From as early as I can remember, I always wanted to be an artist. I come from a long line of frustrated artists. My paternal side was either woodworkers or architects. My mother’s family was gifted with their hands and could make and fix just about anything. Except for a few, they all worked in non-art jobs.
I always wanted to be an artist. My university degree is a Bachelors of Fine Art in Education. I spent the next 40 year working in Information Technology support for Healthcare. I worked with computers in hospitals. I followed the family tradition of gainful employment, not passion. I’m retired now and am pursuing my passion.
When I was a university student at the University of Arizona, I was going to school on the GI Bill (I’m a Viet Nam Vet) and working full time at the U of A Medical Center. No one can live AND go to university on the GI Bill alone! I’m sorry, Uncle Sam, but it’s true. I was poor. I didn’t have a car; I got around town on a bicycle.
Art school is expensive. If you take an oil painting class, you have to purchase all those oil paints & canvas. And then there are tools for ceramics class and supplies for graphic arts and then all those photography supplies. Conte crayon, charcoal, pastels, and on and on. Art school is not cheap!
I was smitten with weaving and textiles from my first year. (Thank you, Jeanne Ohanian.) My emphasis was in textiles and weaving. I took the other art courses and loved them but it was weaving that I especially loved. I think it was about working with my hands. I love to hold and manipulate the materials I’m working with. I feel a disconnect when using a pencil, crayon or paintbrush.
Like all the media used in Art Classes, weaving materials can be expensive! Check out the prices in any knitting shop. The materials for a knitted sweater cost more than a store-bought one AND you still have to knit it! Fortunately, I was in Art School and not making my own clothes. I could improvise.
I worked in a hospital. I managed to snag the cast off sheets from the hospital beds. They were thrown away when ripped or soiled (let’s not get into that, OK?). I used the old sheets, ripped them into strips, dyed and wove tapestries on hand looms. I begged rolls of plastic bags from laundries (the one ones used to cover your dry-cleaning) to use in my artwork. I found anything I could to use in my artwork that I didn’t have to skip a week’s meals to purchase.
We had an assignment to do a three dimensional woven sculpture. While everyone in the class was investigating armatures to support their fiber sculpture, I was looking for materials that would be self supporting. I couldn’t afford to be purchasing or building metal sub-structures for a class project. Newspaper!
I took the local newspaper and began experimenting. If you fold it enough you can get a nice long strip of newspaper with some body to it. I wove a basket. Is a basket a sculpture? That depends on how you look at it.
I needed to weave a basket that didn’t’ “look” like a basket. How about a basket with an opening that goes through the basked? The inside of the basket is inaccessible. I figured I could weave a square donut. That would work. The finished piece is 32 layers of newspaper.
I spend hours and hours weaving my sculpture. I still have this sculpture. After nearly 40 years, it is just beginning to show its age. But who in their right mind would be interested in a newspaper sculpture that took three weeks to weave? Who would pay for all that labor? I made two of them. I still have both.
I made woven basket-like items off and on over the years. It was an interesting “hobby” and make great gift boxes for simple presents. My family & friends love them. Who knows where they’ve ended up? I wove the envelope to hold the wine glass my husband & I stomped in our wedding ceremony. L’Chiam!
I began painting again in the mid 90’s. My husband and I moved into a great house with far too much wall space and a limited budget. “I can paint something for that wall!” So I purchased canvases and paints and rediscovered a love for painting. I painted a triptych for a bedroom wall. I did a triptych for the kitchen. I painted a diptych for the family room.
I began doing commissions for friends & clients. I painted a diptych for an anniversary. At one point, I’d painted a canvas but didn’t’ like where it was going. I cut up a newspaper and wove it back together and plastered it on the canvas. OMG! It was perfect! I tried another one. I loved it! A designer friend saw them and purchased them on the spot.
I took up painting 3ft X 4ft canvases and did a series of 12, each with a woven field of newspaper. Most of them had the woven field affixed after the painting was painted. In later paintings, I would affix the woven field midway through painting and continue painting. I sold all those paintings at a private showing.
I was discussing my paintings with an artist friend from Switzerland who said he found the woven field most interesting and asked if I had ever considered weaving an entire piece of newspaper and forego the painting. I had. I was afraid. “Do it!” Andres exclaimed. So I did.
I fell in love with the process and the results. I am now weaving newspaper, using the newspaper as the sole source of color and texture. There is no added color. The newest pieces are truly newspaper fabric: not affixed to a canvas. They are coated with an acrylic gel which fixes the ink and provides UV protection.
I continue to explore the possibilities with woven newspaper and after nearly 40 years, am still not bored with it. My growing love for color field painting provides balance. My appreciation for and love of color pulls me from the weaving and the structure and “logic” of the weaving pulls me from the color fields. Ying and Yang
My website contains most of my woven works available for sale. I have a large number of small woven assemblages (12 inches by 12 inches) not on my website, also for sale. If you are interested in information about my artwork or wish to make a purchase, you may contact me by replying to this post, e-mail me at JerryL@JerryLHanson.com, contact me via my website: http://bit.ly/aJy6St or telephone my studio at 760.992.3157.
Thank you for listening!
Jerry L. Hanson