Shop Etsy

Ink Meets Paper

May 17, 2013

by Stephanie Madewell

This bittersweet short film by Ben Proudfoot looks at two independent (and interdependent) businesses in Los Angeles, California, struggling to stay afloat in a changing economy — Aardvark Letterpress and McManus & Morgan Paper. It’s a poignant glimpse of the passion that keeps the lights on for small businesses, and a reminder that shopping local matters more than ever.

84 comments

  • admspeicher
  • Annalogeu

    Annabel from SecondHandSandy said 6 years ago

    Areas where there are many small shops are so much nicer than areas with big chain stores or even online shops' warehouses (sorry Etsy colleagues :D). I hope the men in this movie will get many customers through this small video. I would love for them to be nextdoor to me!

  • valeriephoto

    Valerie from valeriestitchery said 6 years ago

    Shopping local is not only what supports our communities and our neighbors, it's what adds flavor and character to our neighborhoods and keeps them from becoming indistinguishable from other parts of the country.

  • kateendle

    Kate Endle from kateendle said 6 years ago

    That was hard to watch. Brought a tear to my eye because I worked in a Seattle art supply store for ten years before it went out of business. I'm now a paper artist and I very much depend on a very particular set of papers (loktas, unryus, chiris, and chiyogamos). If the manufacturers and suppliers of my papers go under I'll have to reinvent myself, which I've had to do before. If I lived in LA I'd support these businesses. Good luck to them!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 6 years ago

    What great stories!!!

  • TheGlowingSkin

    TheGlowingSkin from TheGlowingSkin said 6 years ago

    A tale of two shops with two different technologies. Poignant. Survival in these times are hard for paper things in a digital age.

  • AlisaDesign

    Alisa from AlisaDesign said 6 years ago

    Woow.. Amazing !

  • JewelrybyDorothy

    Dorothy from JewelrybyDorothy said 6 years ago

    Wonderful stories! These shops are indeed shining stars.

  • Boogiecat

    Kannis from Boogiecat said 6 years ago

    really cool!

  • TheGlowingSkin

    TheGlowingSkin from TheGlowingSkin said 6 years ago

    People talk of hand made paper as a niche market. So is quill making, bamboo pens, silversmithing. What is the purpose of having a niche market if that market cannot sustain the craftsmen in it. Hope this video generates some interest for these shops.

  • H88255

    H88255 from HillarysSuperfoods said 6 years ago

    Wonderful video. It is so important to buy local! I hope these shops continue to stay afloat and are successful, they deserve it!

  • ninedragons

    Elizabeth England from ninedragons said 6 years ago

    There is such beauty in what they do. I love the look and sound of those heavy, well-made machines -- it seems a shame such artistry could be lost. Wonderfully filmed!

  • auntjanecan

    Jane Priser from JanePriserArts said 6 years ago

    This is wonderful!

  • LoopDeeDoo

    Dee Levang from loopdeedoo said 6 years ago

    Sadly, so many people just want cheap cheap cheap, and don't care much for quality. Quality materials, workmanship and passion will always be worth the extra dollar. At least to me. I feel for these businesses.

  • jessgreenleaf

    Jess Greenleaf from GREENLEAFblueberry said 6 years ago

    It's a really interesting/difficult time for independent businesses- art supply, bookstores etc, both because of changing technologies and because of unrealistic expectations of consumers used to big box stores. But the future looks bright since people are starting to realize that there is more to the bottom line than price. Factors like origin and quality are finally starting to get their turn in the mainstream spotlight.

  • COMERARTGALLERY

    Rene' COMER from SensingMajesty said 6 years ago

    That was quite a poignant film. I love paper however, it is a difficult market in this digital age. Newspaper companies are dwindling in numbers too. Loved the video. It reminds me how important it is to buy local.

  • Infinitiplus1

    Shari from Infinitiplus1 said 6 years ago

    That's really cool.

  • justaboute

    Elizabeth from justaboute said 6 years ago

    Marvelous video! Amazing stories! We are all so intertwined....

