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Under Pressure: Atelier 6000 gets things rolling ... literally. 

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Last Sunday afternoon, a group of 27 artists, art aficionados and curious bystanders crowded into the parking lot of Atelier 6000 - a small art studio/workshop in the Old Mill District whose name was derived from the French word for "workshop"-to watch an enormous steamroller run over wooden plates that the artists spent as many as four weeks working on. With the very real chance that the steamroller would crush the plates and leave nothing but a mess of paint, wood splinters and carpet padding, the crowd anxiously waited for the steamroller to back away from the printing surface. Owner Pat Clark along with Bruce Emerson and artist Dawn Emerson approached the area, pulled back the padding and lifted the large white sheets of paper from the plate. Emerson's design, a horse, survived the steamroller's crushing weight and the resulting print drew applause and "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd.

Clark, an emeritus professor from the California State system on a "failed retirement" says she wanted to do an event like this because it gave artists an opportunity to create prints on a larger scale and showed the community another side of print making.

"We work so often in printmaking with small works - things like cards, or book prints - I didn't want people to think it was only possible to make [prints] in that small size," says Clark, "Steamrolling is becoming more popular because it allows artists to do large format work."

Making prints with a steamroller allows artists to create large-scale works that art lovers can prominently hang on their walls and admire. The artists created the plates from sheets on untempered Masonite and were then able to add texture and definition by carving hard or soft lines in the surface. The plates were covered with soy and water-based inks and brought outside to the parking lot where the steamroller sat waiting to roll over what resembled a giant Slip N' Slide comprised of a long blue tarp and carpet padding with plates and paper sandwiched between. The presses normally used at Atelier 6000 provide 2,000 pounds per square inch of pressure during the print making process. The presses are only about three or four feet wide and were rolled over by a ride-on steamroller (providing an exponential increase in pressure) just like the kind you're used to seeing on the side of the highway.

The idea for the event came from "Paint-Outs" - weekends where artists gather for a weekend just to paint. Clark refers to Steamroller Sunday as Atelier 6000's as a "Print-Out."

"We really wanted the community to be aware of what an artist's workshop is all about and what we do in an Atelier workshop," she says. Clark, who made a plate for Sunday but never had time to print it, said she hopes to make it a weekend-long event next time.

Emerson's horse prints will be among the multitude of other print works available for sale at the opening this Friday at the small studio on Scalehouse Court. Prints start out at as little as $50 (which barely covers materials says Clark) and go up from there. With numerous people in the Sunday crowd commenting on how they wished they had more walls because they wanted so many of the prints, it looks like the first-ever Steamroller Sunday was far more than a novelty.

"My favorite part of an event like this is when the artist sees the paper being pulled back from the plate and sees the power of what they can create with so little materials," says Clark.


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