We are delighted to collaborate with Monsoon again. Founder Peter Simon started his business in Portobello and travelled to Kabul to purchase the famous Afghan coats that were so popular in London in the 1960s. We appreciate Monsoon's support of our work with the artisans of Afghanistan, particularly in these challenging days in Afghanistan.
[Monsoon] Tell us about what makes Portobello home to you. Have you got any secret gems of knowledge you can reveal about the area?
[Pippa Small] I have been rummaging and exploring around Portobello for years, even before I opened the shop and moved into the area. I love its rhythm, community and colour.
[Monsoon] You first started making jewellery as a little girl. How did it capture your imagination?
[Pippa Small] There is something so satisfying about finding a pebble. The way they speak to you through their shape, texture, colour, and energy – these were my childhood treasures. I loved their silent stories, the weight and feel of them and the memories associated with where I’d found them. There is something in knowing that they were a precious part of the earth formed over millennia.
My mother loved to travel, so my view of the world was opened at a young age. It inspired me to study anthropology. I loved learning about how other cultures and communities perceive the world. I was intrigued to learn how material culture is such a part of our sense of identity. The choice of materials, where, who, and how they’re made and worn is so interesting. We attach so much emotional value to our jewellery and its importance in our life.
[Monsoon] Tell us what it is about travel and the natural world that inspires your artistry.
[Pippa Small] I’ve always found travel so inspiring. I am endlessly curious about the world, how people live, and how their belief systems make sense of the world.
From the Andes of Bolivia to the deserts of the Middle East, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in so many remarkable places – with it, learning about the people who reside there.
I hear stories of lives, places, and relationships between the natural forms that inform us. The shapes we see in nature are mirrored in all our designs, the sense of harmony and balance is always inspired by what we see, and feel, in the natural world.
I love working with artisans from communities with ancient traditions and hand-making skills. Keeping traditions alive is important, not only for the beauty they offer the world, but also as a livelihood for artisans who need to rely on markets outside their own.
[Monsoon] Where to next on your travels and creative projects?
[Pippa Small] I’ve just returned from a trip to Palestine where I met with artisans making jewellery with Turquoise Mountain Jordan, which is expanding in the Levant. There is so much ancient history and exciting new potential – I can learn a lot in this complex region.
[Monsoon] You are recognised for your ethical business and charitable achievements. What is your proudest achievement?
[Pippa Small] I was very proud to be given an MBE by the Queen. It was such validation and helps to give weight to the importance of the ethical practices of jewellery making.
[Monsoon] Who are your heroes; the women who inspire you?
[Pippa Small] Greta Thunberg is my idol, many people are working on climate issues and awareness raising, but she has motivated and galvanised a generation like no one else.
[Monsoon] If you could do one thing/spread one message to make a change for the better in the world, what would it be?
[Pippa Small] I think consuming less and reusing more is vital. I often have clients come to the shop with old bits of family jewellery they no longer wear. We then try and redesign it so that it continues to be worn and loved. There are enough natural materials already out in the world that we don’t need to keep extracting more.