  • silvergran50

    MaryAnn Dighton said 6 years ago

    I couldn't get this to stream smoothly but just loved what I saw of the paper. I hope these craftsmen can survive.

  • DTrevinosVingtique

    DMarie Trevino from MyVingtique said 6 years ago

    Nothing takes the place of Old School Artisians-the heart of Etsy!

  • recycledwares

    Nerrissa W from RecycledWares said 6 years ago

    I love the honesty of the two men. I know that there are days when I struggle to make ends meet and it is nice to hear that others do too. It's a glimpse into a part of business that most people don't openly share.

  • WhisperingOak

    Quality Handmade Items from WhisperingOak said 6 years ago

    Thank you for this great article

  • NicolasKnitKnacks

    Nicola and Jessica Belton from CelticKnittingCo said 6 years ago

    Amazing, such a great video!

  • deekish

    Deeksha Lakshmi from TheColorWagon said 6 years ago

    This is a very interesting video which drives home the importance of shopping local and supporting small businesses. I love shopping in local small businesses than the bigger chains for a number of reasons - the main reason being the feel of the stores and the personal touch of the people who run it. I'm so excited about this place - i didnt know of it even though i have been in LA for almost 2 years now. I'm soon going to be stopping by for paper supplies for my upcoming painting projects.

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 6 years ago

    Wonderful and moving.

  • HarperAnneH

    Harper Anne from HarperAnneBoutique said 6 years ago

    I absolutely loved this video. I'm sure everyone has/is feeling the way these guys feel when they love something so much! I hope these guys make it and If i'm ever in LA I will be stopping in to shop!

  • kateblossom

    kate from kateblossom said 6 years ago

    Love, love, love this...I will support shops like these!

  • StillVintage

    StillVintage from StillVintage said 6 years ago

    Wow, I am touched by this article. Artisans with such passion bring something big to the community: hard work, pride, and a good quality product. This kind of products are only imitated by chain discounted products. Sad to see artistry, originality and good quality lost for the new generations

  • planting4ever

    planting4ever said 6 years ago

    I too will support but being on the East Coast makes this hard. How about an etsy shop McManus and Morgan Paper, I will come I promise...

  • izzybellyco

    Lola from izzybellyco said 6 years ago

    Oh my! What an absolutely wonderful video! Brought tears to my eyes! Very inspiring that these 2 AMAZING business owners haven't given up the passion they both have for their businesses! KUDOS!! You can hear how much they truly love what they do! I'd fill completely honored to work with them! I pray that their businesses start to flourish from this video! Best Wishes! ♥

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 6 years ago

    Fantastic!!!

  • gooseberrystudio

    Suzi Tarman from gooseberrystudio said 6 years ago

    Handmade paper and letterpress, a marriage made in heaven. I would love to buy paper from McManus and Morgan...a shop here on etsy? Please keep us up to date on both shops. Best wishes for Aardvark Letterpress also, absolutely lovely work!

  • richdon1

    Rich and Dona from TheCottageMouse said 6 years ago

    Hard work and endurance. That is what this is all about. Great success I wish to all of you in the letter press trade. You are the dreams our ancestors were made of. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • jowandawiseman

    Jowanda Wiseman from PigtailsNPetticoats said 6 years ago

    I have held Aardvark Press items in my hands, made of art paper (don't know if it was from the neighbor or not). This is a dying art, but for those that keep it alive it is a wondrous product to see and feel. I wish them both a prosperous future and that someone will continue the traditions they are carrying on.

  • lisalottie1

    Lisa from LisaLottieSwimwear said 6 years ago

    Thanks for this interesting article!

  • lauraprill

    Laura Prill from lauraprill said 6 years ago

    Thank you for featuring this film Stephanie... it's making me think about ways in which the worldwide Etsy community can make a real difference in the lives of shops like these... it doesn't seem like enough to watch the film and feel sad about their demise, which I do.

