Out of the Clouds
December 9, 2022, Anne V Muhlethaler

S3:E04 Pippa Small

on the luxury of made by hand, clean gold and being in love with the world

Responsible jeweller Pippa Small

Pippa Small is a responsible jeweller based in London’s Westbourne Grove and she is considered to be one of the most inspirational leaders in the jewellery industry. Awarded an MBE by Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II in 2013, named ambassador of the human rights organisation Survival International and Winner of both the Ethical Jeweller of the Year and the Corporate Social Responsibility awards in 2016, and was also winner of the Green Sustainability Award by Town and Country magazine.

In this interview, Pippa tells Anne how she fell in love with travel as a young child, following her widowed mother who took her children to exotic places. She became attracted to stones very early on, and she explains how through stones, she keeps a connection to the places and people that each are linked to, and also finds a sense of protection from them.

Pippa shares how she went from studying medical anthropology to working with indigenous communities in South-East Asia before starting to develop her own jewellery. She began organically making her own pieces but she also gained her credentials working at Gucci under Tom Ford as a consultant designer in 2003. Even though, in her own words, her organic free flow jewellery felt at odds with the graphic and sexy feel of the Gucci house at the time, she was recruited and briefed to go to India and design whatever she thought could work: colour, uneven shapes and a very different new aesthetic for their jewellery. This financially enabled her to start her first project working with the San bushmen in Botswana, combining her love of travel, working with indigenous communities and jewellery. 

Anne and Pippa discuss the vital importance of adornment and jewellery, going back to the caves of Lascaux, the luxury that is ‘made by hand’ but also the great importance of learning to ‘make’ or transmitting tradition in the communities that Pippa has been working with, from Bolivia to India, to Jordan, Myanmar and Colombia. With a brand new collection out — made in Colombia from ethically sourced gold called ‘Together Forever’ — Pippa and Anne talk about the difficulty of not just sourcing clean gold, but motivating and educating consumers to talk about it. 

The designer finishes the interview by sharing her love of books, and how moved she is by the world. Happy listening! 

Selected links from episode

You can find Pippa at PippaSmall.com

On Instagram @PippaSmallJewellery

On Pinterest PippaSmallPin

On Facebook Pippa Small Jewellery

On Twitter @PippaSmall

The cave of Lascaux

The San bushmen in Botswana

The Kuna Indians

The article in the Independent where Pippa discovered the environmental cost of producing a single gold band

The Turquoise Mountain Foundation

The Financial Times article on Pippa

The song ‘ What a wonderful world’ by Louis Armstrong

The full playlist from Out of the Clouds

The book ‘The Other Side of Eden‘ by anthropologist Hugh Brody

An image from Pippa’s campaign for her new collection, Together Forever, handmade from clean gold in Colombia

Full episode transcript

Anne Muhlethaler (00:00:05):

Hi. Hello, bonjour and Namaste. This is Out of The Clouds, a podcast at the crossroads between business and mindfulness. And I’m your host Anne Muhlethaler.


Today my guest is a woman that I greatly admire, London based ethical jeweler. Pippa Small. Pippa is considered to be one of the most inspirational leaders in the jewelry industry. She was even awarded an MBE by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2013, named an ambassador of the Human Rights organisation, Survival International. And she won multiple awards and other prizes for her work in both corporate social responsibility and sustainability. Pippa has been making jewellery since she was a child. She’s been gathering stones and mementos of her travels, souvenirs that represent the people or the places that she loved. And I’ve been working with Pippa and her team for a few months now. And in my first ever workshop with her, our conversation left me wanting to hear more. So getting her on the podcast was a dream come true. Pippa was interested in storytelling in documentary making in her teens.


But instead she went into anthropology and gained a master’s in medical anthropology. She has a deep interest in human rights and started working with indigenous peoples and tribal groups first in Southeast Asia, supporting their communities. And that is how she got started in her work with ethical jewelry. She later gained her credentials working at Gucci under Tom Ford as a consultant designer in 2003. Even though she told me that her organic jewelry felt perhaps at odds with the graphic and sexy feel of the Gucci House at the time, she was briefed to go to India and design whatever she thought could work. She’s very proud of having worked with Tom Ford and his team in credits them for teaching her how to put collections together and giving her the financial stability to do her first project. Working with the San Bushman in Botswana. Ever since reading a landmark article in the UK’s Independent in 2006, Pippa has been incredibly keen to find clean gold, which means sourced ethically and sustainably. And so we discuss how she has come across an old tradition and launched a new collection called Together Forever, which was indeed sourced and handmade ethically in Colombia. A very exciting project indeed. But let me stop here. I shouldn’t be telling you the whole story. It’s better to listen to Pippa herself talk about this. You can tell probably that I’m very excited to bring in this interview. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. Happy listening, but thank you so much for being here. Welcome to Outta the Clouds.

Pippa Small (00:03:01):

Thank you, Anne. Very nice to be here.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:03:03):

So first to tell me where am I finding you today?

Pippa Small (00:03:07):

I am back in London. Just come back from a long month long trip and happy to be back in this slightly wintery London <laugh>,

Anne Muhlethaler (00:03:15):

I imagine.

Pippa Small (00:03:16):


Anne Muhlethaler (00:03:18):

So as you may have heard before, what I like to do when I invite a guest on the podcast is first to let them share their story sort of very freely, because I like to talk about who we are before talking about what we do. And so this is obviously a very wide open invitation for you to tell us your story. So Pippa, would you indulge me?

Pippa Small (00:03:42):

It’s such a tricky one. I was thinking about how do you start your story? Like where does it begin? Does it go back generations or do we sort of somehow start it somewhere where things started to make sense? I suppose my story starts really with my mother because she was such an enormous influence on me. And as she was a widow and I grew up with her and, and my father passed away when I was young, yet she was kind of my, my main inspiration in life. And I was very lucky because she was a woman who was immensely curious about life and was happy to be independent and no longer with a husband <laugh>. And so she, she sort of started to do in her, I guess middle age, she started to do what she wanted to do rather than what the men in her life wanted to do.


So what she wanted to do was travel. And I have to say, it was an immensely influential period where from five years old onward, I remember being taken to Morocco. I remember going to East Africa where we had family Southeast Asia. And it was just something that I think had such an enormous influence, even at an age where we don’t remember a huge amount. But I think subconsciously I retained a sense of wonderment, if you like, about the way other people live their lives, other people in different environments and different spaces in the world, how they, their livings, what their philosophies, their religions, how the stories made sense. I, I was just kind of always intrigued and always being sort of pulled back from disappearing onto the back of a cart, going off to a village in the, in the Atlas Mountains or convinced that I should kind of go off to this village in Bali to meet this nice family.


And I was, I was kind of like, whew, <laugh> and heading off. But it, I think I’ve just had a tremendous interest, like a curiosity and an interest and perhaps having a sense that in the world I was growing up in, in the West wasn’t providing all the, the full story, all the answers, all the kind of lines, the way we make sense of the world. I was, I was just curious to see how other people did it. And I think that was the start of my story was interest, which led me to study anthropology, which seemed to me to kind of be exactly what you know, I was looking for, was sort of all the things I found interesting in an actual academic subject. So that was great. And while studying anthropology, I became very, very interested in human rights and human rights, very particularly to do with tribal indigenous communities, small scale, traditional peoples who were and are still very vulnerable.


But peoples who seemed to me, the more time I spent with them had taken on the battle, which now in hindsight, from where we are today with climate change, when I look back at that sort of almost 30 years ago, 25, 30 years ago, what they were doing was, was fighting that fight for all of us. It was to do with environment, it was to do with biodiversity about cultural rights, women’s rights, rights to, to language, and all those fights that were up against kind of large scale development against governments against kind of big business. And I just thought what they were doing was incredible. They were so brave and so determined, and they were fighting the right fight. So that was where my conscious existence started really, that that moment when I felt, ah, this is something, this is something I’m living for <laugh>,

Anne Muhlethaler (00:07:03):

I love that term, my conscious existence

Pippa Small (00:07:05):

Yeah, yeah.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:07:07):

That’s fascinating. But if I’m correct, you studied medical anthropology?

