“Her drawing is searching, free and sensitive, and her painting possesses an appreciation and understanding of tone and colour values.”
Reginald G Brundrit (British Landscape Artist 1883 – 1960)
In 2008, while looking for artwork to hang in her newly renovated home, art gallery professional Chelsea Cefai stumbled across an extensive collection of textile designs at auction. A spur of the moment purchase led to a six year quest to discover more about the artist who created them – Sheila Bownas.
Sheila Bownas was born in 1925, growing up in the small Yorkshire Dales village of Linton. Displaying a natural talent from an early age and with the encouragement of her art mistress at Skipton Girls’ High School, she attended Skipton Art College in the 1940s and secured a scholarship at The Slade, London’s prestigious art school, where she won a number of prizes for her work.
After graduating in 1950, Sheila forged a career as a freelance designer, supplying patterns to the likes of Liberty and Marks and Spencer.
She moved between London and Linton for twelve years, before finally settling in her beloved Dales for the rest of her life. She continued selling designs by post for a further twenty years and worked on several portrait commissions until her death in 2007.
The archive consists of just over 200 hand painted patterns, the earliest dating from the 1950s, the entire collection spanning thirty years. Since first discovering Sheila’s work, Chelsea has founded the Sheila Bownas Archive and collaborated with artists and designers across the UK to produce a range of unique products that bring Sheila’s patterns back to life.