Featured Partner: ArtWorks / Pencillarium

11/5/2018 - Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

Arts & Culture, Featured Partner, Shopping
ArtWorks / Pencillarium
ArtWorks / Pencillarium
ArtWorks / Pencillarium
ArtWorks / Pencillarium
ArtWorks / Pencillarium
ArtWorks / Pencillarium

You’ll find more than your average #2 pencil at the Pencillarium, which is part of ArtWorks in Kenosha’s Union Park Arts District. Chet Griffith opened ArtWorks on April 1, 2007. “I had worked as a picture framer for a long time and I decided I was going to open up my own business,” he says. He wanted a place for artists to gather – something that was part art gallery and part art supply shop – a space he would want to go. And so ArtWorks was born. In addition to offering custom picture framing, private drawing lessons, gallery space, and open art critiques on Friday evenings, the business has expanded to include the Pencillarium, which is a seller of new and vintage pencils.

When the art supply market changed, so did ArtWorks. It reinvented itself as a seller of pencils. Chet studied art in Illinois - at the College of Lake County and Columbia. His medium of choice is drawing with a pencil. Thus, it was natural for him to want to sell drawing supplies. He had considered changing his business plan long before he finally did. Then he read about a 200 square foot pencil shop in Manhattan, owned by Caroline Weaver, and that is how his pencil shop came to be. In addition to a wide variety of pencils, pencil-related items are available including journals, notepads, sharpeners, erasers, and pencil pouches.

As Chet describes on The Pencillarium’s website: “I am specializing in vintage pencils; they are amazing, still affordable, and how cool will it feel to jot down your grocery list with a 60 year old pencil? A pencil is a real, tactile, and ultimately wonderful tool. A pencil mark is direct. Using a pencil is a universally shared experience and I think we could use a few more positive examples at the moment.”

The Pencillarium features new and vintage pencils from around the world – including ones that are between 30 and 100 years old, yet are brand new in the box. What started as a shelf of pencils has turned into half of Chet’s shop – and it keeps growing. A customer of his came up with the Pencillarium name as he was brainstorming ideas. The words “pencil” and “emporium” were combined to get the name!

There are not many places in the region that offer these types of pencils and the shop is drawing visitors to the area, according to Chet. Some of his customers purchase the pencils for actual use (including artists, sketchers, journalers), while others are just collecting them. Unlike other collectibles, there are no price guides for pencils. He was unaware of the pencil collecting world – and did a lot of research. When it comes to purchasing a pencil, Chet says it’s about the feel of a pencil – and that it’s very personal. He finds his customer base is very diverse. When asked what his favorite pencil is, he says it’s like asking who his favorite child is – though Blackwing is the “undisputed champion of pencils” he says. Award-winning creators who used Blackwing pencils include John Steinbeck and Chuck Jones.

In addition to being a business owner, Chet is an artist with gallery shows inside and outside of the community, and he is also a magazine publisher. His latest magazine venture is Paradox Arts Magazine. He is the founder of the quarterly publication, which will debut in 2019. There will be articles about local creatives – visual and performing artists, culinary figures, etc. – as well as local events and businesses, comics, and show reviews. There will be many ways for people to be involved.

What is Chet’s favorite thing about owning a business? “People come in here, we talk, there’s a sense of community.” His dream was always to be a studio artist. He says that’s like wanting to be a rock star: it doesn’t happen very often. So how does he get as close to his dream as possible? With ArtWorks! He shows art, sells art, frames art, facilitates the creation of art, and informs others about art. He’s part of the cycle.

Chet notes how purchasing art is different than purchasing clothes, food, furniture, or other necessities. Art is original, unique, and very personal to who is purchasing it. Buying art means knowing yourself and what speaks to you, and being willing to explain the purchase to others. Art is arbitrary; it doesn’t matter if someone interprets it different than the artist’s intention. “The intent of the artist is always irrelevant,” Chet says. Likewise, when enjoying art, “you don’t have to be a curator or expert to like something.” Each person has his/her own ideals, morals, experiences, and baggage – which leads to their own personal internal reasons for liking something, Chet explains.

ArtWorks and the Pencillarium are located at 4513 Sheridan Road. Whether you’re interested in purchasing pencils or art, showing your own art or having it critiqued, or learning more about Paradox Arts Magazine, stop by and see Chet!

Note: The parking lot and entrance are in the rear, entering off 45th Street.

(262) 652-5911,,

November 2018

Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

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