Pippa Small (00:07:12):

I did. I went on to do a master’s in medical anthropology, which was a kind of strange choice, but I was interested in mental illness part through, you know, things going on within my own family. And I was curious to see how that played out in other cultures. How did other communities and peoples and places see mental illness? How was it seemed to be caused? How was it seemed to be cured? How was it dealt with? And that led me to research in soak to understand how other cultures, which at the time was immensely disturbing because it was always seen as even within hospitals, and it was seen as being caused by spirits. And I mean, in one sense that that kind of removes responsibility from the individual because it was something from the outside being imposed on someone. But it did often lead to people with severe mental illnesses being pretty much locked up in people’s houses. And there was a great deal of shame around it. But there were other instances where I would say, you know, the rituals that were involved in appeasing a spirit that had been offended, <laugh>, which brought the whole community together, which brought families together. And that was a really cathartic thing as well. So it had many, many different elements to it.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:08:23):

And so how did this lead you <laugh> to becoming a jeweler?

Pippa Small (00:08:29):

<laugh>? Very good question. <laugh>, I don’t know. But I, what I do know is that even as a child, I was always making jeweler and I was always fascinated by Sterns and always kind of slipping rings off the fingers of friends and family, just to study them more. And I think I was just hugely drawn to stones. I found them really comforting. I don’t know, I don’t really have another word for it, but it was sort of the sense that rocks and stones and gems, and I think I grouped them all together, whether it’s um, you know, a flashing diamond or a river pebble is this sure stones held within them. And even as a child, I think I was kind of aware of this, held within them and essence of the earth. They were created deep in the kind of depths of our planet through a combination of extraordinary elements of heat and cold, uh, through chemical reactions.


Yeah, as much an, an extraordinary miracle of life as a child or a human. But the creation of gems is the same. And, and they’ve kind of been formed and shaped by sand and water. And I just found them the stillness, the solidness felt like these stones were like mothers. They were like these very tolerant patient <laugh>, understanding bits of our, and that has been with me always. So an answer to the question, I was fascinated by steads. And when I would spend time with communities, I would find that, of course, people wore everyone in every community, men, women, children wore jewelry. And it was part of their sense of identity. It was part of their protective or religious beliefs. It had many different meanings, but I just found it was always there. So I, I think when I was in my early to mid twenties, quite often in these areas where I was working, people would ask me to, would I take some beaded work or something back to London?


Could I sell it? You know, was it possible that we, we could sort of generate a, a business and things and I’d, I would try, but eventually I realized what was sort of needed was a kind of creative bridge like intervention where <laugh>, if I were to sit with these, you know, talented makers, these people who had the resources, who had the skills and the knowledge, but work with them a little bit on, on creating something that would suit the market, which is, you know, <laugh> the other side where the money is to start working with people like the Sun Bushman in Botswana, where instead of making something that would be perhaps salted tourists from the side of the road, but to make something that was better and stronger and more carefully made and more thoughtfully made, rather than it being something that was very temporary and it was a sort of small souvenir that would probably not last very long.


And it was, let’s make something that’s really beautiful that we’re really proud of, that we’ll sell for more money. And it was just sort of starting to understand that if we could create things that had an essence of the place where it was from, if it had a feeling of, of the landscape and the people and the, the sounds and the wildlife and everything that was part of that place, but it could equally be universal. It wasn’t so planted in that, let’s say, ethnic aesthetic, that it couldn’t be bought by someone in Tokyo or New York or London who just felt, I love this. You know, I dunno why it just was kind of trying to blur the lines, but keep their voice and their hand in it. That was the important part to keep them there, but make it universal enough that we just love it because it’s a beautiful piece. And then you have a story behind, and then you have a maker behind and all that part of it. But you gotta feel all that rather than intrinsically say it, if that makes sense,

Anne Muhlethaler (00:12:16):

<laugh>. It does. I, yeah, it does. And, and as you’re describing this, I, this brings images to my mind, you know, that I, I’m traveling with your words and remembering where I’ve been, where, you know, you buy trinkets and, and I remember the places where we bought something that was a bit more than a trinket. Yeah. Something that had a little bit more care as you’re describing, and something that could be worn much later. Yeah. And right now I’m thinking of a place that I was Morocco with my parents when I was 14, or Yes, I understand. And it makes a lot of sense. So you’re in your early twenties, you’re very curious, you’re trying to find answers about the world. You’re full of ideas about why you want to work with, with these makers and, and these communities. You’re inspired by them and, and you have a sense of, of passion, let’s say for stones as Dallas man had as one <laugh> go from the medical anthropology masters into actually launching a business in fine jewelry.

Pippa Small (00:13:18):

I think what I find interesting today is that, you know, quite often through work and things, I meet young women or men who have very much mapped out, they kind of come and say, I’m gonna start a brand and in two years I’m gonna work with you for a year. I’m gonna learn this. I’m gonna go and do that, and then I’m gonna understand how this works and then I’m going to start my brand. And I’m most fascinated because the word brand when I was young, wasn’t really a word. And if it was a word, had associations with things that I was thinking, that’s not what I’m about. I don’t know what that

Anne Muhlethaler (00:13:47):

Sure, yeah. It’s funny you’d say that cuz if you tell me about brand, I would think Coca-Cola Yeah, it’s, that’s a brand.

Pippa Small (00:13:54):

Exactly. It was not something that I, I warmed towards or, so I had no idea what I was doing <laugh>. And when I finished this masters, I thought, well, what I did actually do is I worked for a lot of NGOs, uh, non-governmental organizations in different parts of Asia actually for a while. But found that even among the indigenous people I was working with who were kind of human rights act activists and things that they would always be really curious about the jewelry I wore. And although I was really ashamed because I thought what you are doing is so important, you know, their fights were so huge and so noble. And I thought, you know, making things isn’t, you know, that’s just kind of embarrassingly <laugh> about pretty things. And that’s not something we are kind of aspiring to here. But they were really curious about it.


They was like, why do you make these, how do you make these, oh, my uncle makes these, or my auntie does bead. And you know, it was be sort of a point that they were interested in. So I kind of saw that, you know, we had higher loftier things going on, but actually the making of things, things for everybody was still a really relevant part of life. It wasn’t something relegated to kind of artists in the community and the rest of the people did other things. It was like everybody did things. In fact, it would be quite the opposite. It was sort of, you know, people made things, but they were also doing other, you know, it’s, everyone makes things. It’s not, you’re a jeweler, you’re a farmer and a mother and an, and you’re a jeweler. It’s just what you do in the evening.


So I think slowly I was starting to see that maybe this love of jewelry and adornment and this fascination with things and this material culture, which does have its importance as for us as people, as humans, that maybe it wasn’t an embarrassing thing, it’s the cringeworthy thing. Maybe it’s something I should explore more. So I think I just started from home. I got a, a dental drill, which is great, a pendry <laugh> for making holes and stones and shelves. And I spent hours in my flat drilling holes, a old tumbling machine to kind of get stones softened. And I just started making my own jewelry. And I would spend hours of, you know, joyful contemplation and concentration, thrilling hel, I don’t know, holes and shells and making massive kind of, I just found it really a sort of peaceful thing to be doing while I tried to figure out what I should do with my life.


