10 Wonderful Afghan Years

Pippa Small and Turquoise Mountain celebrate over ten years of collaboration. 

Turquoise Mountain supports young artisans, small businesses and refugees through training, mentoring and sales support to connect them to international markets. Artisans are provided with access to specialist equipment, workspaces and a team of business development experts. The artisanal businesses that Turquoise Mountain work with specialise in traditional crafts including jewellery, woodwork, ceramics, calligraphy, miniature painting, carpets and textiles.


"I had always longed to go to Afghanistan, fascinated by the vast skies and wild landscapes, proud people and complex history. In 2008, I had little idea that my life was going to change when a friend suggested I design a collection with the arts foundation Turquoise Mountain in Kabul. I rushed through Visa’s and invitation letters and set off filled with excitement and some trepidation as to how I would be received as an English woman designer in a country with complicated relations with both. As we flew over the rugged mountains with tiny villages tucked around green river banks I knew I was going to love it.

I stayed in the old 19th-century traditional fort where the charity was based at the time with earth walled courtyards and shady old mulberry trees. All worries as to how I would be received in the workshops were instantly dispelled when I walked in and was so warmly received by Javier Noori and his team.

We spent time discussing concepts and ideas and looking at stones and designs, but it was at the end of the long hot days that we would all sit on the old Persian carpets, drink tea and talk about life, about their fears and hopes and dreams as young afghan men, their families and how daily life was where every day they would leave their house for work unsure if they would ever return.  Innocent people caught up in a nightmare of violence and insecurity... it’s all they had ever known. I lost my heart to them.

Over the years I have seen the young boys grow and marry, the women graduate and join the team and seen the situation deteriorate in Kabul. But the jewellery keeps getting better and the very act of creating and making shows an optimism, a belief that life will get better." Pippa Small

  • 148 historic and community buildings have been restored or rebuilt.
  • Over 4,000 artisans and builders have been trained.
  • Over 130 children each year are provided free admission and education at the Turquoise Mountain Primary School in Murad Khani.
  • The Turquoise Mountain Institute is Afghanistan's premier crafts vocational training institution with schools of calligraphy & miniature paints, ceramics, jewellery & gem-cutting, and woodwork.
  • The 3-year diploma courses are accredited through the UK's City & Guilds and the Afghan Ministry of Education.
  • Of the 500 artisans who have graduated from the Institute, more than 80% have started work in craft businesses or have gone on to further study.
  • In 2016, Turquoise Mountain Myanmar completed the first heritage restoration project in Yangon's historic downtown district, at 501-491 Merchant Street, during which 250 people were trained in building and conservation work.
  • Turquoise Mountain has since been asked by the Government to lead the first major landmark regeneration project in the city: the Tourist Burma building.
  • Turquoise Mountain trains jewellers, weavers and other artisans to set the gold standard for the craft industry in the country and steer it along a more responsible path.
  • Turquoise Mountain set up a jewellery workshop which is selling five lines of the highest quality jewellery to be made in decades, designed in collaboration with Pippa Small.

Myanmar Goldsmiths