  • adayathome

    adayathome from PINKJALUZI said 6 years ago

    I love papers too:)

  • NirvanaRoad

    Lisa from NirvanaRoad said 6 years ago

    Very nice film... it's hard to be a small business owner when you are competing with large box stores. I remember when all the small book stores started to die out and be replaced by chains.

  • saltlandsociety

    kathleen from SaltlandSociety said 6 years ago

    I love LA :) ..and humble artists..

  • rebelb

    Rebel B from rebelocity said 6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful documentary. I bought all my printmaking paper from McManus & Morgan when I was in college. Reminds me to make a special visit downtown to see them again.

  • rebelb

    Rebel B from rebelocity said 6 years ago

    I bought all my printmaking paper from McManus & Morgan when I was in college. This film is so lovely, thanks so much.

  • VelvetRevived

    VelvetRevived from VelvetRevived said 6 years ago

    This is so very sad, yet beautiful. I wish I lived in L.A. so I could buy beautiful papers there. And having worked for a company where customers ordered their letterpress business cards, invitations and stationery from me, I found watching the process of the typesetting fascinating. Our printing was done in our home office in Chicago and the process was explained to us all, but I never got to actually see it done. I wish the very best of luck to both of these gentlemen and their businesses.

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios from MerCurios said 6 years ago

    My grandfather had his own business from 1970 until the doors closed in 1996. O.J. DiMola Floor Covering was born in Ridgewood Queens New York the same year as me. My grandfather learned the floor covering trade in Tyler Texas making fifty cents an hour working for Rowan Floors. He used to love to tell me the story of how he did all the floors in Mr. Marcus's home (of Neiman Marcus). For a long while business thrived. O.J DiMola Floor Covering was not only doing residential work, but had a plethora of commercial contracts - AT&T, local and National Bank chains, various offices in NYC... Then came the Pergaments and Home Depots and sadly, over time, he just could not compete anymore. Fifteen trucks, dwindled to ten, to five, to one, until there were none. Although the big box stores like Target and Walmart do contribute to the local areas, donating to schools etc...it just isn't the same as small independent shops, who in my opinion, contribute so much more to their respective towns.

  • longlynette

    Lynette Long from YarnedTogether said 6 years ago

    What an inspiring, yet bittersweet film! To see the drive in these two men to desperately hold on...it's truly something to make one stop & pay attention. I love all of the little "mom & pop" shops in my area. These types of businesses are what makes a community unique unto itself. I sure hope they can hang on and make a go of it!

  • TheresasGourmet

    Theresa Ryales from TheresasGourmet said 6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing. This is wonderful.

  • mandiknit

    Amanda Richmond from PollenLove said 6 years ago

    I'm on the other side of the world to these two amazing businesses... I hope someone shows them etsy or the like and gets their products/services out there for the world to support them! I would:)

  • nativestrandsjewelry

    Rachel from PeppersJewelry said 6 years ago

    Thank you for this video. It was very interesting and showcased the passion that these men have for their businesses.

  • DelicateByNature

    K from DelicateByNature said 6 years ago

    A great look at the challenges faced by many small business owners, and especially those that struggle to keep what could easily become a lost art alive. Thanks for sharing their story!

  • patspottery

    Pat Parker from PatsPottery said 6 years ago

    I think that perhaps we should subsidize some of these old businesses before they are lost forever. We subsidize old houses and old languages, why not help out the last of the old ways of doing business. PS. I have three sets of the old lead letter press alphabets. I use them to press names on my clay:>)

  • beaderco

    beader co from beaderco said 6 years ago

    My husband and I both come from the printing industry. I started out in a shop that did foil, blind embossing and thermoengraving. We had 2 windmill presses - nothing compares to the work these timeless machines do. I miss the smell of the ink. So sorry - hang in there.