And it just in the way that things organically can happen sometimes when you’re on the right track, you know, someone would say, I love your bracelets, can you make me one? And I’d go in a shop and they’d say, will we’d love to stock these bracelets? Can you bring more? And I, in a way of have absolutely no idea how to price things, how to create margins, how to repeat things, how, you know, it was just kind of, I found this stone, but I only have one, but maybe I just somehow muddled through. And a woman came and said, I’ll be your agent and I’ll take you to Paris. And I went to premier class in Paris <laugh> with a collection of rocks and crystals and stones that were kind of massive and I’d been happily drilling. So there were big colors of rough aquamarines and crystals.


And it was something at the time, over whenever, this is like over 25 years ago, that people weren’t really making jewelry like that so much. And it was seen as being quite new and exciting. And I was picked up right away by like Barneys in New York and Linda Dresner, and I had no idea what I was doing. And they were remarkable when I think now how these buyers were so patient <laugh> that when they’d kind of say, how much is this piece? And I would look at them really blankly and sort of no idea. I mean, it cost me, this is,

Anne Muhlethaler (00:17:16):

that’s hilarious. …

Pippa Small (00:17:16):

…I have zero idea. So it took a lot of lessons to slowly put together, helped a lot by a wonderful young intern who came to work with me and helped sort of line things up and, and slowly, slowly organically and very unintentionally a kind of little bumpy business was born in the kitchen in my home and in the living room where I’d have clients come and look at jewelry. And yeah, it was not something I planned to do. I was not ever thinking I would start a business or a brand or anything else. It was just, just literally something I could avoid and thought I would do until I find something I’m supposed to be doing. So it was, yes, that was a funny old start,

Anne Muhlethaler (00:17:57):

<laugh>. Oh, that’s in, that’s interesting. So you thought that’s, I’m gonna do that until I find what I’m supposed to be doing. Yeah.

Pippa Small (00:18:03):

And that, that thing that I didn’t think I would be end up doing, just as you know, when you’re on that path that is kind of right for you, the doors open and every time you try and step up the path, you’re kind of veered back on it. So even if I would go off and work for three months on a project in, in the Kalahari or somewhere else, I’d come back and there would be shop saying we’d like some more, or you know, just kind of like, okay, okay. And then it, I remember finally saying, all right, this is this. I’ll do this <laugh>. I think when I realized that it, it’s something that I could create and work with these gems and stones that I loved, that I could continue working with communities and with people’s and, and have that time and space to really understand how their life, how their world, what their challenges were, what the political history and contemporary situation was. If I really could have that time with people whilst making jewelry with them, whilst helping to grow market for them and provide livelihoods and incomes through jobs in making jewelry, then yeah, this’ll, this’ll be great <laugh>. This’ll work. So…

Anne Muhlethaler (00:19:15):

And here you are.

Pippa Small (00:19:16):

And here I am, a few weeks later, <laugh>.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:19:20):

Now thank you so much for sharing all of that. It’s such a fascinating journey. I wanted to ask you, how many pieces of jewelry are you wearing at the moment?

Pippa Small (00:19:30):


Anne Muhlethaler (00:19:31):

I’ll tell, I’ll tell you why. So I’m friends with Jennifer Fisher, who’s a jeweler based in New York. And a few years ago we were having drinks on the rooftop of Soho House in New York and she was wearing quite a lot of jewelry, or I thought she was until I met you. And then we joked that, you know, whenever she goes through the TSA to take a flight, she’s asked to take her jewelry off and she wanted to prove she could take it all off under a minute. So we actually just, you know, timed her. It was very impressive to see her sort of offload <laugh> everything she was wearing. I’m guessing it takes you more than a minute.

Pippa Small (00:20:06):

It’s actually impossible. I mean, I have this shell on that I have made by the Naga people of Northeast India and I’ve heard that on since I was about 22, 23. And I cannot get it off. I have things that are noted on that would need very sharp scissors to get them off and just, it’s kind of, when I do get to airports, I have to say that I’m pretty much know now where I’m safe and where I’m not. Large airports are great. They can see through everything and they know you’re fine. And smaller airports where they don’t have quite the same equipment or they have a kind of grudge <laugh> against annoying people like me, then you know, we do have a, a sort of long battle of wills. Like I explain, I can’t take it off. And they say, I, I don’t care. Take it off. And then I say, well, could you get me some scissors? And they’re like staring at me like, really <laugh>. Anyway, it becomes a sort of really unpleasant thing to stand behind for a start or have to win <laugh>.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:20:58):

Yeah, I would, I would not want to be behind you. That’s, that’s for sure. But still, I, I read a lovely, a lovely introduction about you and your work on the website of one of retailers called Whitebird. And actually this is how I discovered that you already had jewelry from your rest of your elbow by the time you were a teenager.

Pippa Small (00:21:21):

Did. I did. It started young. I was a very, very, I mean, I was shy from forever. I found it really, I was, I had no confidence. I found speaking to strangers, very difficult <laugh>. And I think what I did is like some sort of animal I started to, I’m trying to think of those, like those octopus that kind of camouflaged themselves by sticking shells all over them. That’s probably the closest I can relate it to. I think I started to gather these things that to me were, were all memories. Each bead, I could tell you where it came from, how I found it, who gave it to me or where I was or why that place was special or I was happy in that place, or this one came from this, I don’t know, river in a wood that was so beautiful. Or I just, all of these things had stories to me and that’s why I would call them a kind of like a braille diary.


I could feel, you know, in times when I was a little nervous I could feel each stone and think, yes, I know where that is. And it sort of was reassuring. But I think it was also just a way of deflecting. Although of course when I look at it now, it’s like it’s hardly deflecting attention because I was like, I’m mathai with, you know, well as I’m it, it didn’t deflect attention, but it did allow me to feel like I didn’t have to try and explain who I was. It’s like, this is who I am and forget me. It’s like I’m just these things and don’t question further or don’t come closer or that’s it. So I think it was a way of saying, I do exist, but don’t just look at them <laugh>. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, look at that and don’t, don’t go on any further.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:22:54):

Interesting. When you started to explain it and you talked about the stones, the word that came to my mind was that they’re protective. Yes. It, it almost feels, not that I know the technical terms for this, but like the arm protections that you would imagine certain warriors would have and and chest as well.

Pippa Small (00:23:16):

Absolutely. I think that’s very true. I mean these are vulnerable areas are Ritz and, and as you say, there’s chest near the heart. Mm-hmm. I think there is some primal area where you do feel safer to be covered. Mm-hmm.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:23:28):

What’s your earliest memory of, of adorning yourself?

Pippa Small (00:23:35):

Hmm. I think it was probably invading my mother’s. I luckily my mother was, I was thinking of her as being very cowboy. She was, was born in New York, but she grew up a lot part of her child who was in Nevada and she was not into jewelry <laugh> not into things, not into kind of all those sort of status symbols of gems. And then she was just, yeah, her style was quite elegant but simple. And she had a, a jewelry pouch that must have been her mother’s or grandmothers or bits that she’d never looked at or touched. And I think I recall finding, you know, broken necklaces and beads and things and started stringing them and things like, you know, an old key ring would be added on or buttons from a shirt would be added on. So I’d create these long sort of, yeah, these sort of long collection of objects that all had meaning for me. And then they’d be twined around <laugh> so they would look quite odd, I’m sure <laugh>. But yeah, they were just all things that were linked to emotions in a physical form. I guess that’s all they, they were, they brought closer to that grandmother or my father’s shirt button or whatever it was. I just symbolized.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:24:50):

Hmm. I’m so glad you said that cuz again, you’re making me reflect on my own experience and I realized my earliest memories of looking at jewelry. My mom was quite into jewelry or rather my dad was quite happy to buy her some <laugh> lucky her and she wore it well. But I think that the pieces that I was the most intrigued by were actually things that had to do with my great-grandmother, who I was lucky enough to, to know she was alive until I turned 16. And she was very fabulous. But it’s true that anything that touched that relationship between the two of them was suddenly Yeah. It’s much more precious. Yeah. Much more special to me.

