Diane Lane - the Oldham artist creating ballroom art with real Swarovski crystals


An Oldham artist struggled to make a breakthrough until she added a little sparkle. Barbara Waite reports

Bring on the dancing girls! Vibrant contemporary ballroom beauties shimmering in outfits encrusted with real Swarovski crystals are proving to be a big hit for one Oldham artist.

For Diane Lane, who struggled to get a job after art college, the step up to this very contemporary style has been a revelation. She now sells her work in a big store where they waltz off the walls quicker than you can say Strictly Come Dancing.

She grew up being able to paint and draw, the daughter of a factory machinist mother and a butcher father. There was no one arty in the family until she researched her ancestors and discovered that her great-great-grandad was a talented architect.

‘I think I must have inherited my natural ability to draw and paint from him – he was one of the famous Thompson brothers who built and owned several Oldham mills,’ said Diane.

After her student days in the town she went to Cleveland College of Art in Middlesbrough and, with qualifications in graphic design and illustration, returned to Lancashire but found it difficult to get a job. ‘None of the agencies in Manchester would give me a chance – they didn’t even look at my portfolio. I was very disheartened,’ said Diane.

‘I put my career on the back burner and got a job in an office. At the same time I was still doing portraits for family and friends and eventually decided to try again.’

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A major store - Housing Units in Failsworth - liked her sample pictures and so did the shoppers. They sold within two weeks and now Diane works hard to keep up with demand from collectors and new customers.

Her favourite medium is to use dip pen and inks as well as watercolour and in a very detailed, realistic style. She is versatile enough to be able to paint in a looser style which has brought her selling success and an exhibition at the town’s art gallery.

So why the dancing ladies? ‘Well, I loved watching Strictly, and wanted to capture the emotion of the dancers using a couple of ballroom-dancing friends as life models. Anything romantic and passionate inspires me,’ she explained.

She works from a summerhouse at the bottom of the garden, purpose-built for her by her husband, Clive. ‘He was sick of me using the kitchen as a studio and splashing paint everywhere. I even managed to get it on the ceiling.

‘My love of crystal has led me to using them to enhance some of my works. The little gems add a gorgeous touch to the dresses of my dancers.’