MONTROSE AND RIDGWAY– Dan and Emma Kigar started sewing tipis in Breckenridge, Colo., in 1976, then in Ridgway, where they moved in 1980. They added yurts and wall tents to the canvas menu a couple of years later. Now their half-a-city-block factory “campus” in Montrose is going to be featured on TV.
The Science Channel show, How It’s Made, “has a kind of a cult following,” Dan Kigar said the other day, with episodes on how a Swiss Army knife is made, for example...and pencils. This month the series will include a segment on how a tipi is made, airing Dec. 6, and then on Dec. 30, a second episode on yurts. “I’m really looking forward to watching,” Dan said. “On the same show with us, they’re going to show how croissants are made.”
A four-person crew from the series spent three days with the Kigars and their 25 employees last year, filming the company’s processes, from cutting canvas on the factory floor to erecting the finished structures in a mountain meadow. Both a tipi and a yurt were set up from scratch for the camera crew at Ridgway’s Top of the Pines. With a stormy, bruised-looking sky and Mount Sneffels in the background, Program Director Francois Senecal-Tremblay said he couldn’t have been happier to be shooting in the “same location the original True Grit was filmed.” Dan Kigar agreed: “It was really fun.”
As the director’s name suggests, How It’s Made is a Canadian product. “All of the crew spoke French,” Kigar said. “And English, of course. They were really professional. Arrived in a Mercedes Sprinter van – lighting guy, sound man, camera scaffolding. They saw our shop, and quickly worked out a filming sequence.
“There is no interview piece to the show,” Kigar continued. “First they film it. Then they go home and write a script. They share that with us, and we comment. Then they market it all over the world, no translation necessary, to 35 countries, including China.”
The Kigars’ company has come quite a ways since its early days. In Breckenridge, they lived in the first tipi they sewed, at 11,000 feet on a mountainside. They learned what they wanted from the structure, and out of that experience came their first enterprise, Earthworks Tipis.
In Ridgway, “We rented the Sherbino space from Richard Fike, who had just bought the building,” Kigar said. “We took out the wall,” the one that has recently been replaced, separating the Colorado Boy Pub and Brewery from the refurbished theater next door, “and used the entire space.” The Kigars also set up house in the back of the wood-floored,1915 brick building, but moved the growing operation to Montrose in 1994.
Now the company sells canvas shelters around the world, to events like the Coachella Music Festival, to local heavies like Ralph Lauren and Telluride Ski and Golf Co., and to the movies when there is the need for a yurt or a tipi, the most recent being the 2012 Jennifer Aniston vehicle, Wanderlust.
Director Senecal-Tremblay, said in a press release announcing the show schedule, “I thought I knew what a yurt was, but when I saw one fully installed and what you can do with the interior, I thought this is a five-star accommodation. I have been in way too many hotels and motels that could learn a thing or two from the incredible interior furnishing you can do to a Colorado Yurt...[and] tipis, well they are just too cool to describe.”
Kigar had one more anecdote to share about time passing in the company’s long tenure in the area. Ridgway newcomer, bon vivant and musician Brian Scranton was making an announcement from the Town Park stage (during a Thursday night concert) about the raffle tipi the Kigars had donated to benefit the Ridgway Chautauqua Society and its restoration of the Sherbino Theater. “Thanks to Dan and Emma Kigar,” Scranton called out. “Their son, Sam, was conceived in the Colorado Boy!”
Well, not exactly. About 25 years before the Colorado Boy existed. But yes, in the same warm building.
For more information about Colorado Yurt Company, visit coloradoyurt.com.
For details on How It’s Made, go to science.discovery.com/tv/how-its-made.