Pippa Small (00:25:31):

Irreplaceable. Yeah. Yeah.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:25:33):

Now, one of the reasons why I wanted to go in this direction is in a conversation that we had earlier this year. I think you had just recently gone to visit the, the grotto of Lascaux in France mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which is an ancient site that, that holds so much about history that we did not understand until, until this cave were discovered. And you offered to me some really interesting thoughts around the importance of adornment and jewelry for human beings since the earliest time of our history. Would you mind sharing some of these with our listeners?

Pippa Small (00:26:12):

Yeah, I mean, I think the fact that sort of from early Paleolithic times, pretty much the first two objects that have been found, one was a needle so to sew, which is fantastic, but the other was beads. And this idea whether it was a kind of horn, an antler, a bone or whatever, that had a perforation that would’ve taken a long time to get that, you know, without metal to get the hole into this material would’ve been worn. I think it’s fascinating because you’d think things, number one would be functional. I mean, that’s what, you know, survival was based on warmth and food and shelter. And so you’d think anything that would be made would be based around that. But the fact that they would also take time to create something to be worn shows how deeply important it was to be protected. Whether it was, you know, wearing a tooth that perhaps brought you the strength of the bear or the cave lion or whether it was part of an antler that brought you the, the kind of qualities that a wild goat might have, or it, I think it’s just fascinating that from the earliest times we had this need to protect ourselves with these natural elements around us and taking by wearing it, taking some of the strength and, and the qualities of that animal or rock or whatever it happens to be, perhaps from the earth.


That was extraordinary because it could have taken months and months to make a hole or to polish a stone or without the sort of tools and equipment that obviously we have now, it would’ve, it would’ve been a huge thing and a thing of such value, but those were found. So it’s, I think that’s an amazing question. It just tells us how vitally important it’s to us as humans.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:27:55):

Interesting. Yeah. Vitally important. So that’s a really neat segue, <laugh>, thank you. Because at present you are working with different communities of artisans in various countries in the world. And so tell me where, I’m all <laugh>, you’re working with artisans in Myanmar? Yeah. In Jaipur, India. Yeah. As well as Afghanistan. Yeah. And you’ve worked with people in Bolivia, in Botswana. So how do you come to choose either the country or the community of artisans that you work with?

Pippa Small (00:28:34):

Well, I think over the last 20 years I’ve worked, gosh, I’ve worked from with the Batwa who, the pig music of Rwanda. I’ve worked with the Sun Bushman in Botswana, South Africa. I’ve worked on recycling projects, uh, in Kenya, in Cairo. And I’ve worked in Central American Panama and with the Kuna Indians, with the Mapuche Indians in Chile, as well as in Asia with, with refugees in Jordan, Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi, and Afghanistan as well as Colombia. So <laugh> overall, I would say I’ve either been drawn like the Mapuche, the Kuna Indians, where they have a very strong style of jewelry that is very political. It’s very much about their sense of identity, their sense of heritage and culture. And it’s hugely expressed through the wearing of their jewelry. It’s like a flag, it’s like a kind of a statement that they are proud of their heritage and culture and that it’s still alive.


And, and I was really interested in how, like with the Kuna, how they had kind of, I suppose I was drawn to them because I thought, how have these people extraordinary people remain so strong on their traditions and their culture, and yet they’re also in parliament, they’re lawyers, doctors, you know, their self-determination was very strong. And I was just interested in who are these people? So I went to, through friends at the un I went to meet some Kuna activists in Panama City. And through that went to the islands to start working, which was absolutely fascinating because I got there and the women were all wearing gold, like massive amounts of gold, gold, nose rings, gold earrings, gold chess plates. And I arrived with a lot of stones as well, which they were not remotely interested in, but the goldens, how many grams, what kind of gold is it?


Did your husband buy it for you? You know, where did you get it? And that are fascinated by gold. And gold was seen as a very auspicious and purifying material. So even the gold nose ring was very important because you’d breathe through the gold and that was seen as purifying the body. And so it was a kind of combination of being interested in a people’s, how they were kind of continuing their fight and how interesting it was that the jewelry was such a part of that, but we’re also losing markets. They didn’t have necessarily enough work to keep them practicing and, and to pass those skills on. And, and the stories of the jewelry too, because each, each piece of jewelry would have a, a meaning it wasn’t just a design, it was a design based on, on a story from a mythology or on a hero or a, it was all kind of linked to the culture.


So I was just really interested in that. And that, that was quite a few projects. Others, people would come to me because they’d heard that’s the sort of thing I was interested in doing. Or through different charities like Turquoise Mountain, who I’ve worked with for nearly 15 years now. And so it’s, it was kind of various different ways that I would find places, but generally it would be kind of sparked by a need to kind of grow their markets for them and an interest in what they were doing on my side. And drawn to the aesthetic too. I think it would, I mean, not that there’s generally I could say I don’t like, but you know, I’d I’d say that’s beautiful tradition. I, I would love to know more and how can we work together and so forth.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:31:47):

Thank you so much. I was very curious about that because your path is so incredibly unique compared to other joys. I know, and I know a few <laugh>, but I was wondering, it, to me, it sounds like you have a mission with, with this company, with the jewelry you make, with the brand that you <laugh> accidentally built. So what is your mission?

Pippa Small (00:32:15):

That’s a good question. I think our mission is to create beautiful jewelry that is rooted in, in a kind of, well, several things. One is to do with environmental impact. So when we are working in different places to ensure where possible we’re using recycled gold, we’re using certified fair Mind or Fair Trade gold, or in the case of our new Colombian project, Han Pan Gold is to know where we’re sourcing our gems where possible, and I say where possible because I don’t have access to all gems that we use. I don’t know about a lot of them, but where we do know, I’m, I’m happy if I’ve been myself to the mines and so forth. So I think there’s a kind of environmental area to ensure that we’re working with where possible clean minds that we’re happy with the standards and the conditions and so forth.


And then it’s to do with community, it’s to do with women and community and how tradition and heritage and a sense of identity is all linked through these material cultures and how important it is to provide continuation for them for these unique skills and traditions that come from, from different parts of the world. But also to provide jobs. Bottom line is to ensure that people have livelihoods, because many places we work have long histories of conflict or climate change is a huge one now. And to know that, you know, people can safely be in a sustainable job that will allow them to feed their families, that maybe their children will join already in some workshops in Afghanistan. I’ve seen, you know, children of the artisan starting to work now and it’s a, a fast cycle, but it’s really important to see that people have a livelihood and something that’s created, something that they’re proud of.


And in a lot of countries to work with your hands is, doesn’t have the same sort of sense of respect that we have for it. You know, it could be seen as something that’s, that’s kind of a dirty job because you’re using your hands, you’re working with machine, you know, it’s, it’s not seen as a very prestigious job, but to kind of also be part of turning that round into how proud you should be that you can create something, something out of nothing. You know, to be that magician that can take a sheet of metal and create a jewel that’s, that’s going to outlive them, that’s gonna be around for hopefully centuries, but something that’s beautiful and adored and treasured as we treasure our jewelry. That’s a kind of huge thing. It’s, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:34:38):

Hmm. One of the things that I want to tell our listeners is that I had the pleasure to work with a number of people in your team, and I understand in the way that you spoke to me early on and how you’re speaking now that you travel to all these places, you actually spend most of your time actually on the ground working with people with artisans. And so first I wanna share that it was hugely moving to see how motivated your team is because they feel the same sense of mission. They know that the work that they do touches other people. And also because you have such a strong connection to all of the jewelers on the ground. I will forever feel a extensive connection myself to Mohammed in Afghanistan, <laugh>, after our workshop. It’s really wonderful to see an entire organization be so imbued with purpose, but some of the places that you go to are indeed not easy places. Mm. And so you recently returned from a trip in, in Afghanistan. Well, and before that Jaipur though, I’ve been there, and I wouldn’t say Jaipur is, is not dangerous, it’s quite magical really. But some of these places are considered widely considered to be dangerous places, especially for a woman traveling on her own. So how do you do that?

