PORTRAIT of the ARTIST
ISHPEMING – Benjamin Argall has taken the business experience he’s gained through working at a number of places and combined it with his lifelong passion for art.
The result is Blue Mohawk Studio, his gallery space and retail outlet that just opened in Ishpeming’s Pioneer Square.
Of course, in the online age, Argall already has many customers from around the world since launching his website in 2011 and has a business agent who brings his work to outlets around the country. But the Ishpeming native is thrilled to have his own showcase space right in his hometown.
Because, while he’s just 23 now, at age 13, Argall had a gallery with partner Amy (Hodgins) Lerlie in the old Rock Barn building in Ishpeming.
“That was Cielo Gallery,” Argall said. “It was something I co-founded with Amy. Even how I met Amy was something. I was at You’ve Been Framed picking up something and Kathy Waters (the owner) told me to go talk to Amy. Amy was cleaning on the second floor of the Rock Barn building and when I gave her a business card, she was blown away by a 13-year-old with his own business card.”
A few dinner meetings with Lerlie, Argall and a few others and Cielo opened.
“Cielo was about a two-year project for me. I think it was open for four or five years all together before Amy sold it,” Argall said.
The son of Pam Argall and the late Michael Argall, Ben’s earliest memories involve creativity.
“I remember being creative as a little kid, with crayon drawings and building with blocks,” he said. “It kept progressing from there.”
He started painting when he was 10.
“Growing up, my grandma Rose Anderson was a huge influence on me,” Argall said. “She was always interested in music and the arts. She knit and worked on stained glass. She was always doing something creative.”
Even as a teen, Argall – a 2007 graduate of Ishpeming High School – gained retail experience.
“When I was 14 and 15, it was at the gallery,” he said. “When I was 16, I started working at Da Yoopers (Tourist Trap) and also at Pen Bank. For the store at our school, Hematites R Us, I did screen printing. That was my contribution to them.”
The retail experience, including a buying trip to Minneapolis with Da Yoopers, was great background for going into business on his own now, Argall said.
“I have other places I’ve worked too that have taught me. At Younkers, I did shoe sales. I worked at Edward D. Jones Investments. And I still work at Midtown (Bakery in Negaunee) which is a great place,” he said. “It all helps.”
Argall even ventured to the big city for a while, moving to Boston, Mass., at the suggestion of his friend Kyle Miron who had already moved there.
“That was for photography,” Argall said. “But I found out the city just isn’t for me.”
When he returned home to Ishpeming, landscape artist Argall started painting again.
“I picked up the paintbrush after two years of not painting,” he said. “And almost right away, the paintings started to sell.”
His experience in retail taught him to branch out, so he also features his art on note cards and in jewelry.
“I sell items from $2 for a notecard up to $1,000 for paintings,” Argall said.
The move into the Pioneer Square came after he outgrew his home studio.
“I had a job offer out of the area, but I decided to open the studio,” he said.
About the name…
“Hindsight is 20/20. Blue Mohawk Studio sounds like a hair salon, I know,” Argall said. “But I went with it.”
The studio is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with other hours by appointment.
Argall also has an online site and a Facebook page with more than 1,200 “likes.”
“The jewelry (side) has been fun. I know my pieces are in South Africa, England and Germany and other countries,” he said.
Argall is happy with his decision to stay close to home.
“Artists here help each other out,” he said. “People like Michele Dugree (Revisions Design Studio), Tim Flannery (Purple World Designs), Beth Millner (Beth Millner Jewelry), Carol Papaleo (Art U.P. Style) and Kathrine Savu (Fire Center Studio) have been great.
“That’s why I like it in the Upper Peninsula. Everyone is so supportive.”
In addition to painting and running his own studio, Argall is also working on a degree from Northern Michigan University. He also studied finance for a time at the New England College of Business and Finance.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org