Designer Desire: Sheila Bownas

Mosaic of Sheila Bownas textile designs | H is for Home

What a coincidence that, just a week after our trip to the Yorkshire Dales, we’re featuring one of its local creatives.

Sheila Bownas (1925-2007) was a fine artist and surface pattern designer from the village of Linton in Craven near Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. In 1946, she won a scholarship to London’s Slade School of Fine Art where she won further awards which included a year’s extension to study History of Art in Florence. She freelanced as a textile and wallpaper designer for companies such as Liberty and Co., Marks and Spencer and Laura Ashley. She also worked for the Natural History Museum in the 1960s, creating botanical studies. She returned to Linton in the 1970s, where she settled unobtrusively for the rest of her life. She was the only child of the village shopkeepers, she never married nor had children of her own.

Some of Sheila Bownas’ design archive was rediscovered by Chelsea Cefai, an art gallery professional, when it came up for sale at an auction house in Ilkley in 2008. Cefai purchased some 210 of her original textile pattern prints and slowly set about researching the designer and celebrating her designs.

Bonas was indefatigable in her efforts to secure salaried employment. She apparently applied for around jobs in the 1950s and 60s. In 1959 in yet another rejection letter, this time from Crown Wallpaper, Bonas was told:

Thank you for your letter enclosing your design… I have decided to retain this design so would you please let us have your invoice? With reference to your desire to obtain a position in our studio, the Director feels that should an appointment be made at all, a male designer would be preferable…

Last summer, a retrospective of her work was shown at Rugby Art Gallery & Museum and is currently showing at Harrogate’s Mercer Art Gallery until 7th January 2018. If you’re unable to make it, a catalogue of the exhibition is available.

Cefai has set about collaborating with artists & designers reintroducing Bonas’ work in limited-edition prints, furniture, ceramics and other homewares.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Cefai shared:

It’s been hard work and there have been times when I felt like giving up but then I feel like it’s something I have to do. I love her work and it saddens me to think that an artist with such wonderful talent could so easily slip through the net of recognition That’s what drives me. Sheila Bownas is not just a number in a file now, she’s a name in the limelight.

Have a look at the Sheila Bownas website for many more of her wonderful designs.

Portrait of Sheila Bownascredit

Additional image credits:

The Guardian | The Northern Echo

Tibor Reich for Concorde

Vintage Tibor Reich fabric cushions | H is for Home

We’ve long been fans of the designs of Tibor Reich and were lucky enough to catch a retrospective of his work at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester last year.

Pair of cushions made from vintage Tibor Reich fabrics | H is for Home

A few weeks ago, we bought some cushion covers from a well-known online auction site. It was the original fabric used to make them that caught our eye. The seller photographed the covers alongside a cut-out from a magazine article that showed that the fabric was designed by Tibor Reich and had been used on Concorde.

We couldn’t find any images of the actual interior of Concorde showing this pattern. However we did find this reference:

One of the commercial highlights for Tibor Ltd. in the 1960s was a commission to design the first sets of upholstery and curtain fabrics for the Anglo-French Concorde (prior to trial flights in 1968) [Cabinet Maker and Retail Furnisher, October, 1966]. Five Jacquard upholstery cloths, in natural and gold were used as curtaining fabric along with two carpet designs [Cabinet Maker and Furnisher, October, 1965].
via “Patterns of Culture: Tibor Reich: A Life of Colour and Weave“, by K. Powers and M. A. Hann (with a contribution by J. A. Cousens).

Vintage Tibor Reich fabric with cut out from a 1960s issue of Cabinet Maker and Retail Furnisher, October

It’s clearly the same fabric as shown in the article, we just haven’t been able to find that ‘in situ’ image as yet. We’d love to see one. As well as being used on the plane, these fabrics were probably also used in the airport lounge for Concorde passengers. Someone’s probably got a lovely colour holiday snap with them pictured sipping champagne, reclining on seats covered in it!

Cushion made with vintage Tibor Reich fabric on a leather club chair | H is for Home

We were delighted with the fabric when it arrived. Beautiful colours and striking design – and unused, mint condition too. The cushions were very nicely made, so as cushions they will stay. With Justin’s chair addiction, we’ve got endless chairs to put them on!

Cushion made with vintage Tibor Reich fabric on a leather club chair | H is for Home

We thought they were a very good price too, considering the high profile designer and prestigious client… and a bargain never hurts!