Pippa Small (00:36:02):

I started traveling on my own when I was in my early twenties. And I, I must say it’s, there’s something, when I was younger, I, I preferred traveling on my own because I felt like if I were to take a friend, you’re bringing your world with you. If I were to take, I don’t know, sort of, some people travel with, with music or with things from home that kind of bring home with them or a candle or, you know, it sort of brings home with them. And I was, I was very keen on going somewhere and having a full experience of, you know, being utterly kind of raw to that experience. And I think my first trip on my own was to Guatemala and it was a wonderful adventure and I loved it. But I think it, it gave so much when you are on your own and you are, you know, as, as people, we reach out to each other and you talk to old ladies and hear about what had happened, you know, during the eighties in Guatemala, what terrible things had happened.


Maybe because you’re on your own, you’re seen as perhaps vulnerable too. So people welcome you more. And I, I’ve just always found it incredibly fulfilling and touch wood, I’ve never <laugh> had a bad experience, but somewhere like Afghanistan, I think particularly this trip, given that there’s been a, a change in the country in the last year, I was very nervous. <laugh>, I have to confess, I have two young children and I think I hadn’t really considered before that perhaps it was an irresponsible thing to do, to go somewhere that could be dangerous as a mother. But I think the moment I arrived, started and met our partners and friends there and got into the workshop and started, I, I felt as safe and looked after as anywhere and was very interested to be there at this time to see the changes and particularly delighted to be able to see that the workshop has continued. And we kept working and kept everyone in their jobs and to visit also a project we’re doing with women to see women learning how to make jewelry and to see how important that was for them. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it was a, it was a very moving and wonderful trip actually, despite some of the things going on.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:38:05):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So actually some of the projects that you’re involved with have to do with passing on skills, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> with education. I remember reading a quote Ah, yeah, I saw that in, in your interview with the Financial Times from a couple of years ago because you heard a young Syrian refugee learning to be a silversmith, a remark about the happiness that it brought her.

Pippa Small (00:38:32):

Yeah. I think there is something about the power of making, and that’s, that’s perhaps underestimated. I mean, yes, on the one hand you have a job, you have an income, fabulous. But on the soft side, there are things that go on that, you know, perhaps we’re, or perhaps not all of us feel, but I think that in areas where there’s been a lot of turbulence and violence, and I think for someone to be able to find a space where they’re working usually in a team and they’re creating something and they just kind of disappear into that focus and concentration that it takes to make something. And then that sense of achievement at the end, I think is, it’s a huge thing. And, and not to be underestimated what that can do for a person who’s lost so much or who’s, who’s struggling to kind of make sense of the world.


That’s, that doesn’t make sense. <laugh>, I think it’s an enormous thing to physically make something and physically hold that thing and say, I made that, you know, that’s, that’s enormous. So I think when that woman who’d, who’d been through the war in series said, this is the first time I’ve been happy, I can see, you know, she was, she’s in control as well. It’s like, you know, she’s in an area where she is making something and she has achieved something, but in a kind of little micro, micro way, it’s like, it’s the, the big picture, but brought down to something manageable. And I think, yes, and, and in certainly talking to a lot of the women in Kabul last week, it was the same. It was sort of in the project we’re running, there’s business skills and English and literacy. There are many different things that women are, have access to learn, but all of them were more excited about the making of the jewelry, which I found really interesting because I thought business would be number one.


It’s, you know, with that you can go off and, you know, whether it’s a hairdresser or raising chickens or, you know, you can, you can do a lot. But the fact that they loved making the jewelry, I think was really interesting to me because it said that there was something, I mean, you know, we’re women, we love beautiful things and making something and feeling, feeling beautiful and wearing it. But it, it was obviously they felt that the physical material achievement was something that I think they just needed. It’s like, I’m alive, look, I’ve made this. And, and their options, obviously at the moment are quite limited. So the fact that they were able to work together as women and create something out of the house was, was really wonderful. Hmm. To see.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:40:58):

So the Syrian refugee that, that I mentioned was someone who inspired you to name an exhibition that you did called Making Makes Me Happy, and I seem to have picked up today and in previous conversations that some of your jewelry or or most of your, your line because of the unique nature of your collaboration with Artisan, the, the organic nature of the stones that you look for can be seen as very unique and almost like art pieces. So what do you think of that sort of relationship between jewelry and art? Is this something that you see as continuing for your brand and jewelry in general?

Pippa Small (00:41:39):

I think it’s a wonderful way of presenting jewelry to, to kind of really emphasize the, the uniqueness and the craftsmanship because I think craft is still teaching on, as a word, as teaching on that kind of wall of, are we talking knitting? Are we <laugh> or are we talking about, you know, mouse craftsmen that are, that are as in jk I’m sure as you’ve seen, you know, people who have a kind of intergenerational skill and a sense of an innate sense of proportionate balance and harmony when they’re making things. I was watching a stone stonecutter in Kabul last week, and he was making stones to fit a frame and there was no ruler, nobody was measuring something and saying, this is 1.1 millimeters that has to be exactly this deep. And that it was all done by eye. It was sort of, you know, you look at the stone, you look at the setting and you just go in to grime, a stone down and polish it.


And to me it’s extra. I mean, there’s, it’s just, you know, this, this ability to con work with things, with objects that we don’t all have. I think to kind of have that growing respect for a master artist and a master craftsperson who has maybe their entire life worked with one material. For example, our a goldsmith we worked with in, in La Paz in Bolivia, his father was a gold miner and as a child he started to work in the gold mines. And he was very lucky that an uncle taught him how to be a goldsmith as a teenager because so many of his friends, as he said, didn’t survive as, as gold miners because of accidents. But he was lucky that he found another career. But his whole life has been about gold. He can look at grains of gold and tell you which mountain they came from, where in the mountain they came from.


This is from the top part because it’s, you know, there’s a volcanic element to it or the, the nuggets have been changed by the kind of river that goes, you know, the, he would know so much about the material in its raw element, but then also about working with it, how, how to kind of turn it as a magician again, how to turn it into something else, a kind of renewed or a, a sense of respect for these master artisans who, who may have spent their whole lives around one material and understand it so well in terms of the boundaries between art and craft. And I think to me, the, the kind of ultimate luxury is to, to have something that’s been made by someone by hand with a huge amount of skill, a kind of a passion where their livelihood, their life, everything is a wrapped around this material and they know it’s so well and I know how to make it do incredible things. I think to me, the ver is on art. I don’t know what the, the lines are between craft and art, but a beautifully handmade thing for me is a piece of art without a doubt. Yeah.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:44:28):

Mm. Yeah. I mean, some of the pieces that you’re currently wearing as I’m speaking to you definitely look like the, but belong in a gallery. That’s, that’s for sure. Now, now you’ve touched on gold. I wanted you to tell us about the, the brand new collection that, that you are coming out with this month and what’s important about it?

Pippa Small (00:44:47):

Well, we’re launching a new collection that was made in Colombia and it’s a, it’s a really important collection to me because having spent many years searching for a kind of clean source of gold extraction and, and having visited many mines from Uganda to the Andes, it’s been an interesting journey. What’s beautiful about the Colombian gold extraction is that it’s hand panned. So it means that women in Choco practice an ancient technique, shallow wooden bowl, gravel from the river is lifted and swirled with this kind of wrist movement that allows the gold to separate from the river gravel. And you have particles of gold dust and gold nuggets. And this is obviously separated and collected. It’s not a way of extracting huge amounts of gold, but it’s a kind of, I’m not gonna use the word sustainable source cuz that’s not, obviously it’s a finite material that won’t be there forever.


