Kasia Stier and Penspa – where the Waterman meets the Inkwoman
A spiritual makeover to a physical body and its astral soul? Sounds far-fetched, unless you are talking fountain pens and Kasia Stier, restorer of all pens antique (and vintage and classic)! Kasia’s Penspa is the ultimate destination, where fountain pens can regain their lives and reclaim their souls – their vital life-force restored by the tender loving care of the Priestess of the Pen.
She works with vintage pens, specialising in the oldest ones – from the beginning to the twenties of the twentieth century. Watermans and Swans are her chosen ones and connoisseurs vouch about her wizardry with flexible nibs. She also has an affinity for Pelikans. While she is based out of Schleswig in Germany, the legend of her divine abilities (as well as examples of her miracles) are spread around the world.
She is also the moderator of the Polish Fountain Pen collector’s Forum Forum o Piórach, one of the organisers of the Pen Show Poland in Katowice and the editor-in-chief of the Pen Show Magazine.
Here in an exclusive tet-a-tete with www.inkedhappiness.com, she talks, what else, but fountain pens:
Q1. How did you get into this highly specialised field? Collectors of rare fountain pens is hard enough, but someone who restores collectable pens to their pristine glory – that is surely one of the extremely novel as a profession?
Kasia Stier: There are not many people out there who restore pens, that’s true. With me, it was by accident, sort of.
I had been into the hobby – fountain pens, both vintage and modern – for some years, I was pretty active in Poland, moderating the pen forum, organising meetings, co-organising Poilish pen-show etc, when suddenly because of my life situation I found myself in need to make some extra money. First, I sold some pens of mine. Well, most of them. But it was not enough. Then some of my friends stepped in, and they sent me some pens that I could sell. Some of these pens required attention and this is how it all started. At the beginning I was doing only the simple things, changing sacs and so on, but with time, under a guidance of my friend and available literature, and Internet tutorials, I got into more complicated stuff. I got to love it, turning “dead bodies“ into beautiful, usable instruments again.
Q2. What qualities are needed to become a restorer of fountain pens? Especially in view of the fact that such skill sets are not taught in formal institutions? How did you go about to become the expert that you are now?
Kasia Stier: Lots of patience for sure. One needs to learn that they can NEVER be in a hurry when restoring pens. That can end in a disaster. Restoring requires also some technical skills and ability to notice details. Good eyes and skilled hands are a must. One has to be innovative often, as it can always happen that we find ourselves in a situation when we can’t find a ready-made recipe on the Internet. The truth is, in this field we learn mainly by experience.
Also, you need to be prepared for a lifetime, never ending learning. There are so many surprises in this field. Models that you can’t find in catalogues, repairs you have never done before…
I don’t have the guts to call myself an expert. There are many people I look up to and whom I consider the experts, and I do my best to learn from them and their experience – David Nishimura, Richard Binder, Tom Westerich, Mark Hoover…
There are things that I can do very well, no question about it. But, it takes years to learn all required skills for all possible kinds of repairs, and perhaps even more to get to know the history of the fountain pens. This is actually why I decided to concentrate mainly on the pens from the 20’s-30’s era and before, and focus on two brands which are Waterman and Mabie Todd. This way, dealing with these kind of pens mainly, I can be really good at what I’m doing.
Q3. What is it that you find to be the most rewarding about restoration, repair and customisation of vintage fountain pens?
Kasia Stier: There are two most rewarding things in restoring – first is the gratitude coming from the clients. I feel really happy when I get messages from the people from all over the world saying “thank you, it’s been exactly what I was looking for, it’s so beautiful, it writes so well“ etc. This is what makes me going, really . The second, no less important thing, is bringing old pens back to life. It is like giving them a second chance, really. Prolonging the life span, I’d say. Turning the old, forgotten items into beautiful writing instruments which give people joy.There is nothing better than that!
Q4. What are the typical challenges that you face? Is the market deep enough to sustain such specialised people like yourself, especially from a purely financial point of view? What drives you in your search for excellence?
Kasia Stier: These were the questions I was asking myself when I decided to quit my previous job completely and dedicate to the pens only. Will I manage? Will it be enough? Will I be able to make my living out of something that is so obviously the niche?
Luckily, the reality turned up to be to my advantage. Somehow, I managed to gain my reputation and now, even when I don’t post pens for sale, there are always clients reaching out to me. And what drives me, is exactly their constant demand for beautiful, vintage pens.
Q5. From your vantage point, do you see a revival in the global demand for fountain pens? Are the trends encouraging? Or is the fountain pen on its way out, digitally damned to oblivion?
Kasia Stier: We are living in the era of a revival of fountain pens. There are different reasons people want to buy them – some want to have a pretty and unique writing instrument, some need them for doing calligraphy which is now so popular, some are just the collectors trying to gather the pens matching their tastes. I am doing my best to meet all these demands.
Q6. What should be done to encourage young people to physically write, to wield the pen?
Kasia Stier: As we all know, school plays a big role in young people’s lives. Wouldn’t it be great if calligraphy was an obligatory subject again? Unfortunately, this is not a common case. But I know of many collectors/users that are passing their passion to a younger generation. Including myself – both my daughters write with fountain pens and I’m secretly dreaming that one day, perhaps I’ll be also able to pass my knowledge and skills to one of them.
Q7. What message would you like to communicate to our readers?
Kasia Stier: Use fountain pens, it’s so much fun. Play with different models, nibs, inks… Let yourself discover the fascinating world of vintage pens, get to know how it is to write with a 90-year-old instrument…
Q8. What kind of products and services can we expect from you? I ask this because not many people know about you here in India – how can we best access the treasures that you put up for adoption? How do we contact you for ay restoration need that we may have?
Kasia Stier: I work most willingly on the oldest pens. So if you have a pen from the very beginning of the 20th century up to the 40’s era, there is a big chance I’ll be able to repair/restore it. On my website, one can find examples of what I can do (http://penspa.com/fountain-pen-restore/). If you don’t have a particular pen and wish to change that, don’t hesitate to contact me (either through WhatsApp, or Messenger, or email – they are all given on my website). My services tend to be very personalised, I often cooperate with my clients to find them the pen that will suit them best.
Because of the place I chose to live at, Germany, I also have an easy access to Pelikans and Montblancs, both vintage and modern.
My website is penspa.com