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Arts and Entertainment

Video: 'Ink and Paper' Explores How the Last Remaining Letterpress and Paper Shop in Downtown Scrape By

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ink&paper from Ben Proudfoot on Vimeo.

A short, bittersweet documentary profiles the last letterpress and paper company standing in downtown Los Angeles (or more appropriately Macarthur Park).

In the documentary directed by USC student Ben Proudfoot, Cary Ocon of Aardvark Letterpress and Gary Wolin of McManus & Morgan, Inc. talk about how their businesses manage to scrape by, despite the fact that they are clearly the products of a bygone, pre-digital era. McManus & Morgan is the oldest paper company in Los Angeles, and Aardvark has been around since the 1968 when it was operated out of an old artist's colony in Macarthur Park. The two companies stand side by side on West 7th Street and Carondelet Street, and they are shown in the documentary coordinating with each other on a job.

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The work is clearly a labor of love for both of the shops, and they do manage to find well-to-do clients or visual artists (or musicians) who are willing to pay a premium for handcrafted work. On the day the film crew arrived, Ocon was working on a project for Bill Clinton's birthday. The letterpress' website lists Brooke Shields, Debra Messing, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and GQ Magazine as clients.

"I like taking these old technologies but going forward with them and using them in modern ways and integrating them with modern techniques," Ocon says.

The bitter part of the documentary is that both shops are hanging on by a thread. Gary Wolin of McManus & Morgan says when business slows down and a job comes in: "It's a miracle."