But what was very interesting was the women we talked to were all very aware, you know, very much a, an indigenous mentality of saying, we know that a a large mine could come here and within two years it would’ve sort of sucked up all the gold from the river. And that will be, that there will be no more gold. But we want to take a little bit, a little bit, that will mean our children and our grandchildren continue to be able to use this river to provide a sort of supplement to their incomes, whether they’re farmers or shopkeepers. It just meant that the women could go out and without any chemicals, no cyanide, no mercury, no arsenic with no machinery, no pollution. They can just simply with this wooden tray, be able to source a bit of gold. That means, you know, they sell that to a local cooperative that will mean they have the money for school, for a doctor, for food if need.


You know, it, it just provides this kind of extra bit of their, to their income. That is a beautiful thing. It’s a, it’s part of a community that women are very proud and very political and they’re very aware of what happens. The environmental destruction from illegal mining, from large scale mining land is completely destroyed and useless for anything. They’re aware that the way they pan the gold means that the land can be used for food and for they know what mercury poisoning does. They feel it’s part of their heritage too, which is interesting. They would like to have it gold panning kind of certified as a heritage tradition because it’s, it’s something that’s been used obviously in, in pre Colombia, pre-Columbian times in Colombia. That’s how the Indians would gather gold and made the most extraordinary gold pieces I’ve ever seen in the, in the Museum of Bogota, which is astounding.


All that was from pan gold. But equally they’re aware that this is something that’s part of a heritage and a history and it’s an important way of taking the gold, but it’s a clean way. So to be able to have gold that comes from this sort of source, it’s empowering to the women in the community. It doesn’t cause any damage. And then we worked with Goldsmiths who were, again, from the Afro Colombian community who had been brought initially as slaves to this area in the 16th century to work in the gold mines and after abolition and were given collective rights to certain parts of land and have continued to, to my gold, but also to work the gold. So the, the gold jewelry, again, is something they feel very proud of and it’s very much a part of their heritage and tradition. And, and again, wearing the gold was a sign of, of your cultural heritage and the designs were beautiful. They used a lot of filigree that’s inspired by the Portuguese and Spanish of course, but also some techniques that went back to West Africa, which I found really fascinating that that should have come on this terrifying journey to another part of the world, but keeping some techniques and traditions,

Anne Muhlethaler (00:48:31):

Wow, I would not have expected that. That’s fascinating.

Pippa Small (00:48:35):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it was a very important for them gold was, is still a really important part of their life

Anne Muhlethaler (00:48:44):

And the collection is stunning. I’ve seen a few pictures. There was an outstanding ring with an outstanding emerald. It was almost piercing my computer screen when I saw it. Obviously I know from experience in consulting with other jewelers about the difficulty in sourcing gems and you touched on that a little bit earlier. So can you tell us a little bit about how you chose these emeralds for this particular collection?

Pippa Small (00:49:12):

Whe when I thought of working with the golden Colombia, I was, I was happy to kind just work with the gold, but of course Colombia’s so famous for its emerald, it’s the best in the world. So not to be able to use those felt rather the sad. So we looked into an ethical source of, of emeralds and in both in Boyk the area at the margins area where both Muk and shi, where the the best emeralds come from. So they’re river again, it’s a another way, again, this is more men than women, but by shoveling the river gravel, they find tiny specks of green among the kind of dark grays and browns of the rocks and these allevi emeralds that are washed out from, from the mountains and come down the rivers. Each man works for himself and what he finds is his to sell and it’s a kind of, again, slightly cleaner way and it’s supporting people who are, have chosen quite a, a difficult livelihood, but nice to buy directly again with a less polluting form of extraction. So that was where we got our ambulances.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:50:14):

Mm-hmm. Pretty <laugh>. I will add a lot of pictures on the website so people can go and take a look for themselves and of course links to, to your website and your collections. So from a consumer perspective,


What do you think we can ask brands to do in order to have more transparency? Because the jewelry industry can be a little bit opaque. It’s hard to understand who’s doing what and how. Because when I look around, whether it’s big brands or smaller brands, most people only have one small part if that of their collections that are either come from sustainable or ethical or fair trade sources. So how would you think we can ask for more? Because personally, once I understand what’s at stake, I no longer want to participate in the system that seems to be damaging both communities and the environment to such an extent.

Pippa Small (00:51:13):

Hmm. I think it’s a really difficult one and having been looking at this for, for a few decades now, I’m not disheartened, but it ha it has been a slow journey I think for the jewelry industry a lot of the time. There is no transparency. When I’m in J War and I want to buy tigers eye, I will hear that it’s from Africa, that’s it, it’s gone through so many hands, nobody knows it’s a source and it’s very difficult to find out. So there are many, many stones I work with that are not transparent and we dunno where they’re from. We dunno how they’re mined and the areas where we do. Yes, I mean that that, that is a really difficult question.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:51:50):

Well, if you were us, if you were a consumer interested in, in conscious or ethical jewelry, what would you say to a brand?

Pippa Small (00:52:01):

Uh, as a consumer? I think it’s about asking questions. And if you fall in love with a piece of jewelry and you ask if you’re asking enough to meet the designer or the maker is to ask where did it come from? Who made it? It doesn’t mean that’s gonna tell you, you know, it could be the gold is, is sourced in Brazil, it doesn’t necessarily tell you. But I think if we keep asking questions and if we keep saying, you know, I’d be really interested if you ever do get fair trade gold or I would love to commission a ring that is from a fair mine gold mine, or I think it just helps because clearly what’s happening is that there hasn’t been enough demand from consumers. There have been a few mines I’ve worked with in Latin America that that did certify, that did all the work that it was taken to, to clean up standards and so forth, but they stopped holding the certification because every year of course you need to be audited and things and it just, there wasn’t the demand for the gold. So it meant we, the consumer didn’t, we failed, we, we didn’t do what we’re meant to do and, and asked for that kind of gold.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:53:05):

But the thing that struck me is you wrote a piece and, and sent it as a, as a newsletter to your clients this week about your journey with gold and, and looking for clean gold. What you found out, and this was from a, an article from the independent back, from the, the two thousands, is that, that, and this makes no sense to me, but I am obviously no scientist or chemist that it takes what, 30 tons of, what was it again?

Pippa Small (00:53:34):

Waste? I mean, basically, yeah. I mean the, the chemicals used, the water, used the land is it’s

Anne Muhlethaler (00:53:41):

30 tons of waste and chemical waste to make a single gold band. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And now I’m looking at my fingers and thinking, what, I’m wearing four gold bands. So, oh, I, I can, I can do the math. Why is this something that we’re not talking about, because I genuinely don’t think that people down the street, I mean, I had no idea. Why don’t we know about this?

Pippa Small (00:54:10):

I think the, the success of the, the blood diamond story was, was kind of a, obviously very helped by Hollywood film, but b it was, it was quite an easy story to understand that there was conflict diamond, that people were being killed as a result of this kind of hunt. And it was funding wars and it, it sort of feels somehow easy to grasp. Whereas gold extraction is a kind of messy story of, of engineering. It’s about chemicals, unfortunately, poisonous, toxic chemicals like mercury and cite arsenic that are used to separate the gold from the rockets found in. It’s about the use of water. It’s about, unfortunately also about a lot of illegal mining that’s going on. Fortunately, things have recently just changed in Brazil, but as we know, past government was encouraging illegal mining in areas. And so it’s, it’s kind of a difficult one.


