In many ways, 2020 is a year most of us would like to forget. Sport climbing’s much-hyped debut at the Tokyo Olympics was postponed, the expected growth in climbing gym development was scaled back, and existing gyms and their staff oscillated between on and off while riding the waves of COVID-19.
We’re all in need of new beginnings in 2021, and one revitalized holds company is wearing that new look on its sleeve. ArtLine, based in France and distributed by Blocz Distribution in the United States, has been adding a breath of fresh air since renewing its approach and identity in 2019. The company’s rebirth is turning heads stateside as well as overseas, among setters and homewallers alike.
Art as Collective Intelligence
The story of ArtLine is closely linked with the evolution of founder Brice Anziutti’s career in the industry. Working in the holds sector since the early 2000s, Anziutti gained first-hand experience during pioneering years in the development of polyurethane holds and fiberglass macros. Also a professional routesetter and passionate shaper, Anziutti finally decided to launch his own holds brand in 2011. Named ArtLine, the idea behind the start-up enterprise was simply that: creating art. Rather than mimicking rock climbing outside, the goal of Anziutti’s new shapes would be powering routesetters to put up routes in the gym which were inspiring to climb in and of themselves.
The timing for the venture couldn’t have been better. Once a training tool for outdoor ascents, indoor climbing was gaining in popularity and climbing gyms were being built at a rapid pace around the world. In the United States, the industry would grow from under 300 facilities to more than 500 within the decade. The 2010s decade also welcomed the new trend of bouldering. Since 2010, at least 20 percent of new U.S. climbing gym builds each year have been bouldering-focused facilities. The precise and powerful movements involved in bouldering made it all the more necessary for routesetting artists to have specific and creative holds at their disposal.
In creating new art for setters to intentionally display, a big part in expanding the reach of that project would be supporting new artists. Dubbed the ArtLab, in 2019 Anziutti succeeded in bringing together a collective of setters from its headquarters in France. The apprenticeship-style initiative serves the dual-purpose of passing on Anziutti’s shaping expertise, as well as fostering an environment in which the setters can explore new technology, sculpt holds to suit their unique setting styles and push the boundaries of their creativity. The results speak for themselves.
“The idea behind the project is to provide a dedicated space for the career development of setters and shapers, the artists making indoor climbing possible,” says Anziutti about the ArtLab. “Our collective intelligence and passion is so much stronger when we’re dreaming, sculpting and setting together. Combined with new technology, we’re creating new combinations for the new gym climbing era worldwide.”
Art by and for Artists
Now available in 18 countries, Anziutti and the ArtLab have established over 1300 holds and 80 volumes since its founding. Ten full ranges of shapes are currently available at its revamped website, from polyester to polyurethane holds, fiberglass macros to wood volumes. New additions to the mix include, most recently, the Mercy XXL dual-tex and XXXL macros in its FatLine range, as well as the highly-variable Slopes by its ArtLab. Both the dual-tex and non-dual-tex Mercy varieties come in scalable positivity (“one face, five backs”) and facilitate more complex and dynamic routesetting.
The first product of its ArtLab, the Slopes range was inspired by French team trainer Mike Fuselier and offers endless combinations of artistic expression. First, in addition to coming in multiple sizes―S to XXXL―the Slopes range features an Incline Adjuster concept. Each Slope comes in several angles―10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 degrees―which allows setters to more precisely adjust the difficulty of a route. Second, the Slopes are also stackable, and micro holds or even other Slopes can be screwed on to the flat surface, thanks to the fusion of a fiberglass and wood design. (A 9mm plywood board at the back provides durability and support for the screws, without adding weight.) Third, with its flat back and one of the edges kept straight, the Slopes can be positioned in conjunction with adjacent volumes and structures, enabling more possibilities for routesetting artists to fine tune their craft.
By now, the secret is out on the Slopes range. The European Continental Championships in Moscow held at the tail end of last year served as one of the qualification events for the Tokyo Olympics. European athletes had one last chance to qualify for sport climbing’s historic Olympic debut, but they had to climb on ArtLine’s holds to do it. Vincent de Girolamo, one of the ArtLab setters, was appointed to set for the competition and, with the agreement of the Russian federation, used the new Slopes in the men’s Lead and women’s Combined finals. (ArtLine is also an official authorized macros producer of the IFSC.)
ArtLine isn’t done innovating either. Osteopath Jérémie Cogan, professional climber Clément Lechaptois, and materials engineer Elliot Defrenne recently teamed up with ArtLine to produce the first ArtBoard. An ideal hangboard for achieving progression, the ArtBoard features very comfortable grips, ergonomic spacing so that wrists and shoulders are working at their natural angle, and a central bridge for attaching elastic bands or other additional training tools. Made with 3D technology and five-axis machining, the finish is flawless and aesthetically pleasing―whether hanging in your gym or home training areas.
“At-home training is increasingly popular right now with the gym closures, but we didn’t want to create just another hangboard,” says Anziutti about the ArtBoard. “Our team of experts crafted an ideal training tool that makes you want to keep training. Just like with our holds and volumes, we want to create art which inspires climbers to keep climbing and progressing, in climbing and then in life.”
Climbing Business Journal is an independent news outlet dedicated to covering the indoor climbing industry. Here you will find the latest coverage of climbing industry news, gym developments, industry best practices, risk management, climbing competitions, youth coaching and routesetting. Have an article idea? CBJ loves to hear from readers like you!