Janet Swahn: Life is full of surprises for Lowcountry’s resident pistol-packing mama

Janet Swahn

For Janet Swahn, the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” turned out to be multiple choice.

It was a question she answered, “D: All of the Above.”

She has toured the world as a professional acrobat, assisted one of the most well-known magicians in Las Vegas, turned the art world upside down by becoming one of the first adopters of the “worldwide web” no one was talking about in 1992, and helped hundreds of concealed carry owners learn gun safety as one of the foremost weapons training experts in South Carolina.

In fact, by the time you read this, there’s a good chance Janet Swahn might already be an accomplished sculptor. She hasn’t started learning yet, but then you won’t read this for a couple more weeks.

“I’m adventurous,” said Swahn. “I like to try new things. And if I like it, I try it again. Three times and I’m in. And I’m all in when I do something.”

From anyone else, it would almost sound boastful. But every incredulous detail of Swahn’s life proves she is not a person who goes at anything halfway.

Janet Swahn2

Take, for example, a chance encounter at a gym in Las Vegas that set Swahn off on a world tour. “Someone spotted me working out and asked if I was an acrobat,” she said. In fact, she had been an accomplished gymnast in high school, rising to the level of state champion in her junior year. It was enough to secure an interview with legendary entrepreneur Tibor Rudas, the mastermind behind the Three Tenors. Swahn was immediately whisked off on a five-year world tour with stops in London, Singapore, Indonesia, Korea and the Bahamas.

Eventually, though, the show had to come to an end. “It’s not something you can do forever, and I was a whopping 26,” she said.

From there, Swahn found herself in San Diego. There was another chance encounter, this time at the opening of an art gallery that was owned by the man who would become her husband, Rick. “We went on a date 27 years ago. And we’re still on that same date.”

Rick’s art background and her interior design skills proved to be a perfect match, and the couple joined forces to create Fine Art Gallery & Design Centers. They ran it for 25 years together, with Swahn’s endless thirst for her next adventure slaked by passion projects like www.artforsale.com, a website started when the internet was in its infancy. Beyond coming up with the concept, Swahn taught herself web design to create the site.

But her latest passion is the one she’s most known for around here: concealed weapons permit training. “Just as we collected art, Rick also collected guns. Eventually we had people coming over from the FBI and the CIA asking us to train their people,” she said.

Now, Swahn teaches regular lessons in firearm safety as well as helps qualify responsible gun owners looking to obtain their South Carolina concealed weapon carry permits. “I tell 99 percent of my students you’re not qualified to carry a gun on your hip. It’s like how getting a driver’s license doesn’t make you qualified to run the Indianapolis 500.”

Her passion for teaching firearm safety is infectious — already, fellow instructors in Nevada have approached her about replicating her techniques. You can view these techniques on www.cwp101.com — which, naturally, she designed herself.

That brings us to her next big adventure. You thought we were joking about the sculpture?

“Maybe I’ll try making something out of spent shells. You never know,” she said with a laugh.

And the thing is, with someone like Swahn, who has proven she can take on so many fresh challenges, you’re inclined to believe her.

“I’m a little bit crazy,” she said. “But all the best people are.”