- Pippa Small
“I find inspiration with the stones, with traditional design, from ceramics, from textiles, from watching people in the streets and markets of the places where I work to see what they are wearing.”
PIPPA SMALL IS AN ETHICAL JEWELLERY BRAND, CREATING TALISMANS FOR MODERN LIFE. TO CELEBRATE OUR LONG-TIME RELATIONSHIP WITH THE DESIGNER, WE ASKED PIPPA'S SOME QUESTIONS TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HER INSPIRATIONS AND PROJECTS.
1. What is your link to the world of jewellery? Do you have a family connection?
I think my links to jewellery started with a love of stones, as a child I gathered pebbles and rocks everywhere I went, beaches and rivers and in the woods. I carried special stones in my pocket and loved their stillness, their solidness and the permanence of them. I loved that they came from the earth, that they have such a primal ancient quality. This started my love and fascination with jewellery. My family is scattered with painters, musicians but no jewellers.
2. Tell us about your origins and your career path.
I was born in Montreal and grew up in rural Quebec but had moved to Spain and then England by the time I was 10. I loved growing up in the countryside and rode and bred chickens and had many parrots and other pets. Fortunately for me my mother loved to travel and took us on many adventures as I was growing up. I loved meeting the people in remote areas of Tanzania, the Atlas mountains, Indonesia and having a small sense of their lives in these fascinating landscapes. My curiosity with other people's ways of life led me to study Anthropology and later I worked in Human Rights for indigenous and tribal communities around the world. Although there are many challenges in these areas, there are also so many inspiring people doing remarkable things in the areas of cultural, language and land protection. While working with many communities in remote areas of Asia I found that everyone could make beautiful things, but did not necessarily have a market for their craft locally.
After doing my masters in Medical Anthropology I started to work with communities, charities, NGO's working on jewellery design inspired by traditional techniques and skills and materials but helping to give them a contemporary slightly more universal feel whilst retaining their original aesthetic origin. In between this I worked with Gucci under Tom Ford and learnt more about design and collection creation, with Nicole Farhi and Dosa creating collections of jewellery.
We now work in about 6 countries with many artisans - men and woman and each person has their story and their 'hand' in the jewellery. Each person has their own style and emotional feeling with the piece. We work where we can with Fair trade gold, fairmined and recycled gold, hand panned gold and gems sourced from reliable small scale mines.
3. What goes through your mind when you create jewellery? Where do you find inspiration?
I spend a lot of time touching and holding stones, feeling them in my hands and deciding what they may become. I work in many countries with many different artisans, from Myanmar to India, Afghanistan to Colombia, Bolivia, with refugees in Jordan from Syria, Palestine and Iraq.
I find inspiration with the stones, with traditional design, from ceramics, from textiles, from watching people in the streets and markets of the places where I work to see what they are wearing, I love learning about the deeping ancient significance and meaning behind the designs or the meanings in the stones and their properties in the various cultures where I work.
4. How do you create your jewellery? What was your first creation?
I work through museums, old jewelry collections, craft and arts from around the world. I am also inspired by stories, nature and universal ancient symbols of protection and good luck. My first collection was working with a hand drill to create long necklaces of shells, pebbles and crystals that all had been gathered from around the world and held meaning to me. I moved to working in gold in my mid 20's and then started to work with far more talented goldsmiths in India and other places.
5. Tell us about your work with Turquoise Mountain.
I started to work with Arts charity Turquoise mountain in 2008, it is a wonderful organisation started by His Royal Highness Prince Charles and initially just in Kabul Afghanistan to work on the restoration of traditional architecture but also traditional craft with the belief that craft carries with it so much of a culture's sense of identity and pride. Material culture roots us, gives us a sense of history and continuation . They created. school of arts and craft and I started to work with them designing collections inspired by the region to help workshops create employment for graduates and artisans, and mentoring students. We have continued working with Turquoise Mountain in Myanmar where there sadly has been a military take over again, passing hand made jewellery skills to the next generation, in Jordan with young refugees from Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Yemen and Jordan.
The organisation creates training and employment opportunities for the most vulnerable to gain creative livelihood skills and keep the skills alive. We are now working in Kabul to support a project training young women in the skills of jewellery making, business studies, literacy and English started by our partner in Kabul and helping women find skills and a degree of independence in these difficult times.
6. The concept of Elsewhere plays an important part in your creative process - can you tell us more about this?
I have always felt at home in other places, I am fascinated by the way people respond to their natural environments around the world, their beliefs and stories, how they cope and how they find the resilience to make the best out of challenging times. I am interested in the relationship between material things found in the earth and how and why we chose to wear them and feel such an emotional connection to them
7. Are you attached to any jewel in particular? If yes, then which one?
I love my big shell cuff. I have been wearing it since I was in my early 20's, it is an old white shell made into a cuff by the Naga people of the north east of India. I was very lucky to work with a Naga Human Rights Activist when I was younger and he was my mentor, the cuff comes from his people and as I never take it off I feel its part of my body. I feel safe and protected in my shell.
8. Apart from the hand (and therefore touch), which other limb or sense would you be unable to live without?
Sight, I love to look at my stones, and angle them into the sun to see their mysterious inner worlds. I also find being in nature a huge source of regeneration, peace and a space to help make sense of the world.
9. Stones and metals are conduits of emotion. What touches you most about the way in which you use these materials?
I find the fact they are of the earth the most important connection, I love that they were created over thousands of years from the elements around us and that energy sists with them.
10. What would you have done if you had not become a jewellery designer?
I would have loved to have been a writer .. teller of stories.
11. Who are your favourite artists?
I love the primal nature of Richard Long, the forms of Moor and Hepworth but most of all I am obsessed with the magician Picasso
12. What would you say to a young designer who is starting out? How do you see the world of jewellery developing?
I think finding your voice, your identity in design is important, to cut the noise, the instagram and the barrage of trends and styles and find your own, what you want to say.
I hope that the ethical practices of being conscious of how and where things are made and by who will continue. Mining practices can be very dangerous, and we need to always find alternatives where possible to extract as cleanly as possible