Crafty, Craftier, Craftiest

If you’ve ever thought you should encourage the artist within, take inspiration from these hygienists who have found some surprising ways to combine a career in hard science with another in arts and crafts.

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If you’ve ever thought you should encourage the artist within, take inspiration from these hygienists who have found some surprising ways to combine a career in hard science with another in arts and crafts.

Dental hygiene is a highly technical, painstaking, science-based endeavor. We like that, or we wouldn’t be in this business. But some of us also have a crafty side ... an artistic side ... a creative side ... that can’t be denied.

What would a crafty hygienist do but start a company to make and sell dental-themed craft items?

Back in 2002, when Andy Codding of Rome, Ga., was a senior dental hygiene student at Floyd College in Rome, he sat in class and doodled dental designs and slogans.

“I saved them,” he remembers. “After graduation, I hired some hygiene students who also had a passion for art to help draw the images and earn some extra money.”

Drawing has always been one of his hobbies, Codding says, thanks to his crafty mother and older sister.

“In addition, I’ve always wanted to own my own business.”

So Dental Tease was born. Codding opened his business three years ago by designing dental-themed T-shirts that he subcontracted out to local companies for printing and/or embroidery. He is proud of the fact that all of his artwork is professional and original.

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Andy Codding, RDH, and Lena Iskander, a senior hygiene student at the University of Michigan, model shirts made by Codding’s company, Dental Tease.
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He recently purchased his own commercial screen printing and embroidery machines. It was a huge investment, Codding says, but over time he and his twin brother have plans to expand the business to include medical-themed items.

In addition, Codding has recently added 20 products to the Dental Tease line and is about to release a nationwide sales catalog. Besides apparel, Dental Tease markets computer programs and CDs for students, hygienists, and dentists.

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Hygienist Pam Mecagni is supplying hygienists all over the country with dental-themed purses, tissue box covers, and hair ties.
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“One such product is the RDH Data Tracking Form, which allows you to track your production. It will give you a tremendous amount of information such as how much an ADHA membership will cost per hour that you work, how much money in downtime your office is losing, the average amount of time you spend with patients, and more. All of these figures are broken down per hour, day, month, and year. I also have a Dental Hygiene Board review CD that contains more than 2,000 interactive real board questions and other useful board information.”

Besides practicing full time as a hygienist for Dr. Patricia Hampton, Codding spends about two hours a day on Dental Tease.

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Barbara Briggs, RDH, has a busy second life as owner of BarbaraBars, which manufactures and markets handmade soaps, lotions, and gels.
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“I love dental hygiene and dentistry with a passion,” he says, “however, starting Dental Tease has taken me out of the operatory setting and allowed me to be more creative. I’m able to meet more dental professionals with the same interests, and in addition, I can also be an entrepreneur and own my own business - which is something I have always wanted to do. Between clinical hygiene and entrepreneurship, I have the best of both worlds.”

Codding sells his products at www.DentalTease.com.

Another hygienist who learned crafting from her family is Pam Mecagni of O’Fallon, Ill. A 1983 graduate of Loyola University, Mecagni is employed as dental hygiene coordinator for a group practice, SmilesRForever. She splits her time between administrative and hygiene duties.

Mecagni grew up with a creative mother, and she found it easy to earn craft and sewing badges in Girl Scouts.

“My mom continues to do a few things, and I have a sister who is very artistic. She sews and does cross-stitch, and has designed her own patterns. My mother-in-law used to own a gift and craft shop.”

So it was natural for Mecagni to consider crafting a relaxing hobby.

“I love to do cross-stitch, and I’ve made many gifts for family and friends. Then I started making purses with my sister for fun. Soon people were asking us to make them one too. We also make tissue box covers and hair ties.”

Mecagani looks for dental-themed fabric, of course.

“Several stores carry it. If the fabric exists, I can make it into a purse. I’ve also done lots of sports-related purses, and the red-hat ladies’ fabric is popular right now too.”

The sisters have done a few craft shows.

“While we’ve made a little bit of money, by the time we buy supplies, pay for craft fair expenses, etc., it’s not enough to retire on!”

Mecagni sells her dental-themed crafts at http://pamrdh.tripod.com.

Barbara Briggs of Atlanta, Ga., has had a long and busy dental hygiene career. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University in New Orleans (1974), and a master’s in public health from Tulane University in New Orleans (1985). She taught for 12 years at Clayton State College and University near Atlanta, and still works part time for Dr. John Vilece in Atlanta.