It’s, it’s, you know, yes, gold and what is the other gold dirty? Well, no, not all of it is dirty. Some large scale mines do replanting and, and contain the mercury, but it’s, it’s just a lot of language that’s not very easy to communicate. I, I don’t think I ever used to really think of gold as being from the earth. I didn’t see it as the same as a stone. It was like the gold is a metal, metal is something that you cars are made out of or it’s a kind of, I dunno, I didn’t really perceive it as being as much, uh, as a sort of, you know, sacred thing from the earth as a rock. So I think it’s, it’s somehow perhaps it’s language. It’s, it’s just, we don’t have no way of explaining what Golden does in a way that’s just very easy to understand.

Anne Muhlethaler (00:55:59):

I’m so glad that you brought this up and that you explained it <laugh> by using the metaphor of that film and bringing up Hollywood. This reminds me that in our first workshop conversation, you touched on something you didn’t mention today. Didn’t you want to be a documentary maker at some point in your life?

Pippa Small (00:56:23):

I wanted to write and I wanted to make documentaries, yes,

Anne Muhlethaler (00:56:26):

<laugh>. Because somehow I think that what I find today, as well as you tell me the stories and answer my many, many questions is that you’re actually painting a picture and telling a lot of stories. So, I mean, planting a seed, perhaps you need to be the documentary maker that talks about gold. I mean, why not just,

Pippa Small (00:56:50):


Anne Muhlethaler (00:56:50):

Just an added on, on top of all of the travels and things that you’re doing in the last couple of decades, a lot of wonderful things happened as you were building this conscious or responsible jewelry brand. And amongst other things, in 2013, you were, you were awarded an MBE, a member of the British Empire by the Queen. I’d love for you to tell me what did that mean to you when that happened? Uh, and what was she like?

Pippa Small (00:57:22):

That was an extraordinary thing. I, it it was such a kind of honor, such a validation and such a, a, a wonderful thing at that time that this area of ethical jewellery should be recognized. I mean, those were, this was quite a, over 10 years ago. It, it was, it was something that I felt was really important to, to highlight that this, this is an important area. It’s, it’s as important as all the other environmental situations that are going on. And it was just a, a tremendous validation that this is the right thing to be shouting about and talking about. It was a great honor, <laugh>,

Anne Muhlethaler (00:58:00):

I would love to see some pictures of when you got that. Now you also have a link to King Charles because you mentioned it before. You’ve been working with a charity called Turquoise Mountain for, for a few years. Could you tell us what the link is with King Charles and and what that foundation does?

Pippa Small (00:58:22):

Um, well, King Charles, what was the founder of a charity called Turquoise Mountain in about 2006, I believe. And the charity started at his bequest in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he asked Rory Stewart to create a foundation. He and Karzai asked Rory Stewart to create a foundation that was to do with preserving and protecting craft and traditional architecture in a city that, in Kabul, that had obviously suffered 40, 50 years of war. It was a way of highlighting that craft is important for a people’s sense of identity, especially after so much horror and war, but also that it was an important potential income stream, and that if they could sort of identify and, and create a means of continuation for a particular and unique heritage cultural craft traditions, that this would be a really important thing for the future of the country. Because as we know, if you take away people’s cultures, their sense of identity, you have a, a completely rootless and drifting society that we, we need these kind of grounding roots of a sense of history and pride in, you know, who we are and who we are as a collective, as a people’s.


And that was something that in Afghanistan was in danger of disappearing because of so much endless war. So I think what they did to create a institute, which is a beautiful old building, there’s a, a small part of an old city in Kabul that had been restored by Turquoise Mount, which took a few years and was a great training and employing enterprise for many people who lived in that area that they learned how to restore, how to do lime wash walls, how to do jolly work, carved wooden work. And so it was a tremendous thing that gave employment, but also gave pride to the community who lived in that area of the old city. And part of the, the old city was turned into an institute of arts, and that’s the most beautiful, I just visited it this trip. It’s the most beautiful old building that everywhere you walk in it is centered with wood from the use of the carved wooden doors and windows and stairways.


The earth architecture is a thick walls of earth and lime wash in, in beautiful, neutral colors. And it’s such a, a beautiful place that you’re in for all the senses, for your nose, for your eyes, that you sort of feel like you come outta this city that where there’s too many machine guns and too many soldiers. And you come into this space and you suddenly feel, you feel different. You just feel like you’re surrounded by beauty and you feel more respectful to the people you’re with. You feel calmer and quieter and, and more alert to kind of the senses in a way. So it’s a beautiful place. And now school is, is thankfully still functioning. The men and women work in completely separate areas, so that’s great. But it just means that these skills in, in woodwork and miniature painting and calligraphy and ceramics are still able to continue because it was one of these things that after they followed the Taliban last time, there was, you know, a master wood carver was in the market selling vegetables because he had no work.


And so these, these things would’ve disappeared with these last generation of, of older artisans. But now there’s a school to ensure it continues and it ensures that hundreds and hundreds of people, young people, will be able to possess these skills and pass them onto their children, and that the world will know of all this beauty that Afghanistan creates. And so Turquoise Mountain, to me is, is a really important foundation that now works in Myanmar in Jordan with Jordanian, but also many different refugees for the same thing. A lot of people, Syrians who were in refugee camps were in danger of the same thing of bringing up a generation of young people who don’t know what Syria is, what what is different about Syria, what was special about it, about, you know, the geometric designs about their food, about their language, their poetry, all of that is part of, of the arts. So I think it’s, I can understand that it’s, it may seem unimportant when you’re talking about, you know, restructuring a city that’s been at war or a country, but these are the kind of these softer, quieter things are really, really important for us as people. So I think the work, Turquoise Mountain does is amazing.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:02:51):

Well, you seem to be a good partner for them as well. Now I have one last royal to mention because you have a fan in Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, who’s been wearing your designs multiple times. What did that mean to Pippa Small Jewellery to have someone so prominent wearing so many of, of your pieces?

Pippa Small (01:03:12):

It was absolutely incredible. I mean, it became at a time just before Covid, where we were utterly overwhelmed because one of the things she did that was amazing was to wear the Afghan turquoise mountain pieces as bangles and stars and things, and they’re made of silver gold plates, so they’re of a more accessible press point. And it just meant that people who were admirers and followers of hers who wanted to buy into the same look and feel we’re able to order. And it just meant that the workshop through Covid had enough work to, to keep them going. And it was a complete miracle for us. So huge gratitude. And it was also just a wonderful way with the interest from press and things that it allowed the story of ethical jewelry and, and what we were trying to do to reach a much wider audience, which I’m very,

Anne Muhlethaler (01:04:04):

Yeah, she, and she made it look so good. I have to say I’m quite the fan. So you are already known as a trailblazer in ethical and conscious or responsible jewelry. What advice do you have for someone who either is within a brand trying to work this angle or transform a category or someone young and clever who wants to start their own?

Pippa Small (01:04:32):

It’s a good question. I think now it’s easier to access. I mean, I don’t, I’m not advocating that everyone has to spend their life traveling <laugh> and going to different far away places. I mean, employing people in your hometown is as important and supporting people around us is as important, just happens that my interest and journey has taken me that way. But I think to be able to access access per trade, gold is now a very possible thing. There are many sources now, transparent, trace resource gems. So I think it’s just a case of researching and finding, questioning, questioning again <laugh>. Sure. And just kind of doing that exploration because I think it’s, it’s there, it’s out there, it needs a little digging to find, and maybe in some cases it might be more expensive. Um, the gold we’re working with from Columbia has a premium because we’re supporting a Rewilding project in Choco to an area that’s been heavily poisoned by mercury. And this is a, a charity that’s basically replanting in that area. So sometimes it’s a little more expensive, but I think if you can explain to people why that’s so, people are not against paying a little more for something that’s, that’s doing good. So it’s just a case of I think researching, researching, questioning, looking.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:05:53):

Hmm. Thank you. Now you know that the podcast is at the crossroads between business and mindfulness, and so I like to ask all of my guests to talk to me about what keeps you grounded, what helps you maintain a balance in, in your busy life?

