My City Series | Pippa Small

Pippa Small is a woman that does things effortlessly. Simply driven by the need to share the stories and craftsmanship of those she encounters in her travels. Pippa has crafted an entire brand based on her passion and purpose. Her ethical, sustainable, handcrafted jewellery sourcing her stones around the world from India to Afghanistan to Kabul. A decade ago, Pippa partnered with Prince Charles’ charity, Turquoise Mountain, to teach people in impoverished regions the art of jewellery making to help empower them create livelihoods. Meghan Markle among many others adore Pippa’s stunning designs and unique pieces.

“I believe the perfect piece of jewellery is a personal one. It’s a piece that is imbued with memory, association, pleasure, with a place perhaps, hopefully bringing emotive connections for future generations to come.” 

London based jeweller Pippa Small has been making jewellery since she was a child and was always finding pebbles, beads and shells to string on to her ever-growing collection of bracelets. Gathering collecting and creating jewellery was like a tactile diary of her existence, the pieces came to represent memories, emotions and people. As a child, she travelled widely with her family and became entranced with the cultures and people she encountered.

Pippa went on to study anthropology and also completed a Masters in Medical Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, by then her interests in human rights among minorities, indigenous peoples and tribal groups were already well cultivated which led her going on to work with grass roots local organisations in Borneo, Thailand and India, looking at ways of protecting indigenous lands, knowledge and biodiversity.

As her travels began to inspire her distinctive jewellery designs, Pippa soon gathered a following of admirers. She started collaborating with Christina Kim from Dosa, Nicole Farhi and Tom Ford at Gucci. She then went on to work with Bamford, helping to bring an ethical jewellery collection to the company. Pippa opened her first shop in 2007 in Notting Hill in London and soon after opened a shop in Santa Monica, California.

Pippa was named ambassador of the human rights organisation Survival International and awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2013 for ethical jewellery and charity work. She won Ethical Jeweller of the Year and the prestigious Walpole Corporate Social Responsibility award in 2016. Pippa was also named winner of the Green Sustainability Award by Town and Country magazine. She continues to venture further in exploring ways of making jewellery, reviving traditional skills and techniques in communities in Central and South America, Southern Africa, Asia and the middle East.

Pippa has been working with arts foundation Turquoise Mountain in Kabul, Afghanistan started by his Highness Prince Charles and Hamid Karzi to protect and promote traditional craft in this beautiful but war torn country for over 10 years.  In 2016 she started to work with Turquoise Mountain in Myanmar to revive traditional gold work and provide training and employment opportunities for the next generation. In 2018 Pippa visited Jordan and is now working on collections incorporating ancient motifs from the middle east with Jordanian goldsmiths and refugees from the troubled region on a training programme with Turquoise Mountain. Pippa has worked extensively with the goldsmiths and stone cutters of Rajasthan, inspired by the immense creativity of the artisans and the diverse flora and fauna and landscapes and is now working with the first certified Fair mined gold from Yani, Bolivia.

Pippa holds the firm conviction that the importance of safe and creative jobs, reinforcing a sense of cultural identity and tradition through jewellery, is hugely important. In so many parts of the world there are so few opportunities and a complex mix of the impacts of climate change and conflict that is forcing people from their homes. A job, and giving a sense of pride and accomplishment, provides vital alternatives.

  1. Born and Raised or Expat?

    Born in Montreal and brought up between northern Quebec, Spain and the west country in England

  2. What led you to becoming a Jewellery Designer? And, what steps did you take to get there?

    I have always loved and found comfort in stones and rocks but I fell in to jewellery by a circuitous route, I studied anthropology and did my masters in Medical anthropology, I went to do my thesis in Sawawak in Borneo about the effects on mental health of large scale development and loss of land for indigenous communities in the rainforest.  I then spent the next few years working with many grass roots organisations on the issues of Indigenous Human Rights. 

    I saw that many traditional communities were working on traditional craft and jewellery but not finding markets, they had the skills but I found that by collaborating with them to create designs drawing on the traditional yet with a more contemporary feel we could create new markets for their work. I have continued to work in India, Bolivia (with an ethical gold mine) in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Jordan with arts charity Turquoise Mountain, training and employing artisans and seeing heritage skills find new markets and reinforce a sense of identity and pride. 

  3. On your Day-to-Day routine?

    I travel every few weeks between Asia and South America as well as our shop in LA  and for shows in Europe and Japan. So the very notion of a daily routine is out the window!

    When I am in London I wake at 6am and make pancakes for my 6 year old twins Mac and Madu, I then take them to school after hunting for bits of uniform and homework from around the flat.  If the sun is shining I cycle down the Portobello road as the vegetable and antique stalls are being set up and the market life is unfolding.

