Also on the west side of the city, Angeles Press is located in a row of shops in an area of Santa Monica that was just beginning to boom before the recent economic down turn. The glass windows of each store and business along Ocean Park Boulevard allow passers-by a glimpse inside and at number 1616 it is the large litho press that catches the attention and surprise of most. This is the fourth location for Angeles Press and in talking with Toby and Mary, they presented its history as punctuated and happily defined by every recession since it's founding making it apparent they are optimists as well as committed printmakers.
Tobey Michel is different from most master printers who run and operate a small press, as he will quickly and in no uncertain terms declare he is not and has never been an artist. His talents and passion lie in the collaboration, the dance of give and take the master printer has with an artist. He took lithography, as the last three credits he had to complete as an undergraduate and like most students had no idea what he was really registering for, but fell in love with the process. He went on to study architecture at Harvard and when laid off from work during the recession of the 1970's, he decided to return to what he smilingly referred to as a recession proof business, lithography.
In 1976, Tobey started the master printers program at Tamarind with Mary there as a curatorial fellow. It was the gas crunch of the late 1970's and its impact on commuting across the city that forced Tobey and Mary to become self-employed in order to use their training and pursue their passions. Taking the risk, they founded Angeles Press in 1980. Mary quickly went and purchased a large wall calendar like the used at Tamarind to designate when artists and clients would be in the shop. With their empty calendar on the wall, the pair quickly realized the one of the hardest tasks they would face, as a new press would be filling it.
Like so many other shops, Angeles Press hit a pinnacle point in the 1980's a decade that found them in their largest space, with five employees and working with a variety of well-known artists, in particular Jim Dine. Dine, known for his often-harsh words for master printers, has commented favorably on how Tobey will try anything and runs a “terrific operation at Angeles Press.” Ironically, they state almost of their publishing in the past almost thirty years has been done for non-profits, such as the Frostig Collections a non-profit that sells multiples to benefit social skills education in children with disabilities, institutions and organizations like The Academy of Motion Pictures, individual artists and New York galleries. Their hesitation to say they have never printed for a gallery in LA seems to lay in the fear of both the meaning and impact of that statement.
After 30 years of printing, Tobey and Mary are again taking risks. The physical strains of printing and working with the chemicals needed for lithography, along with increases in reliability for large format inkjet printers has led them to compliment their work in traditional printmaking with a foray into the digital world. And in treating the computer as another printing tool, the pair feels they are collaborating with artists in a similar way. Tobey refers to it as controlled abandon; using his skills and knowledge to allow artists to create prints in a way that has a natural ease suited to their working habits and artistic goals.