Kristan Cunningham and Scott Jarrell opened the Arts District design collective Hammer and Spear in downtown Los Angeles knowing from the start that they would fill their store with unique vintage finds and exclusive items made by local artists. But discovering nostalgic landscape photographs by Jonathan Ventura (aka Anon_Y_Mouse) wasn’t expected, and prompted them to commission the artist to create a series of architectural images focused on the unique character of the Arts District neighborhood where they work and live.
The success of the photographs (showcasing downtown bridges, trains and landmarks) led to their current project and the formation of a partnership now known as the Arts District Printing Co. (ADPC). The images—printed on Lokta paper—are handmade with Daphne plant bark by a women’s cooperative in Nepal, and printed with hand-crafted inks made from fruits and vegetables onto the durable textured paper.
Currently the series has developed beyond the original downtown Los Angeles images to include shots from Big Sur, Death Valley, Yosemite, San Francisco, New Mexico, Austin and Marfa. Each photograph features an inspirational phrase or a simple location, printed in a font chosen to compliment the image. A symmetrical view down an empty road reads, “Enjoy the Journey” while the words “Go Forth” are layered over a train and tracks. Ventura labels a detailed view of desert tree simply as “Joshua Tree” and describes his own work as painterly: “I’ve always wanted my work to have a soft, almost watercolor feeling to it.” He adds, “When starting out, I wanted to develop a distinct way of bringing modern typography into my landscape photography. For me, it was a way of expressing what I felt when photographing the landscape.”
Cunningham and Jarrell met Ventura last summer at the Renegade Craft Fair in Santa Monica and immediately fell for his romantic style. “The combination of handmade Nepalese paper and homemade fruit and vegetable inks create a soft vintage aesthetic,” says Jarrell. “While the addition of text to the landscape photography makes it seem new and fresh.”
When they invited him to photograph the Arts District, Cunningham says she was, “excited to see how our gritty neighborhood would translate via Jonathan’s aesthetic.” They debuted the new partnership at SXSW in Austin, continuing in Los Angeles by participating in the Artisanal LA.
Arts District Printing Co. will be at Unique LA this weekend and next month in New York for the NY Stationery Show. The prints are available online for $40 for the Lotka paper prints and are also offered on cotton paper for $15 to $20.
Images courtesy of Arts District Printing Co.