    I will be in our shop on Westbourne Grove in Notting hill having meetings, chatting to clients and plotting adventures. I ride my lovely blue bike home buying fresh bread and vegetables from the organic vegetable stalls along the way. 

    My evenings are quiet spent with the twins and designing new collections. I seek inspiration at the many museums in London as well as researching through the antique markets and dealers in the west end of London.  I may go to a friends opening or dinners with old friends in the neighbourhood.

  4. What is your favourite brunch spot, and why?

    Ottolenghi on Ledbury road have exciting vegetarian food and delicious rose and pistachio scented cakes made on the premises 

  5. When you have guests, where in town do you like to take them for dinner?

    There is the Frontline club in Paddington where you may be lucky to catch a talk by frontline journalists or political and social commentators and a lovely dinner. Assaggi 39 chepstow place w2, is a find with delicious food on the 1st floor in a charming square, The Cow on Westbourne park road is cozy and full of local charm

6. How has your city grown and changed since you’ve known it? Which changes did you like best? Why?

The city has grown, is busier and more culturally diverse, with every language being spoken, every kind of wonderful food imaginable and that is wonderful!

7. What cool festivals, if any, happen in your city?

The Nottinghill carnival is a celebration of our neighbourhood 

8. Where do you go to escape? How does this space bring you peace?

I spent some of my childhood in the English countryside and as often as I can go and stay with friends and family in the rolling green fields of the Cotswolds, going for walks and making hearty meals. When I am in India the twins and I often leave Jaipur and spend weekends in the countryside, often in the Thar desert riding Marwari horses and staying in small villages and old Palaces and enjoying ‘old’ India a slower quieter rural vision. 

9. What’s a local brand in your area that we must know about?

Penelope Chilvers makes beautiful hand made Spanish riding boots and funky espadrilles and has a shop around the corner on Ledbury road.

10. Where and when is your next adventure?

I started working in Jordan this year on a designing and training project with the Turquoise Mountain Foundation working with refugees from all over the region. it is a fascinating area with so many layers of history and cultures to explore. 

11. Does Travel breed creativity?

I think travel is massively inspiring – I find my senses awaken when I am traveling and I feel, see and hear more acutely and I find it fascinating to see how others live their lives and their relationship to their environment and different cultures. Creativity is about exploring, curiosity and questioning and travel is too .. 

12. As for connecting the mind, body and soul, what do you do to promote self-love?

Yoga and meditation.

13. Who is one famous figure throughout history that has particularly brought you inspiration, and why?

Greta Thunburg is a true global inspiration, to both young and old, her clear thinking and language on climate change is waking the world to our plight 

14. Are there any philanthropic programmes or projects that you’re passionate about or would like to shed some light on?

I am an Ambassador to the Human rights Charity Survival International – they campaign to save the land of Tribal and indigenous peoples. They are working on a particular  campaign to protect the land of uncontacted peoples in the Amazon which I feel very passionately is vital – not only are they protectors of the last frontiers of wild untouched lands but also they hold the skills and knowledge of how to truly live a free and independent life in their environment. 

15. Entrepreneurs, Tastemakers and Trailblazers, where do people like you hangout in your city?

The Conduit Club is a new members club in the west end where young social entrepreneurs meet, hold talks, network and collaborate. Focusing on social and environmental entrepreneurs it is a stimulating environment. 

16. What is the importance of global connection to you?

I work all over the world and find many common problems for people and also many common joys – from conflict areas like Afghanistan to the rural Andes from the deserts of Jordan to the steamy plains of Myanmar – there are struggles with climate change, with lack of jobs and opportunities for the young, but also there is love, there are weddings and new births and always regardless of everything there is laughter …

17. Give a shout-out to someone in your city that is doing groundbreaking things, and what is it that makes them a trailblazer?

Dr Leyla Hussain is a Psychotherapist and lecturer, activist on FGM she also modelled for us on our last jewellery campaign! Also, Extinction Rebellion which is part of global movement to raise awareness about Climate change 

18. Advice for budding entrepreneurs?

To believe in yourself, to find your passion and follow it - we live in a time where you can forge your own path more easily than ever, try to stay true to yourself. Find a good accountant!

19. We’re living in a world where our attention to new innovation doesn’t seem to have longevity, how do you find your inspiration to make new waves with long-term prosperity?

Finding your authentic voice and stay with what you believe, don’t be swayed by trend and short- term fashion 

20. Share a playlist that embodies your work. What about this particular music brings you inspiration?

I listen to a lot of world music – a fusion of Arabic Rai and latin and funky blues ..