15min with Pippa Small

15min with Pippa Small

Jill Wolf opened her jewellery boutique in the heart of the Old Town of Geneva in 1999. Sumptuous drapes and Murano chandeliers decorate with taste this intimate boudoir that showcases world-famous designers… such as London based jeweller Pippa Small, who recently presented her collection.

Pippa Small is making a Big difference and has collaborated with Christina Kim from Dosa, Nicole Farhi and Tom Ford at Gucci before working 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.

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.”

Could you tell us a little bit more about your collection presented at Jill Wolf?
A few pieces of this collection come from Myanmar which is an ethical project I am involved with. The project is about incorporating and training young generation on how to work with gold by hand. The pieces are inspired by different designs of ethnic and religious groups in this diverse and fascinating country. We are using jewellery as a kind of celebration of Myanmar diversity.
A few pieces also come from Afghanistan where we work with artisans and where we employ and train local inhabitants. Some of the gold pieces come from a certified fair trade gold mine in Bolivia.
We just started a collection with Jordan working with different refugee groups, celebrating the country’s culture and heritage. 

Whilst jewellery making has always been a huge part of Myanmar’s society, people are increasingly favouring poor quality, machine-made imported designs and as a result, the jewellery industry is rapidly declining. As Myanmar itself is one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries, it was crucial to preserve the traditions of the artisans’ ancestors.

Over the last ten years, Pippa Small has made dozens of collections with the artisans, working in Silver gold vermeil using the beautiful and diverse array of Afghan gems from Panshir Emerald to Lapis lazuli from the ancient mines of Badakshan. The beauty and skills of Afghan traditional art and craft was nearly lost after decades of war but now it has evolved to have a contemporary feel and can sit alongside designs from all parts of the world.

How do you combine your human rights activities with your jewellery designs?
When I’m working somewhere for example let’s say in Afghanistan, I do a lot of research, from pre-historic times to textiles, ceramics, architecture and designs, from wall paintings to arts and I make sure the design aesthetics are actually based there.  The stones are all local, materials are local and such are the skills and therefore the aesthetics. I see no point in making a design that has no relation to this area.
And of course, it’s about sustainability as we work with a lot of women, providing them with an income in a safe environnement that they can feel proud about.  They want to be seen and heard throughout their work; jewellery making was always a man’s world so it’s interesting to see women designing what they want to wear. By doing so, we also intend to make an environmental impact.

What’s coming next?
Working with refugees in Jordan is quite new. It has been a year that we started and now, we’re releasing the first pieces; it takes time and trust to achieve making a piece of jewellery. When I started working in Afghanistan, people were so used to short term projects which would end abruptly with no follow-up. It took me a few years to show them that I was completely committed and to build relationships. 10 years later, we’re still working together and the business is growing. 

There are endless projects; just look at the tremendous skills in Myanmar and the great need for jobs. I want to see all these projects prosper and I don’t want to see any of them fail.

Pippa Small’s latest collection is available at Jill Wolf Jewels. You may visit the boutique from Tuesday to Friday (11am-6pm) or on Saturday (1-5pm).

Photographies © Pippa Small
Jill Wolf
Grand Rue 39, 1204 Genève