here in the city. I feel like living in the city for three years, four years, I don’t know very many people. But then like starting to come here, I’ve met way more people than I had living here for the past few years.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU’VE MET HERE. WHAT HAVE THOSE EXPERIENCES BEEN LIKE?
It’s sort of space you can hang out in. There’s more than just a bench against the wall and then you come here and climb and leave. You can kind of hang out and you don’t always have to be climbing or coming and going. I’ve met some pretty incredibly interesting people. I’ve met people who worked in my industry that I had never met before. I don’t even necessarily mean like networking. It’s not like, “Oh, how can I better my career,” but I do think there’s a lot of opportunity for that. There’s all sorts of young people who are interesting, I suppose. It’s a hobby I think of people who are outdoorsy, who like to do interesting things, who don’t just like to go out to bars at night. So it’s sort of a hobby of interesting people. I’ve been kind of amazed of the people I met and what they do. All kinds of people from all over the place. Some of them have lived in the neighborhood and walked past this place and weren’t looking for something like this.
TELL ME ABOUT WHAT YOU DO OUTSIDE OF BKB?
I work in the film and TV industry, but I mostly work in commercials. I went to school for film. Aside from that, I’m an art director. It’s kind of the aesthetic. It’s not directing. it’s not camera work. It’s the environment, the atmosphere from props to set dressing to furniture, like all that kind of stuff. It’s kind if the atmosphere of what you’re shooting. I build sets sometimes. Sometimes I just dress them.
And then along with that, I got into furniture making a few years ago. It’s been a hobby of mine. I made that table over there [points]. It isn’t anything special to me. They wanted something done with the wood that they had so they approached me.
I’ve been kind of amazed of the people I met and what they do. All kinds of people from all over the place.
WHO APPROACHED YOU ABOUT THAT?
I think initially there was something on Facebook and someone who worked here knew me. So I talked to Jesse about that. They had a pile of wood and weren’t really sure what they wanted. It was sort of before [the Active Collaborative Workspace] was realized and there were just some folding tables up here. They wanted a table or at least something really long. They had some metal things that were super heavy. They said, “Oh, it would be great if you could do something with these things.”
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO MAKE THE TABLE?
I think it was a few days. I don’t know. It was like cutting the wood but also washing it. You don’t know what’s on it. I used a mix of bleach, dish detergent and water and scrubbed it and let it dry. I came back. Drilling through the steel, whatever those things are, so I could put bolts in them took a bit. But it didn’t take long. There’s nothing too fancy.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN MAKING FURNITURE?
I started a few years ago. It was like a really fancy carpenter and I started using his shop. And I have a friend in Andersonville and I used that shop and use it whenever I want. And I have all sorts of tools at home. So oftentimes I working in my kitchen. If it’s a bigger project, I’ll use the shop in Andersonville with a guy I know up there.
WHAT KIND OF FURNITURE DO YOU NORMALLY MAKE?
I’ve never done sofas and chairs, so it’s mostly tables and cabinets. I like mid-century modern stuff and have been a Craigslist collector a while so that’s how I got into it. It’s so austere. It’s not too difficult to mimic. It’s been great for gifts.