But her life as a crafter is even busier. Except for a little behind-the-scenes work from her husband, Briggs is the sole proprietor, researcher, manufacturer, packager, clerk, bookkeeper, and salesman of BarbaraBars, a soapmaking business.

After being interested in handmade soap for years, Briggs decided to try her hand at it in 1998.

“I started with melt-and-pour soap, but I wanted to try it from scratch. So I bought all the books I could find about soapmaking and went from there.”

Her family and friends loved the results, and encouraged her to expand her repertoire. BarbaraBars was born.

“It’s a classic cold-process method,” Briggs explains. “I use only the highest quality pomace olive, coconut, and palm kernel oils, which are combined with sodium hydroxide to chemically create soap.”

All the sodium hydroxide is consumed in the chemical process, she points out. None remains in the finished product. Grapefruit seed extract is added as a natural preservative. She produces a single eight-pound batch at a time, and about a hundred batches a year.

Besides soap, BarbaraBars also offers lotions, gels, bath salts, linen sprays, cuticle oil, and dusting powder. Products can be purchased separately, or packaged prettily as gift sets.

Every hygienist knows the value of continuing education. Briggs belongs to the Handmade Soapmakers Guild.

“It was formed about 10 years ago by a soapmaker who wanted to exchange ideas. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from soapmakers all over the world. I’ve attended their annual conference for the past three years.”

Another area of research is aromatherapy. In 2003, she visited the center of the French fragrance industry in Provence, France, to learn about essential oils and the art and science of fragrance compounding. As a result, she can produce custom fragrances for customers.

Though her products don’t have a dental theme, they can be found in her dental office.

“My patients know I’m a crafter. Most of them are my customers and attend my trade shows. We use my soaps and lotions in the office, and many patients sample them there.”

Briggs’s products can be purchased at a few outlets and craft shows in the Atlanta area, and at www.BarbaraBars.com.

Hygienist Rocci Kendall of Columbia, Mo., has not yet gotten into dental designs, but she has a complex and fascinating hobby as an embroidery artist. The homely craft of creative stitchery has gone high tech in Kendall’s hands. Digitizing software is the first step.

“With the Artista Designer program, I am able to either create a logo from scratch or scan an existing logo into the program. Then I send the design to my embroidery machine, a Bernina Artista 185E, and the design can be stitched onto a shirt, or anything else I want to embroider. It is all very complicated, but wonderful.”

Kendall has always loved embroidery, and she did handwork for years before getting into computerized stitchery.

“When the home machines came on the market, I bought one immediately. I also teach digitizing to other owners of Artista Designer Software. I teach very detailed work, and this allows the students to get more from their program than just the basics.”

Kendall sells her crafts at www.creativedigitizingbyrocci.net/Home.html. Even with the investment in equipment and the hours of work, she considers her craft work a hobby.

Her real job, of course, is dental hygiene, which she’s done for 27 years. She is also a full-time student at Massage Therapy Institute of Missouri in Columbia. She hopes to incorporate craniosacral and TMJ massage into her dental hygiene career.

So if you’ve ever thought you should encourage the artist within, take inspiration from these hygienists who have found some surprising ways to combine a career in hard science with another in arts and crafts.


Marty Weiner ... The Jewelry Guy

Though he’s not a hygienist, Marty Weiner of Tamarac, Fla., is a familiar face in the hygiene world. He’s the guy at the jewelry booth at some ADHA and UOR conventions, selling unique dental pins, pendants, and rings. He’s also the guy who makes the ADHA president’s pin each year.

A jeweler since 1955, he still works full time at his business, JaMar Jewelers, at the American Jewelry Exchange in Tamarac.

“I’d rather be in the shop, selling and repairing, than staying home and watching TV,” he says.

He got into dental designs when his wife - who just happens to be well-known hygienist, educator, and award-winner Jane Weiner - asked him to make something up for her.

“I put together six items, a lapel pin, four pendants, and a ring, and I still sell those.”

He designs the jewelry himself, and uses a lost-wax process of casting to craft each piece.

“I make a wax model first, put it through various processes, then cast the jewelry in gold and silver.”

He can also design custom pieces, if requested, and add precious stones.

Weiner’s busiest time of year is June, when new hygienists need graduation gifts, but he sells year-round through his Web site, www.jamarjewelers.com.

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