Thursday, April 29, 2010

In the Beginning

So. My last post was about how & why I began weaving with newspaper (it took over 1,000 words to say “poverty”). In this blog, I want to take it a step back and talk about Tucson, Arizona. Since I’m currently visiting Tucson, it seems appropriate.

I was 25 years old when I moved to Tucson and that’s there where I truly “found” myself. I went through the first 25 years of my life doing what everyone expected me to do & be. I graduated high school. I enrolled in college. I studied to be a teacher because that was what I was told I should do. I’m susceptible that way.

I hated college but kept at it. OK, no I didn’t. I was not a good student and I flunked out in my third year at Indiana State University. This was during Viet Nam. I was number 19 in the first Indiana Draft Lottery. I received my draft notice on December 23rd 1970. When I read, “Greeting from the President of the United States!“ I actually thought, Richard Nixon had sent me a Christmas card! What a dumb shit I was!

I was drafted into the Army Infantry. It never occurred to me to take off to Canada to dodge the draft. I did have the presence of mind to realize that I should enlist in a different branch of the service. So I did; in the United States Air Force on the delayed enlistment program which kept me out of the Army Infantry. My induction date was April 1st, 1971. I was 21 and I was an April fool. How very appropriate.

It was the absolute best thing I ever did! If nothing else, it got me out of Indiana and it opened my eyes to the world. I spent two and a half years in Thailand. I was an Intelligence Specialist and spent my time in Thailand in air conditioned buildings briefing and debriefing pilots. Pilots have egos like surgeons. Let them think they are gods and you can get anything you want. But that’s another story…..

I was a model Airman: Airman of the month a number of times and Airman of the Quarter several other times during my military career. I hated being in the military but played the game well. I was awarded the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-5) during my third year. After my four years were up, I made a bee line to Tucson, Arizona.

Tucson had three things going for it. 1. It seldom snows in Tucson, 2. It’s very far away from Indiana and 3. it’s the Sonora Desert (aka WARM). I loved the desert. I found a job at the University of Arizona Medical Center and after establishing residency, enrolled in Pima College.

I took Art courses. That’s all I wanted to do: study art. I’ve always wanted to be an artist. So, I took art courses. I loved ceramics and I thought that was what I wanted to do with my life: be a potter. In my second year, I made a mistake on my registration form. I’m dyslexic. I transposed the numbers and enrolled in a weaving class instead of my beloved ceramics class. I realized my mistake on the first day of class & I couldn’t change it without paying a $25 drop & add fee which I could not afford so I stayed in the weaving class.

I loved the class! I never took another ceramics class and have never regretted it! Jean Ohanian was my teacher and became a dear friend. I loved my teacher AND weaving. I transferred to the University of Arizona when I exhausted classes at Pima Community College. The U of A began a new Fiber Arts program that same year under the direction of Gayle Wimmer. For once, I was in the right place at the right time.

I was in a Fiber Arts class every semester while I attended the U of A with Gayle Wimmer as my Professor for every class. I still think of Jean & Gayle 30 years later whenever I’m weaving. Gayle and Jean were two major influences in my life as an artist.

It was during this period of my life that I truly “grew up.” I was in my late 20’s and fairly oblivious about many things. I lived alone. My dog was my best friend. I spent all of my free time (what there was of it with school & work) with my cousin & her husband. I discovered I liked guys. Actually, I knew it all along. Yep. I’m a slow learner. It came up to the level of consciousness when I was 30. A really slow learner.

And then things accelerated. I met my future husband. I helped move him to Los Angeles. I had another year at university to complete so I stayed in Tucson to complete my degree before moving to Los Angeles to be with him. We’re still together & married 30 years later. I retired from my corporate job in IT Healthcare Support and am now pursuing my art career.

Being back in Tucson reminds me of how far I’ve come in the past 30+ years. Tucson has changed significantly as have I. Tucson holds a special place in my heart. It was there I grew up, where I found myself. I am always amazed by those who knew from an early age who they were and what they wanted to do in life. It took me half a life time. As I said, I’m a slow learner: but I eventually get it.

Perhaps this is the reason that at age 60, I’m acting like a 40 year old kid. I’ll be 61 in a few months. I don’t mind aging but I refuse to grow up. I’m in Tucson and I feel like a kid again.

And I almost forgot the Shameless Self-Promotion! You can see all of my artwork available for purchase on my website at . If you want more information on any of my artwork or to make a purchase, you can contact me by replying to this blog, e-mail me at or telephone my studio at 760.992.3157. And, as always, I thank you for listening!

Jerry L. Hanson


  1. I love this post. My favorite ever. You are so flipping funny, and I feel your heart in this. I am so glad, that 30 years later this is where you are. (And all those skills with pilots with big egos must have come in handy in your personal life as well! OK, and maybe in your 'hood too!)

    You know, My Daddy was in the Air Force also, WW2 Bomber Pilot, and Stalag 13 POW. I just knew there was a reason you always touch my heart.

    Loving the Tuscon Tweets!

  2. Gayle Wimmer is my Aunt. I'm sure she would be pleased to know what an influence she had on your life.