  • AddictionToDetail

    AddictionToDetail from AddictionToDetail said 6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful bittersweet stories. My husband and I moved to Los Angeles 36 years ago. We both remember McManus & Morgan and the beautiful paper they carry. We understand the struggles these two business face and hope that they will some how be able to carry on, possibly starting an online business and sharing their talents and products with the world. We too would like to get back to Los Angeles and pay McManus a visit.

  • vickieroberts322

    Vickie Roberts from VickiesVault said 6 years ago

    Digital is good, but it does not have the texture of the paper. I love getting cards that are made of different textures, and colors...you can almost feel the care that went into each process (the ones who thought to do each...those who make the paper attractive, those who write the beautiful poems or prose, the artist who paint or draw such whisical images, tying the card all together.) There is nothing like holding all of that in your hands. I wish I could help support these two lovely shoppes. I will try to inform others in the business of their identities. Maybe that will help.

  • oddlyaddictive

    cait lucas from inkkit said 6 years ago

    I really admire these two passion driven stores/ owners. It is rare to find individuals who have been around this business for so long. I can imagine the knowledge behind these amazing minds. business is changing but our futures look bright and I really admire the out look on life in general that they spoke of. I felt inspired and more positive as i watched this film. Its always better to hold your head up no matter what life brings you to conquer.

  • MASHUGANA

    Julia from MASHUGANA said 6 years ago

    This is a wonderful video :)

  • blupony808

    Katie Oswalt from blupony808 said 6 years ago

    I am in a AWEsome shop that supports local artists and it is the exact same way...kinda sux it's like where did all the shoppers go?? But I hear there are good things coming down the line for these folks...a food store is going to move in next to them maybe generate some foot traffic...and the lady from the AWEsome store said that is a big deal...that there is some sort of revival going on for their area...I hope so <3

  • seasidecloth

    seasidecloth from seasidecloth said 6 years ago

    What a bittersweet story. Such a shame that so many creative arts can go by the wayside so easily if they are not supported. Hopefully this will bring a call for activity in that area, and moreover, globally.

  • yesisunrise

    Yesenia said 6 years ago

    Great stories, great short. Is good to shop local, I try there always great places with great stories and people.

  • anticovalore

    Simona I. from anticovalore said 6 years ago

    love the video, thank you :-)

  • BodaciousDesignz

    Barbara from BodaciousDesignz said 6 years ago

    I understand them. I can go 2 weeks without a customer coming to my site to purchase. I am wondering how can I make this work, so that I can actually support myself? Then there are times, I just don't have time to eat...because I am so busy designing..which I do for free...now. One day, when I have some more education under my belt, I hope to have my own site where I can charge what I am worth!

  • anatyeger

    Anat Yeger from AnatYeger said 6 years ago

    Wow, what a beautiful story. I really hope people will see the beauty of small businesses instead of huge multiply- branch companies. I would love to see those two businesses prosperous for another 80 years.

  • MYTIENDITA

    carla rojas from TheButtonofmyHeart said 6 years ago

    So familiar story...but in Mexico, all the small business dedicated to this field were and have been affected for a long time by big companies; wow for those who still work in this way and for people who still appreciate the fine work. Unfortunately my family has had to adapt to the demands of the market and after 20 years they could afford to buy a very very expensive german printer; my brother who still carries for the business has some of the same customers that my dad leaved, because they have been so persistent and accurate with their work, now working along with his son, this is the fourth generation in the business, sometimes using some of the old techniques if at some point the technology fails.

  • Masselyn

    Tiffany Profet from ButtercupandCo said 6 years ago

    I loved this video, and as many have said it really made me see how hard it is in this age to remember the beauty in feeling and touching things made by hand. I love the tactile feel and smells of old books and paper, and I am loving those stores in LA (gotta head over there soon) with all of those beautiful machines. I too hope that this video brings to light these two stores in LA, and so many others all over the US, who fight like we do - to do what we love at all costs.

  • Nemki

    Nemki from nemki said 6 years ago

    I wish we had one of these shops nearby :) So beautiful.

  • atelierleneben

    Lene Bennike from AtelierLeneBennike said 6 years ago

    A touching story, thanks for sharing!

