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August 27, 2013
Cancer survivor, silk scarf painter and car enthusiast Diane Allen

Diane Allen, 45, has lived in Tooele about three years. She has lived in her current house for two of those years. She is originally from the West Valley-West Jordan area, and also lived in North Carolina for a few years previous to moving to Tooele.

In October of this year, she and her husband, Tom, will celebrate their third year of marriage. They married in Tahoe and named their Shih Tzu puppy Tahoe.

“When I got sick, Little Tahoe would cuddle up with me and he was just what I needed,” she said.

Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2012. When she was diagnosed and knew she would be losing her hair, she bought silk scarves to paint and wear.

“I knew an artist who painted on silk and framed her art work. Her boyfriend was our friend,” she said. “I became interested in the art and decided that I would learn to paint on the silk scarves, so I would have beautiful scarves to wear and would also have a hobby that would keep my mind occupied during my illness.”

Although she made many different scarves, she said that she found she had a favorite that she wore most of the time.

“It is an expensive hobby and takes a lot of room,” she said. “We had recently bought our home and there was room to set up my dyes and frames. You can’t buy the supplies for this art in Utah. I have to buy the dyes online. The dyes are not cheap.”

Explaining the process, Diane said, “To dye silk, I stretch the fabric on a frame. Then I do an outline with a product called Resist.”

Resist allows her to draw lines to make designs keeping the various dyes from spreading.

She explained further, “I touch the brush with the dye to the silk to be absorbed. The dye has to be set. I set the dye by wrapping it in paper and using steam.”

“I seem to have a talent for silk painting and love it,” she said. “After first doing scarves, I began molding the scarves into sculptures.”

She has sculpted a variety of different sculptures.

“I played around at sculpting vases, trying to figure out how to make them stiff. I found if I use plastic vases purchased at thrift stores, that it makes a more sturdy foundation for the vase.”

She uses many colors and creates her own designs. She confessed that if she has a scarf with a flaw in it, she can use it in a vase and with the twisting and molding of the vase, she can hide the flaw.

“It seemed a natural progression to paint silk ties,” Diane said. “I was in an art program at the Huntsman Cancer Center and a neurologist saw my ties and ordered some with brains on them. I made a couple for him.”

She shared, “My brother is getting married this weekend and I’ve dyed the ties for his wedding.”

“Before the cancer I was active and going 90 miles per hour. Last year, I needed something to do. The painting on silk has been therapeutic.”

“I had a double mastectomy and both chemo and radiation treatments.”

“I have found that the scarves and sculptures do better at an arts festival than they do at craft fairs,” she said. “My art is a little expensive for craft fairs, but priced better for art festivals. I’ve done two craft fairs — one at Lake Tahoe and one in Park City,” she said. “I’ve also sold some items online at Etsy.” She is referring to the website www.etsy.com, which is a place you can buy and sell homemade items.

“The name of my business is Survivor Silk.”

“I’ve also been designing a line of T-shirts — humorous mastectomy shirts.”  She laughed and said, “If you don’t laugh, you cry.”

“My step-daughter, Natalie, is a graphic artist and is going to school for this. She helps me put my designs into graphic form,” she said. “Natalie is very gifted in this area and has been a big help.”

“Natalie, who has special needs, is going to be 21. She is one of my husband’s five daughters. She lives with us and I have a son who lives in West Valley.”

Diane describes her current life situation as the new normal. “Because,” she said, “Your life is never the same. My husband is just amazing. He’s just the most kind, wonderful man.”

Alongside her art, Diane is also into muscle cars.

“I have always been a car person,” she said. “I especially love Corvettes. Since I was a little girl, I have been asking every Christmas for a Corvette. My family gave me lots of Match Box Corvettes or models of Corvettes, sometimes putting the cars in the driveway to be funny, but I wanted the real thing.”

She has a large painting of a Corvette in her family room and other Corvettes on display.

Diane continued, “On the anniversary of my diagnosis, after I’d been through everything, my husband surprised me with a white 1977 Corvette Stingray. Before mine I’d only driven one — a ‘63 split window — which is my all-time favorite. My husband asked if I was disappointed the one he gave me wasn’t the ‘63. I told him ‘No.’ The ‘77 Stingray was my first crush!”

“My ex did car shows for years and I am a big NASCAR fan. I was a massage therapist and went to North Carolina and did massage for Jeff Gordon’s racing team.”

NASCAR’s Petty family built a camp for children with chronic medical conditions or serious illness, based on a NASCAR racing theme. This camp is called Victory Junction Camp and is in Randleman, N.C.

Diane said, “My goal was to work at Victory Junction. I actually ended up moving back to Utah about this time and regretted not being able to help at Victory Junction.”

Tom plays lead guitar and sings. He joined a rock band in Tooele, and they were going to play for the first time with his band for a charity and it happened to be on his birthday. The charity they were playing for was Victory Junction.

“He knew how disappointed I had been because I had to leave North Carolina just when I was going to help with this camp.  I was so excited to learn that the Walmart Distribution Center is a big supporter of Victory Junction,” she said. “I joined the gang on the committee and we raised over $8,000 this year.”

Diane said, “After going through this cancer, I have felt the need to be of service to others and to help others. Helping with the Victory Junction Camp fundraising event has helped satisfy that need.”

She plans to continue to be involved with this charity.

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