by Amy Butler
Have you ever wondered where those beautiful pieces of Pilates equipment are made? Or how they're made? Or who came up with them in the first place??
First, a little history... Joseph Pilates was an inventive German ahead of his time. While detained in a British internment camp during World War I, he took it upon himself to exercise the men in his camp, believing that physical fitness was key to happiness and health. It was there that many of the designs for the original equipment were formed, using bedsprings and bed frames to supplement his repertoire of mat exercises. Upon moving to New York in the 1920s, Joseph opened a studio where he trained a wide variety of clients. With well over 20 patents registered, he was quite the inventor, always improving, adapting and creating. After his death in 1967, his teachings were kept alive and eventually his mind-body movement became know as Pilates. Fortunately, the equipment that he created was largely preserved and has been replicated and improved upon over the decades to become the modern Pilates equipment we know and love today.
One of the leaders in the Pilates industry is Balanced Body, and they've been building equipment for over 40 years (read their story here). We're in love with the BB equipment in our studio, so I jumped at the chance to take an after hours tour of their manufacturing facility a few weeks ago!
The company's founder and CEO, Ken Endleman (pictured above), lead a passionate and informative tour through all the steps and human stories that come together to create each piece of equipment. It all begins in the 100,000 square foot, sustainably conscious building in Sacramento, California. It's clear that Ken and the other BB employees we met are proud of the 1,000 solar panels on the roof and the sustainably harvested North American lumber used in production, but the real gem of the operation is the people. Over 100 employees skillfully craft (often by hand) the various pieces of equipment we enjoy in our studio every day, and Ken seems to know all of their names and stories. He walked us through every nook and cranny, pointing out impressive machines that have helped streamline the process over the years, and telling stories about the skilled craftsmen and women who make it all possible.
Ken's pride and enthusiasm were contagious, and I felt inspired to pose with the stacks of budding reformers and springboards.
Almost everything is made onsite, and the few things that aren't (bolts of fabric, steel components), come from American (often regional) suppliers. The engineers work alongside the builders, seamstresses, Pilates educators, and sales people, and collectively they produce the equipment that ends up in our studios, gyms and homes. I, for one, enjoy knowing where the story of our lovely equipment begins. And that story expands and deepens with every person who spends time in our studio, enjoying movement, on that very equipment.