We are pleased to share Pippa Small’s latest collaboration with the Turquoise Mountain NGO, a project through which she revives the beautiful craftsmanship of Jordan artisans. Her latest collection is inspired by medieval ceramics, ottoman textiles and the work of the ancient Nabatean civilisation of Petra.
We have selected 4 pieces now available on our website and in our Marais shop. Pippa is donating all profits back into the Jordanian workshops.
1. Can you introduce Turquoise Mountain for our readers that may not be familiar with the project?
Turquoise Mountain is a foundation that came about through conversations and the passions of Prince Charles and the then president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai. They both understood that war destroys so much more then just lives and buildings but also the intangible cultural heritage of a community but also its quieter achievements like craft and architecture.
The first thing the newly formed charity did was to secure the regeneration of an ancient part of Kabul for posterity. An old part of the city that had been a caravansari, with beautiful earth architecture and carved and adorned wooden details. Instead of turning this slum into a museum, they restored the while are well over 100 buildings painstakingly, training the unemployed youth in the community about traditional architecture skills and restoration, as well as providing schools, clinics and electricity for the community. They then built a school of traditional craft, to pass on to the next generation the stories and skills of wood work, ceramics, calligraphy, miniature painting and jewellery.
I became involved in 2008 to work with the jewellers. Over the years we have created countless collections of jewellery inspired by local, Islamic, central Asian design, bringing in new generation of young to learn the skills and provide safe and sustainable employment, as well as pride and a sense of achievement in creating beautiful things and being internationally recognised for their work.
2. We received 4 pieces of jewellery from your latest collaboration with the NGO, can you tell us how this new project was born?
Again, Prince Charles and his believe that so much for our cultural identity is also entwined with the arts and craft - in order to have a sound and sure sense of you who you are and where you are from the material culture that surrounds us all is a part of our sense of self. The tiles, the motifs, the textiles are all a part of the world around us. If we are take this colourful world of shapes, skills, colours and stories away we are infinitely poorer. The Prince and the Jordanian Royal family felt the life of Syrian refugees of which there are tens of thousands in both camps and integrated in the country there should be a programme for Syrian and Levantine craft. The skills of the carpenters and jewellers should not be lost. A generation of children were growing up knowing nothing of their home country and its unique culture. Turquoise Mountain started to identify skilled artisans to teach and pass on the unique skills and styles and open markets to help keep the work alive.
3. Could you tell us more about master craftsman, Issa and Muufaqu, with whom you worked on this collection? What did you learn from each other?
Issa is Palestinian and from a family of goldsmiths Muufaqu is Jordanian with a Palestinian wife. They have been teaching mostly Syrian young women, but also other refugee communities, Iraqi and Yemeni silversmithing to enable them to have a skill and a potential business to be self-sufficient when they eventually go home. One of the Syrian women said this was the first time she had been happy since the war began, the team work, the pride and skills she is learning have given her new hope for life.
4. What was your main inspiration?
My inspiration for Jordan has been old Syrian, but also looking pre-Muslim at ancient gold work from Petra, and the region, also Roman, Ottoman and Persian influences which often used silver and gold together. I am working with artisans who are new to the skills and I am mindful to keep the work simple and achievable
5. You have been working with Turquoise Mountain for more than 10 years, how would you say this collaboration has shaped the way you work for your own brand?
It has instilled in me the importance of culture in us all, the importance of safe and sustainable jobs which is a luxury in so many vulnerable parts of the world, war, climate change and poverty are challenges the world faces but beauty, craft, creating are part of what gives us hope and sense in our crazy world.
6. Any future project with Turquoise Mountain that you would like to share with us?
I am still working with Jordan, Myanmar and Afghanistan and hope to create deeper and more markets for them to ensure the survival of these workshops, also to keep learning and I am always ready to join TM's next venture!