From Paris: Atelier Clot

The following is a guest post by Annalise Gratovich.

In the South we have a saying, “If it had been a snake, it would-a bit-cha.”

I was standing on the narrow sidewalk of a bustling street in the Marais district of Paris. The sun was setting and snow was falling. As I stared at the door of Atelier Clot, the print shop I had been looking for the past 5 months, I thought to myself, “This could be it.”  I snapped a picture of the information etched on the glass door and shuffled off to the café on the corner that, I must admit, I had been to twice in the past week.

A glimpse into the entrance gallery.

As soon as I rested my elbows on the bar, I fired off an email to Christian Bramsen, the second-generation owner and master printer of the atelier.  I looked at the picture I had taken, the small but elegant gallery in the front, with a passageway to some unknown space in the back, at the big green shutters folded back on either side of the door. I knew I had found what I was looking for. I recognized those shutters as the ones I had seen in the movie years ago.

I first saw the inner workings of Atelier Clot in “Paris, Je T’aime,” a movie released in 2006 about the different neighborhoods in Paris. The director, Gus Van Sant, shot his vignette in the print shop located in the “Marais,” a hip, buzzing district full of café’s, shops, bookstores, galleries, fashion houses, Jewish delis, and the best falafel stand in town. Their direct impression J Voirin litho press provided a magnetic soundtrack for the vignette.

I later joked with Christian how hard it had been for me to locate his atelier after hours of Internet research and after having asked every other master printer I had met. I had set up six shop visits in the past five days. Christian had asked the director not to disclose the atelier’s information. Laughing, he shrugged and joked, “yes, well, for printmakers, none of us are very organized.”

Someone in the Marais understands printmakers.

Pricille, Thomas, and Christian Bramsen with the J Voirin litho press.

The afternoon of my visit with Christian Bramsen at Atelier Clot, his print assistant Priscille greeted me at the door. She led me through the front gallery where Bramsen exhibits and sells the atelier’s publications, to the workshop in the back. Christian and his printer, Thomas, were working with Marie Dolma Chopel, an artist from Brooklyn, whose first litho print is currently being published by the atelier.

On display in the gallery: paintings, lithographs, sculptures, and artist book by Pierre-Marie Brisson, with texts by
Emmanuelle Cosso Merad.

The portal to the print shop- a long, beautiful warehouse-style space with a ceiling full of skylights.

Christian Bramsen, Marie Dolma Chopel, and her in-progress litho that combines manual work on a stone and a digitally rendered image on a plate.

While Thomas, Priscille, and Marie were huddled around a freshly pulled print, Christian and I sat down to talk about the history of the atelier, printmaking in Paris, the place of prints in today’s art market, and the role of digital technology within traditional printmaking. Besides being a stone lithography workshop, Atelier Clot also specializes in digital prints and utilizing digital technology in order to realize the artist’s final conception.

Ariel, the digital specialist, and Christian in the techie lair of the print shop.

Works in progress covered all the available space.

An interesting view from the present to the past, from the digital room into the long, skylight-illuminated press room.

Atelier Clot is the oldest surviving lithography press in Paris, dating from 1896. Founder Auguste Clot was one of the first lithographers in Paris to specialize in color printing. This was a magnetic opportunity for artists such as Degas, Renoir, Sisley, Rodin, Munch, and Matisse, among many others, who visited his atelier regularly.

Today the atelier works with anywhere from twenty to thirty artists per year, in traditional or digital methods, or a combination of the two. In the past fifty years, Christian estimates that they have worked with as many as 600 artists of up to 80 nationalities. He says that even though the atelier has printed anywhere from six to seven thousand prints in the past fifty years, they rarely create an edition larger than 100.

Since the turn of the century, Atelier Clot has come from being one of fifteen litho presses in Paris, to one of five- and the oldest one at that. At the time of its founding, Auguste Clot pioneered the use of color in lithography. Today, Christian Bramsen continues that modern spirit by enthusiastically providing both the best of traditional artistry and the latest digital technology.

A relic from the shop’s past: a Rodin litho, lovingly hung in the storage closet.

Thomas, Christian, Priscille, and Marie, doing what 90% of printmaking entails: proofing, deliberating, re-mixing, re-inking, re-printing, repeat.

The inking station.

Thomas re-inking the rollers.

More of getting things ready.

The beautiful beast, inked and ready to run.

Priscille at her paper-feeding station.

A view of the shop across from the work tables, not pictured since the artist working there was not available to provide consent. 

One of the storage spaces for the litho stones, with the graining station to the right.

The final group shot, discussing the final proof before pulling the edition.

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Categories: Printshop Tour

2 Responses to “From Paris: Atelier Clot”

  1. Joe says:

    what an amazing place, pure magic

  2. Lee Chesney, the younger says:

    I did two prints there in in 1979. At that time they were located on the left bank. Great experience, lots of fun too! I just wish the prints were better, ha.