Dentist’s steady hands find easy transition into jewellery making

Janet Ross - Dentist

By Hollie Pratt-Campbell

When Janet Ross isn’t sitting in her dentist’s chair, filling cavities and reconstructing patients’ teeth, she can be found in the loft of her country home north of Kingston, creating beautiful pieces of jewellery, or teaching classes on silversmithing, wax casting and more with the Kingston Lapidary and Mineral Club. In fact, she notes that the skill sets for dentistry and jewellery making are really quite similar.

“I’ll do anything that requires you to be finicky,” she laughs. “And I’m good at fine motor skills. I say to some of the people that I teach through the volunteer program ‘you should have gone into dentistry’ because they are dexterous, they have very good hand-eye coordination and very steady hands, which are really important for jewellery making.”

Indeed, some of processes she uses for her profession and her hobby are one and the same.

“Wax casting is something we learned in dental school. We wax a crown and then it’s [cast into metal]. Well, that’s how jewellery is made.”

The similarities gave Ross the idea to use dental tools to make her jewellery, a technique she says has worked out very well.

"What I bring to the table when I teach the wax casting is I purchase [dental lab] materials that are specific for carving wax. People realize how terrific these carving tools are and they’re worth the $40 they cost vs. going to [an auto shop] and finding some picking instrument. You get what you pay for.”

While she notes that she’s been artistic her entire life, Ross didn’t take up jewellery making until 2005, when she joined the Lapidary and Mineral Club to take a beginner silversmithing course. She explains the club has a very diverse group of members - from the “rockhounds” who go on excursions as far as Thunder Bay with their picks and buckets to mine unique kinds rocks, to the lapidarists who use tools to cut the rocks and form decorative pieces, to those like herself who transform them into wearable works of art. Ross’ inspiration is her own passion for jewelry.

“It’s part of my daily routine. Where are my glasses? Where is my necklace? I like big jewelry. It seems like every one of the members has something they’re particularly fond of or good at and that’s sort of like their MO.”

Ross notes that the hobby is very enjoyable for her - something she does more for its own intrinsic rewards than to make money.

fine jewelry tools“It’s just such a relaxation thing for me. I have a full setup at home, so on winter days when it’s cold outside I’ll be up in my loft for eight hours at a time. I donate [my pieces] to charities three to four times a year for silent auction items and give them as gifts to friends and family.”

Teaching at the Lapidary and Mineral Club, she says, is also extremely rewarding. “I love the teaching because you keep meeting more and more people, and you learn from the students as well. I always say it’s daycare for big kids. You just hang out at the shop for a few hours and feed off each other…It’s fun, it’s creative, and the sky’s the limit. You can learn and learn and learn.” This summer, the Kingston Lapidary and Mineral Club will move a few blocks down the street from their current home at 623 King St. to the new Tett Centre. The Tett will provide an updated, safe space for members to do their work.

“I’m very excited to be part of this new build,” Ross says. “I personally love where we are right now but the ventilation’s gross and the lighting’s awful. There are a lot of fumes we have to be very careful about.”

Other than that, it will pretty much be business as usual for the club, which continues to thrive with its diverse group of members and instructors.

“Everyone has their own forte and I’m assuming we’ll just resume that schedule,” Ross says. “We all respect each other and ooh and ahh [over each other’s work]. Everyone has their skill.”