Pippa Small (01:06:14):

That’s difficult. One <laugh>, I wish I was, I could say that I meditate daily and I do yoga daily, and I, but I, I don’t, I have two children, which is very grounding because I think having children was an enormous change for me that allowed me to, to kind of slow down and stop and, and see smaller things and be quieter and stiller and, and see things through, see the world through their eyes. So that was a kind of momentous change. They’re now 10, so that’s an ongoing adventure I read. I’m a huge reader and I find that when I travel, I take, I’m always being teased because I’ll have small suitcases full of books, <laugh>, and I just, I suppose I’m easily transported by reading and I have the novels that I’m, you know, swept away with. And, and then there’ll be books on things that I’m interested in, whether it’s history or culture or religions or, I’m not a Kindle reader, but I, I’m a book reader <laugh>. And I think that ground me, I find I’m like watching an old film, I can be completely drawn into a story and that takes me away from where I am in a kind of wonderful way.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:07:28):

Mm-hmm. Thank you so much. That’s lovely. We’ve come to the end of my long list of questions and I, before I ask you a few quick fire round, is there anything else that you’d like to share with our listeners that we haven’t covered?

Pippa Small (01:07:42):

Um, no <laugh>? I don’t think so.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:07:45):

<laugh>. Alright then. So please indulge me. What is a favorite word, one that you could theoretically carry on you tattoo on yourself?

Pippa Small (01:07:57):

Um, this one, I was thinking a word that I use way too often and I find, I hear it now in, I can hear myself saying it all the time, and it’s sort of, it’s the word beautiful. And that’s something that, it sounds superficial, but I think it’s an important word because I think the role of beauty is often, I mean, we’re talking from, from the fashion point of view. Okay, yes, that’s, that’s a word we use a lot. But I think beauty is really important because it encompasses human relationships. It encompasses the role of making and, and how important that is to us and what a sense of achievement, something beautiful. And I don’t mean it’s beautiful because you know, you or I think so and so and so doesn’t, I mean, it’s beautiful because you’ve put your heart and soul into making it. And that’s a really important thing in our lives. I think that the beauty born of, of a focus concentrated, fully intentioned act is something that’s very, that results in something beautiful. So I think that is a word that I find I use too much, but I think it’s an important part of, of what makes us human. Mm-hmm.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:09:04):

<affirmative>. But I agree

Pippa Small (01:09:07):

<laugh>, I’m not talking about beauty as in, you know, she’s beautiful and he, it’s just beauty as in the whole world around us. It’s, there’s so much, and I think it’s, maybe it’s not the articulate word I need, but I think it’s an important thing.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:09:23):

Thank you. What does connection mean to you?

Pippa Small (01:09:28):

Connection is an interesting, connection is a, is a, a twinkle in the eye. It’s a, a sort of, it’s a touch. I kind of careless touche as you’re explaining something. It’s, it’s not necessarily through language, it’s not necessarily through conversation. I think it’s just, it’s an intimacy born of maybe working together creatively. Maybe it’s, it’s a connection that comes from being humans together. But it’s something that I think happens when people sit down together. They have the same intention and it’s, it can be without the same culture, the same religion. It can be, you know, many of the barriers that sometimes appear, but it’s just something that can happen in magic that can happen between people together. It’s very almost inexplicable. It’s almost above and beyond and outside of, of language. But it happens and it’s there. And I know it’s real <laugh> and you know, it’s real when you see it in people’s eyes and when you, when you feel sad to say goodbye and when you feel joy to say hello again and it’s an energy thing that, that kind of defies words.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:10:42):

I like that. An energy thing. Yeah. So what’s a secret superpower that you have?

Pippa Small (01:10:51):

I think stubbornness, <laugh>, it’s something I always remember as a child, I sing, you’re very stubborn. And of course that was in a negative sense, but I think as I’ve gotten older sometimes that refusing to have obstacles that like, well, it’s not safe to do that, or that’s not a good idea, or it’s impossible to do that, or they’ll never agree to that or No, I can’t do it. Those are things that I find a bit like, okay, we’re gonna do this <laugh>. It’s a challenge, but it’s also, if I, if I can see the result, I can see this could work. If only we try. I yeah, I’m, I’m, when I hear no, I kind of go, okay, we’re gonna do it <laugh>,

Anne Muhlethaler (01:11:30):


Pippa Small (01:11:30):

This is gonna work.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:11:32):

So awesome.

Pippa Small (01:11:34):

Two sides <laugh>. It’s extreme annoying, but it’s also, it generates the kind of energy to make things happen.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:11:41):

Lovely. What song best represents you?

Pippa Small (01:11:46):

Oh God. Blank. There is a song that’s something about’s a wonderful World isn’t there? I can hear it, What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong or something.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:11:55):

It is Louis Armstrong. Yes.

Pippa Small (01:11:58):

What a wonderful world. I think I’m in love with the world. It’s a it is. Yes. I think that’s a good song. What a wonderful world. Just like, I think

Anne Muhlethaler (01:12:07):

That’s <laugh>. And now I ne I need to ask you, what is a favorite book that you can share with us?

Pippa Small (01:12:13):

There’s a book that I love by someone I know well called Hugh Brody. And he was an anthropologist, he is an anthropologist filmmaker, um, all around kind of renaissance man. And it was called The Other Side of Eden, the book. And it’s, it’s a very interesting book because it looks from the sort of, sort of anthropological point of view, but how human society has grown and how and why indigenous peoples have this relationship to the world and the rest of us have that relationship to the world. It’s almost like a cane enables split of, of people who live on the land in order to be part of it and people who live on the land in order to sort of dominate and use it as a resource. And it, it’s a, it’s just a wonderful book that helps make sense both historically and culturally of a lot of why we’re in the situation we’re in.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:13:03):

Mm-hmm. I’m very Pete, I will order it now. I will bring you my last and favorite question. What brings you happiness?

Pippa Small (01:13:15):

What brings me happiness? I mean, obviously my family seems something that you’ve kind of had a vision of or an idea. See it come to fruition makes me really happy to see the faces of people I work with feel joy in their accomplishments and, and to be able to sort of see that grow into something and let their voices fly out into the world through their work. I think that makes me really happy, especially for peoples who are in, in tricky situations.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:13:49):

Thank you so much, <laugh>. This has been a great conversation. I will of course add links to your social media so people can find you. So it’s been a real pleasure. Have a wonderful rest of the day and I’ll speak to you very soon.

Pippa Small (01:14:08):

I can feel that. Oh, you’re full of it. That bronchitis. It’s one

Anne Muhlethaler (01:14:12):

I know. I’m just, uh, I’m just really grateful that I was able to go through the interview without, well thank God for the mute button. You know, there’s, we joke, we joke about Zoom cuz everybody’s always Oh, you’re still on mute. Well, I’m grateful for the mute button today.

Pippa Small (01:14:27):

I’m sorry. Take care.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:14:28):

Have a wonderful rest of the day and I’ll speak to you soon.

Pippa Small (01:14:32):

Bye Anna. Thank you.

Anne Muhlethaler (01:14:33):



So friends and listeners, thanks again for joining me today. If you’d like to hear more, you can subscribe to the show on the platform of your choice. If you’d like to connect, you can get in touch with me at avie on Twitter, Anne Muhlethaler on LinkedIn, or on Instagram @_Out_of_the_Clouds, where I also share daily musings about mindfulness. You can also find all of the episodes of the podcast and much more on my website, an AnneVMuhlethaler.com. If you don’t know how to spell it, it’s also gonna be in the show notes. If you would like to get regular news directly delivered to your inbox, I invite you to sign up to my monthly newsletter. So that’s it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening to Out of the Clouds. I hope that you will join me again next time and until then be well, be safe and take care.