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Diana Winuk Turns Art into Memorials

For many years, art provided some much-needed peace in Anderson Artists Guild member Diana Winuk’s stressful life. “It was calming to create something for other people to enjoy,” she said.

Though she took a lot of art classes, Winuk followed her father into the criminal justice field. “It was a job I wanted to do and to do well,” she said. She worked as a police officer in Florida before joining the Marines, where she spent four years in the military police, including working in the brig, a military jail. After her military service, she went to work at a maximum-security county jail for male inmates in Maricopa County, Arizona. “It was a very hard job,” she said. “You always had to watch your back.”

After moving back east to be near family, she decided on a career change, moving into restaurant management at Applebee’s, first in Florida and then in South Carolina, where she fell in love with nine acres of land in Salem, which she has ever since called home. She also worked for Harris Teeter in North Carolina for four years until a knee injury put an end to her second career.

These days, in her backyard “she shed,” Winuk paints custom yard posts and creates jewelry and horse-related memory pieces. The jewelry, often created from Egyptian coil, brings to life her versions of the tree of life and weeping willows.

The equestrian art hearkens back to her youth, when Winuk owned horses. The first piece was inspired by a friend who had lost a horse; she asked if Winuk knew what she could do with the horse’s preserved hair. Winuk made her friend a pendant and then a shadow box, and that led to orders from others. She also donated a piece to an auction for a stable that supported special needs children, leading to more orders and an invitation to sell at an upcoming equestrian show. For each piece, she wraps horse hair around wire to create a head shaped like the nose and head of a particular breed.

Winuk sells her artwork at two to three shows per month, sharing a booth with friend and fellow Anderson Artists Guild member Donna Persinger. Winuk advises those interested in selling at arts and crafts fairs to “Just go for it. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Try different shows to find your niche.”

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