  • DivineOrnaments

    Carrie Story from DivineOrnaments said 6 years ago

    So many people have started small businesses since the crash. I would love to see statistics on how many make it. I wish us all best of luck!

  • fionazakka

    fiona zakka from fionazakka said 6 years ago

    What a great documentary. It is so heartbreaking to listen to them say that they know they won't make ends meet but still they do not stop. My Hubby a professional darkroom printer is feeling the same things and this video touched us. Thank you

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 6 years ago

    This was an emotional video for me too...I love the arts, letterpress, paper, etc....I wish both businesses all of the luck to proceed in the future with what you love to do....Thanks for sharing your stories....

  • iworkartwork

    Irma Galindo from iworkartwork said 6 years ago

    What a beautiful video! I love letterpress art, and paper. Wonderful artists, Thanks for sharing!

  • StayArtisan

    J.K. Ramirez from HudsonBlueArtisans said 6 years ago

    Great video, nothing feels like good old fashioned paper. Great medium. Thanks

  • andiespecialtysweets

    Jason and Andie from andiespecialtysweets said 6 years ago

    Great eye-opening and very motivating film. Creates a sense of urgency to look into the community and see who we can support.

  • TomRyansStudio

    Tom Ryan from TomRyansStudio said 6 years ago

    I love paper, and I'd love to have some of my work letter pressed. I wish I lived by these guys because I'd constantly be in both shops trying to figure out some things! Great Video!

  • darkhorsewinner

    Dark Horse Jewelry from StyleByDarkHorse said 6 years ago

    It's fantastic to see artisans share their crafts. What a moving video!

  • 711laurakay

    Laura Kay from diarysketches said 6 years ago

    I hope they get a big break!

  • Sammis2shoes

    Sammi E. from Sammis2shoes said 6 years ago

    After watching this video I finally understood the meaning of not giving up. It was only the other day that I thought about how the handmade market and their truest advocates that make, buy and support the handmade community can fight the aging times against technology. So our products may not always look like its a big box store product, but the uniqueness of creativity cannot be paid for in any amount . Please don't give up on creativity , business innovation without the aids of speeding advancing technology and the awesomeness of all of us who endeavor to keep our dreams alive thanks for such a great video. :)

  • dimlim

    Ragga Katla from Dimlim said 6 years ago

    Oh how amazing! Thanks for posting this Etsy. We recently moved from Los Angeles to Portland, we used to buy the paper for our packaging from Gary of McManus & Morgan. Amazing little shop in my favorite part of town.

  • windfall

    Karin Bremer from windfall said 6 years ago

    Thank you for posting this video.

  • desertrose0601

    Jennifer Maloney from desertroseknits said 6 years ago

    Very cool!! I am moving to LA this summer actually, so definitely need to check this shop out (and buy lots of paper!). Thank you for sharing this great video!

  • fineartstoneware

    fineartstoneware from fineartstoneware said 6 years ago

    Thanks for posting this. My husband is a printer- and still printing.

  • SaltandSpirit

    Amanda McCall from SaltandSpirit said 6 years ago

    As a printmaker I am envious of people living in Los Angeles now, what a resource! I just shared the names of these two stores with everyone I know in Los Angeles. Thanks for posting this!

  • edlow

    Edmund Low from edpapers said 6 years ago

    wonderful stories. stay strong and revive the art of handwriting, papers and crafts.

  • Pixie2428

    Doris C. from SewBeautifulbyDC said 6 years ago

    A wonderful film to watch. I hope they find a way to keep on doing what they love. Best of luck.

  • cottonbirddesigns

    Angela Cotton from CottonBirdDesigns said 6 years ago

    Great stories and video, good luck!

  • handloomin

    Manju G from JaipurHandloom said 6 years ago

    awesome stories and videos...gotta say really appreciated for such blog..:)

  • korenkwan

    Koren Kwan from GarasuWonderland said 4 years ago

    lovely story, enjoy reading it!

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