Goldsmithing a labor of love for Doll

Janet Doll has operated Janet Doll Goldsmith since 2011 in downtown Garden City.
By SCOTT AUST, FCEDC Director of Communications

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a month-long series called the 25 Days of Downtown Christmas that will highlight the fantastic selection of retailers in downtown Garden City.

It’s hard to argue that anyone has a prettier work space than Janet Doll, owner and operator of Janet Doll Goldsmith, located on the second floor of 107 Grant Avenue in a building originally built by one of Garden City’s pioneers, Charles “Buffalo” Jones.

“The history of this building is pretty cool,” said Doll, who has called the space home since 2011. “I had been looking for a place that would work for me and when I saw these 12-foot ceilings, these wooden floors and that 8-foot window facing south — I look out over Kendall’s park — I knew it was going to be tight but I wanted it.”

Doll said Max Miller, who owns the building, has a copy of an article through the historical society that had been written about the next door Buffalo Hotel. The article reported that visitors could look out on the vast prairie in all four directions from the hotel.

“We’ve come a long way since then,” Doll said.

Lifelong Dream

Doll, who grew up on a farm south of Spearville and earned a bachelor’s degree in medical technology, said goldsmithing and jewelry making were always something she wanted to do since high school but back then she didn’t know where to get training for it or whether she would be able to find a job in southwest Kansas. Instead, she initially pursued her first love, chemistry.

But, she said, all of the things she has done throughout her life prepared her for the reality of goldsmithing. In addition to farming, Doll’s dad also operated a construction company and Janet learned about welding and plumbing. She learned sewing from her mother, knitting and crocheting from her grandma, and worked as office manager for her husband’s business.

“It’s like all these roads came together. In goldsmithing, part of it is designing and part of it is like construction and welding only on a really small scale. It’s all about assembly and visualizing things in three dimensions,” Doll said.

Prior to operating her own fine jewelry crafting business, Janet did a four-year apprenticeship with Tom Linenberger, went through two levels of stone setting school and attended a program to learn CAD design.

She uses a variety of specialized equipment, such as a microscope, laser welder, torch, sand blaster, buffers, steamers, sonic cleaners, a Gravermax — a device attached to an air compressor that can best be described as a mini-jackhammer, drills and drill bits, setting tools, and vises. Being the sole employee has also required Doll to be a bit mechanical in order to maintain and repair equipment and sometimes create a necessary tool.

Doll uses her equipment and an eye for stylistic designs in creating beautiful pieces of fine jewelry. Inspiration for her designs comes from many different places. For instance, on a trip to Chicago Doll saw a detail in the architecture of a building so she took a picture and brainstormed ideas of how to incorporate that element into a piece.

“Sometimes you’ll go for awhile and can’t think of anything, to all of a sudden something will click and you’ll have all these ideas,” she said.

Doll said people can bring her an idea for a piece and she will make it, and she also has a product line of creations that are ready to purchase. For her product line, Doll wants each piece to be something that can be worn every day, not just on special occasions.

“All the pieces are made to mix and match and layer with each other, and they’re all made so you can wear them with a tee-shirt and blue jeans or that little black dress. They’re versatile, and I think today’s shoppers are looking more for that versatility,” she said.

Labor of Love

Unlike the mass produced fare typically found at chain stores, Doll’s pieces are designed and fabricated by her, one at a time.

“When I’m working on a project for someone, I think about that person while I’m making it. So it’s a labor of love. The products I make here, you’re just not going to find in other places,” she said. “And it has to be perfect. Sometimes I’ll spend an extra four hours on a piece because I want to make sure it is just perfect.”

The time it takes to create a piece varies, but once a design is determined, Doll said it generally takes about three weeks to make. Doll finds it immensely rewarding to be part of producing something special for people.

“I’m so fortunate to be in such a happy business. People are coming here to purchase something to commemorate a milestone in their lives or something special, or they’ll have a diamond or piece of jewelry from someone who is very special to them but they want it redone into something more their style,” she said. “Being part of that is pretty cool.”

Being located downtown was important to Doll. She said independent retailers have the opportunity to get to know their customers and build special relationships and trust.

“There is such a wonderful network of retailers and business owners downtown. We support each other. It feels like a family down here, downtown,” she said.

Doll’s business hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, but she takes a lot of appointments to accommodate her customers, including some evenings and weekends. Through Christmas, the business will also be open on Mondays and Saturdays.

The best way to reach Doll is sending a message through the Janet Doll Goldsmith Facebook page, or call her at the number listed on that page.