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ink&paper
December 21, 2011 5:24 AM   Subscribe

ink&paper A short film about the last paper shop, and the last letterpress, in Los Angeles. "There are days go by that there can be absolutely no business at all."
posted by OmieWise (22 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
My 200th post, for whatever that's worth.
posted by OmieWise at 5:24 AM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


wow. That was awesome and sad. Poor Gary.
posted by Blake at 5:33 AM on December 21, 2011


Thanks (& congrats!) OmieWise. Wonderful. Sad. But I wouldn't have guessed it would be that bad already. The last paper shop and letterpress?!!? So, when they say "downtown Los Angeles", is that one area or .. what? That's not the whole city is it?
I kept wondering why those guys hadn't combined into one shop.
posted by peacay at 5:57 AM on December 21, 2011


My friend Tim has a letterpress shop, and one of those amazing hot metal Ludlow typograph machines demonstrated in the film. There's one guy left in the entire United States who services them, and he basically does a cross-country circuit every year.

Tim can tell you some heartbreaking tales about one of the big local print shops began transitioning to phototypesetting, selling complete typefaces for $5 apiece but ultimately just dumping them into barrels by the drawerful to be sent away and melted down.

Thank you for reminding me that I really need to call him and take him up on his offer to help me print up some business cards.
posted by usonian at 6:10 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering about that, too, peacay. With all the artists working in the LA area, I have a hard time believing that is the last remaining paper store in the entire Los Angeles area.

Of course, that may be a bit of semantics. They appear to be a paper distributor, which is a whole lot different than simply a paper store catering to artists. I suspect you can still find plenty of stores carrying a selection of fine-art papers. Hobby stores and artist supply stores, primarily.

Still, it's a damned shame to see such enterprises and crafts fall by the wayside, especially letterpress. It'll be interesting when we finally fall into the big post-technology dystopia geeks seem to have a perpetual boner for, and the electricity fails, to watch the re-invention of hand-cranked letterpress.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:15 AM on December 21, 2011


yes but thorzdad what of the zombies, will we be able to defend ourselves from them via simple, honest manual labor

without getting infected
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:31 AM on December 21, 2011


I Used to work at a company that was founded in 1775 as a stationary store, did letterpress and eventually became one of the largest financial and business communications companies in the world. It was acquired by a competitor in 2010 after over 200 years of operation.

One small division was spun off, their letterpress and stationary operation, as Bowne and Co, Stationers. All type is set by hand using antique type and they still print using a treadle powered letterpress from the 1800s.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:32 AM on December 21, 2011


yes but thorzdad what of the zombies, will we be able to defend ourselves from them via simple, honest manual labor

We cannot tolerate a Zombie-Letterpress Gap!
posted by mikelieman at 6:37 AM on December 21, 2011


It'll be interesting when we finally fall into the big post-technology dystopia geeks seem to have a perpetual boner for, and the electricity fails, to watch the re-invention of hand-cranked letterpress.
I love learning about and dabbling in old, purely hands-on, mechanical trades; it's mostly because I find it endlessly fascinating and a welcome relief from pushing intangible ones and zeroes around the internet all day long, but there's a small part of me that seriously contemplates the need to possess a skill that will be in demand if/when things go all Mad Max.
posted by usonian at 6:49 AM on December 21, 2011


@mikelieman

It'll be interesting when we finally fall into the big post-feet dystopia geeks seem to have a perpetual boner for, and the treadle fails, to watch the re-invention of wood-block printing
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:00 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


We do letterpress printing, but with photopolymer relief plates. Really jealous of this guy's hot metal equipment. But, realistically, we need to use photopolymer so there are fewer typeface / design limitations for clients. "There are days go by that there can be absolutely no business at all." indeed.
posted by pantsonfire at 7:01 AM on December 21, 2011


Yesterday, I saw a store in Seattle that at first glance was selling little miniature letter press reproductions. On closer inspection, it looked like they might actually be functional, but I was rushing to get to the post office and didn't have a camera with. It looked like an attempt to replicate the 3d-printer model for personal typesetting.
posted by nomisxid at 7:23 AM on December 21, 2011


I flatly refuse to believe there's only one letterpress printer in all of LA. I can name five off the top of my head here in Austin. They're mostly not storefront operations. One's a big commercial printer that only does letterpress printing on the side. I could imagine there's only one functioning Linotype printer left in LA.

And seriously, only one paper store? Not credible.

nomisxid: is it possible you saw one of these? It's a Chandler & Price "Pilot" press. Very desirable. They sell for more than a full-sized press because almost everyone has enough room for one, so there's much higher demand.
posted by adamrice at 7:35 AM on December 21, 2011


there's some really good stuff at Archetype Press at the college where I work. the description pales in comparison to what's there.
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 7:55 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or at least it's the last letterpress business known to USC film students.

There seem to be quite a few printers' mechanics and repair persons around, but of course, not as many as there once were.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:12 AM on December 21, 2011


is it possible you saw one of these? It's a Chandler & Price "Pilot" press.

Nope, it really looked like a dollhouse style miniature of a larger traditional press, with downsized details to scale. I will just have to run up the hill after my meeting this morning, and take some pics.
posted by nomisxid at 8:23 AM on December 21, 2011


It looks like I saw a bunch of Mini Halfwoods.
posted by nomisxid at 8:49 AM on December 21, 2011


I kind of wonder if maybe this is more of a case of not really adapting to the times. Studio On Fire in Minneapolis does amazing letterpress/custom paper work, and seems to be doing well. I think a large part of their success is how much they educate designers on what the capabilities of the process are. I'm guessing there are a quite a few young designers in LA who would love to have the run of these two places, but just don't know that the resource is there.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:00 AM on December 21, 2011


There is a lot of letterpress out there. For a really good listing of active studios that you can hire or printing, check out Inker Linker, or Briar Press. Our letterpress shop is listed on both.
posted by pantsonfire at 9:14 AM on December 21, 2011


Yeah, no, there are a bunch of paper shops in Los Angeles, as well as more in the greater Los Angeles area (two of the best are technically in Pasadena and Santa Monica).

And unfortunately, McManus does't show up on a google maps search for LA.

(But I do need calling cards. So maybe I should see how much they cost to have made.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:32 AM on December 21, 2011


McManus & Morgan

Google map

And there's plenty of resources for artist's papers in LA. I liked the film, but there's something amiss about the whole "last place on earth" thing.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:16 AM on December 21, 2011


this is in my neighborhood! (sorta) and i've been there!
you know when they tell you the 3 most imortant things about running a small business? location, location, location?
these guys are ignoring that. HARD. they need to close up and move like decades ago. there is nothing, and i mean NOTHING around there. no other storefronts, a couple of old boarded-up buildings. the kind of area you stumble across when you've left your wallet at home and dont have bus fare...sad, yes. but mostly just stupid.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:34 PM on December 21, 2011


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