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Friday, June 27, 2014

Rediscovering Sheila Bownas

Sheila Bownas (1925-2007) was born in England and attended the Skipton Art School from 1941-1946. She then received a county art scholarship and attended the Slade School of Art in London. Bownas had five paintings accepted and exhibited at The Royal Academy of Arts and later went to Florence, Italy, to study art history.

She became interested in textile and wallpaper design, and during the 1950s and 1960s, although not as well known as designers like Lucienne Day, she was commissioned by Liberty of London, Crown Wallpapers, Marks and Spencer, and the German company PW Bruck-Messel.

She was also commissioned to work on pictures in the botanical section of the National History Museum. Later in life, she returned home to Linton, near Skipton, and worked on landscape and portrait painting.

Bownas was such a private person that even her family was surprised to learn what a prolific artist she had been. When she died, her family found hundreds of paintings and textile designs in her small studio.

In 2008, Arts Development Officer Chelsea Cefai purchased 200 of her works at auction, and since then, she has been bringing Bownas's patterns back to life. A number of products using Bownas's designs are available for sale.


Cecil print

Erik print

Ernest print

Lloyd print

Lori print

Rex print

Otto print

Woodrow print

Herman pillow

Edwin pillow

Chelsea Cefai


  1. What vivid, sophisticated patterns! I especially love the Herman pillow!

    1. Aren't they gorgeous? I think I may have to buy one of the prints...probably the Otto.

  2. Oh, and thank you! I agree, we must.... at the very least.... be sisters under the skin! (And a VERY Happy Birthday to you.)

    1. Thank you so much for remembering my real birthday, after I managed to confuse everyone with my premature post the other day! :)

  3. Oh wow Dana! Thank-you for posting this - I was not familiar with Shelia Bownas, her work is stunning. I especially like the 'green apple pattern' (that's what I'm calling it anyway...), and like you, Otto. Erik and Cecil are pretty fabulous too! Let's face it - they're all gorgeous!
    I see from Jacqueline's comment it's your birthday! Happy Birthday lovely Dana. I hope you celebrated well and that the Grandies made a fuss of you - because you deserve it! xxx

    1. She was new to me too, and I'm so glad I happened upon information about her! Thanks for the birthday wishes! My daughter cooked one of my favorite dinners for me last night, and today has been a very nice day. My daughter, SIL and the boys are leaving for vacation in Florida tonight, so we will officially celebrate my birthday as well as my daughter's in a week when they get back home.

  4. Nice patterns but the one thing I really noticed was the yellow typewriter. (:

  5. Good Morning Dana, What a fascinating insight to such a talented lady. I have never heard of Sheila Bownas, but feel I should have. I love the Erik print which she designed and I smiled when I saw the portable typewriter, because my Gramps bought me the same model, but in ice blue when I was 15 years old. Skipton, in Yorkshire is just down the road from where I live, well about 60 miles. It must have been a wonderful moment when the family found Sheila's art work and designs.
    Thank you for such an interesting post, I really enjoyed reading it.
    Best Wishes

    1. Daphne, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I think Bownas was such a private person that few people knew about her, even those who lived near her at the time, but I think she deserves her place in design history. She was very talented.

      Do you still have your typewriter? I just bought one a few months ago, and have enjoyed using it. I taught typing to high school students back in the early 1970s when I first started my teaching career. That sounds absolutely Dark Ages, doesn't it? :)