Senior Program of the Month: Jewelry and Craft Class

It’s a half hour before class starts and seniors are already streaming into the room. There is a feeling of being behind the scenes at a fashion show: a mix of excitement and intense focus. Some seniors are trying on and comparing their favorite recent creations while others quietly get to work on their next pieces. However, the whole class comes together when Janis Gross arrives holding up her latest creation, a bird’s nest pendant. Everyone wants to learn how to make one.

Janis is Greenwich House’s Craft Master, where she’s taught Jewelry and Craft classes for more than three years at Center on the Square, Independence Plaza and Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Centers.

Despite being a Greenwich House fixture, Janis actually attributes her crafting to another senior facility in the Bronx. Janis’s mother was a resident at Hebrew Home in Riverdale where the two enrolled in an enameling class offered there. The class rekindled an interest in jewelry making and led Janis to delve deeper into the craft. Over ten years she’s experimented with and mastered numerous techniques that she now shares with aspiring designers at Greenwich House.

At Craft Class, seniors learn the principals of good design as well as industry standards (a bracelet is seven inches). They also learn the properties of different materials and the tools to work with them. Janis’s bird’s nest, for example, required special pliers to sculpt narrow gauge wire, a first for many in the class.

“We aren’t painting elbow macaroni and stringing it on shoelaces,” Janis Gross said. The seniors create professional quality pieces that could easily be mistaken from coming from a neighboring Tribeca boutique, a testament to the group’s growing talent and mastery of materials. “Week after week I continue to be impressed with everyone's creativity and how their skills keep improving,” continued Janis.

“I think they get a tremendous amount out of these classes,” added Janis, “they have a feeling of accomplishment and pride when they wear things they created in class and enjoy making pieces for family and friends as gifts.”

Janis Jewelry and Craft Classes take place every other Monday at 10:00 a.m. at Independence Plaza Senior Center, every other Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at Center on the Square and every Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. at Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Center. For a complete list of activities visit greenwichhouse.org/seniors

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