Is This ISKL’s First and Only Pewtersmith?
“Dangerous to be sure, yet here I am!” Stuart Helble (Class of ‘75) on growing up in Kuala Lumpur in the 1960s and ‘70s and, in particular, playing in the dredged tin mines near Jalan Ampang Hilir, not far from our current campus.
In an interesting twist, after leaving Malaysia and embarking on a completely different career in teaching, Stuart, who says he had “NO training, no artistic talent” took up pewtersmithing and, 39 years later, continues to work the metal for which Malaysia is famous, side by side with his pewtersmith wife, Karen.
Theirs was definitely an unconventional path into pewtersmithing. Stuart explains, “Karen and I finished high school in Northern Virginia, four years in different universities, both double majored. She worked in a pewter shop where she did an internship for art major. I taught a year in the American International School Dacca. Came back to no job, so we decided to just jump into the pewter business ourselves.”
The couple are two of what he estimates to be less than 50 pewtersmiths remaining in the USA today. He attributes their longevity and success to, “Determination and an unwillingness to quit, mix in imagination and an eye for what looks right, encouragement from friends and family and customers.” The New Jersey-based business continues to thrive, shipping beautiful bowls, plates and ornaments around the USA. Stuart continues, “There is a niche to be filled everywhere you look. You have but to see it and imagine yourself there.”
Stuart attended ISKL from 1971-1973 and played Junior Varsity Basketball in Grade 10. While he won’t be joining those in his cohort who will descend on ISKL for their 5-yearly reunion in April, he says, “Most of those attending have lived in other places. But I think Malaysia would be on the top of each list and ISKL would be the biggest reason. We are all grateful for all who touched us and helped to form who we are today.”
You can see Stuart and Karen’s beautiful pewter ware on their website - kspewter.com.
If you know of any other ISKL Alumni working in the pewter industry, we’d love to hear about them. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.