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Designer Desire: Vuokko Nurmesniemi

Mosaic of Vuokko Nurmesniemi designs | H is for Home

This is a Designer Desire post for all you vintage fashion fans! Vuokko Nurmesniemi (born 1930) was one of the two main pattern designers at Marimekko during the 1950s. Her striped Jokapoika (top image) was one of the company’s best sellers.

I just love her big, bold op art designs, many of which are in the New York Met’s permanent collection. Those tent coats and dresses are to die for!

I couldn’t find much of it available online. However, a few sellers on Etsy stock vintage Nurmesniemi-designed Marimekko and her own brand Vuokko Oy pieces.

Portrait of Vuokko Nurmesniemicredit

Additional image credits:

Marimekko | Pinterest

Designer Desire: Barbara Brown

Collage of Barbara Brown textile designs | H is for Home

I went to a Barbara Brown exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester last week. I was already quite familiar with her work, but seeing them up close and in the flesh I was completely blown away!

Seeing images of her designs in books or online can never do them justice. The sheer scale of the many op art patterns – 1¼ metres wide – make the mind boggle!

Originally from Manchester, Barbara Brown attended Canterbury College of Art and then on to the Royal College of Art. It was at her degree show in 1953 that she was discovered by Tom Worthington, Artistic Director of Heal’s. The rest, as they say, is history. She produced many designs for the company (where she was a contemporary of Lucienne Day) in her two-decade career with them. Her designs won the Council of Industrial Design (COID) award on three occasions.

You can usually find lengths of her fabrics (and ready made soft furnishings if your sewing skills are anything like mine) on eBay and Etsy.

Barbara Brown textile designer © Graham Copekogacredit

Additional image credits:

Pinterest | V&A

Designer Desire: Tammis Keefe

Mosaic of Tammis Keefe designs | H is for Home

Today’s Designer Desire choice is someone we’ve written about in the past. Tammis Keefe (1913-1960) was a prolific, mid century designer whose output was primarily in the textile sphere. Handkerchiefs, scarves, place mats, cocktail napkins, tablecloths and tea towels can all be found sporting her playful illustrations. There are hundreds of different designs in existence.

Her work is highly collectable was included in a 2000 exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York entitled A Woman’s Hand: Designing Textiles in America, 1945-1969. She’s also included in the book, Collecting Handkerchiefs.

There are always examples of her work available for sale online – mainly from the USA – on eBay and Etsy. Seeing as they weigh next to nothing, overseas postage shouldn’t add too much to the price of the item.

Portrait of Tammis Keefecredit

Image credits:

Etsy | Flickr

David Whitehead write up

'David Whitehead write up' blog post banner

Lancashire Life magazine with vintage David Whitehead fabric

Lancashire Life isn’t one of our regular magazine subscriptions, but we sometimes pick up a copy if something catches our eye on the cover. We actually live in Todmorden, West Yorkshire – but we’re very close indeed to the Lancashire border (it actually used to run through the town centre here until the mid 19th century) – so there are often places that we’re familiar with or new potential destinations featured that are within easy reach.

'Lancashire's Material Wealth' article in Lancashire Life

In this November’s edition it was the article entitle ‘Lancashire’s Material Wealth’ that made it a ‘must buy’ copy. The write up features friends Bernard & Jill Laverty, the Directors of David Whitehead & Sons based in Parbold, Lancashire. The article touches on the company’s long & interesting history including its textile heyday in the 1950s era when great names such as Sir Terence Conran, Henry Moore, Marian Mahler and Jaqueline Groag produced designs for them.

Jill & Bernard Laverty, Directors of David Whitehead & Sons Ltd

We first met Jill & Bernard after they read one of our post’s featuring a huge haul of vintage fabric we’d acquired. The couple were researching their company archives including the fabric designs that were once stocked by David Whitehead & Sons. Production of them had long since ceased at this point.

Jill Laverty modelling two of the reissued David Whitehead fabrics

Jill in particular was caught by the bug and, having invested much time and money over recent years, they’ve now actually begun to re-launch some superb classic designs taken from these archives. We went to a wonderful celebration lunch at Windermere Boating Club a few weeks ago to mark the event.

Samples of David Whitehead & Sons reissued fabric

Production will stay in Lancashire – the highly-regarded textile printers Standfast & Barracks of Lancaster undertaking the work. The modern textiles produced are lovely quality – we were able to have a good look and feel at Windermere! It’s quite early days for the new range, so media exposure like this article is going to be essential. We’re confident that there’ll be huge demand for them and are really excited to see where the designs are going to start popping up!