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

1Wall Creative Collage

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sheets of font characters from the 1Wall Creative Collage set

We just received this Creative Collage set from the lovely people at 1Wall.

1Wall Creative Collage box set

The box contains 64, A3 sized sheets with which to create random patterns or specific words & phrases.

1Wall Creative Collage box set

Possibilities are endless with a choice of typefaces, letters, numbers and symbols.

sheets of font characters from the 1Wall Creative Collage set

All the sheets can be applied en-mass to a feature wall or designs can be room-specific; food-related for a kitchen diner, bathing for the bathroom – or relaxation for a lounge or bedroom.

sheets of font characters from the 1Wall Creative Collage set spelling out Noel

We also think that they’re great for use as Christmas decorations – and we’ve been experimenting in our own house this week.

sheets of font characters from the 1Wall Creative Collage set spelling out Happy Xmas

They’re very easy to use. The sheets can be applied directly to the wall using the paste mixture supplied or mounted on movable & re-usable boards which adds a further dimension of flexibility.

sheets of font characters from the 1Wall Creative Collage set spelling out Happy Xmas

Perfect for both domestic or business use – retailers in particular might find them useful. They’re ideal for a shop space or market stall – spell out company names, product ranges, messages to your customers etc.

sheets of font characters from the 1Wall Creative Collage set spelling out H is for Home

It’s a wonderful Christmas present – the recipients can mull over ideas with a mince pie, then get creative in the New Year.

In addition to this Typography set you also have the choice of Cityscene and Map collage designs. If you’d like to give it a go yourself, just enter the promotional code ‘nuffnang15‘ (valid until 31 Jan 2015) which will give you 15% off purchases on the 1Wall website.


It’s in the paper

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retro op art wallpapered room

Since our recent Gimme Five! Wallpapers post, we’ve been thinking about wall coverings quite a lot.

handwriting wallpaper

The majority of vertical surfaces in our home are painted a warm, cream colour – with a couple of exposed stone walls and a splash of bright orange in the kitchen. The house is quite open plan so the cream walls let spaces flow into one another.

yellow retro shape patterned wallpaper

It works well, but there’s one wall in the lounge area that we think would benefit from something a bit more dramatic – and we think wallpaper is the answer. Wallpaper is having something of a spectacular renaissance. It’s a relatively easy way to create real impact in a room – from simple bold colours to elaborate murals.

purple geometric patterned wallpaper

The paper also covers imperfections in a plaster surface – and can provide an extra layer of insulation or even soundproofing.

pink patterned wallpaper

Options are endless – heritage lines with classic Georgian & Victorian patterns, Arts & Crafts florals, Mid Century Modern atomic styles – and all manner of vintage inspired & retro looks.

golden ostrich skin patterned wallpaper

There are tactile, textured papers that reflect light or create shadow to interesting effect. Silk, wool, cotton or linen can also be incorporated. Large landscape murals can be made to measure & customised images integrated into designs.

metallic pink and silver patterned wallpaper

We’ve just been scouring the wallpapers on offer at They have a huge range – over 10,000 designs. All the examples shown in this post are taken from their website. Prices range from less than €10 to over €350 per roll. Along with many of the options described above, there are some interesting wall coverings with new twists & interpretations – papers that mimic surfaces such as wood, stone, brick and animal skin for example.

wallpaper mimicking a red brick wall

These ghostly books are very effective – and as with many of the designs come in a choice of colour ways.

bookshelf patterned wallpaper bookshelf patterned wallpaper

There are a number of brands or manufacturers housed under one roof – AS Creation, Architects Paper, Erismann, Graham & Brown, Innova,  Living walls, Marburg, P+S  International, Rasch, Rasch Textil and XXL Wallpaper.

picture frame wallpaper

The coverings are generically termed ‘wallpaper’ but they can of course be used for to decorate many other surfaces – customising furniture for example – or lining shelves & drawers. They can also be used as a covering for books & stationary. Lengths can even be framed and hung as artworks.

grey retro shape patterned wallpaper

In addition to our feature wall, we have another specific use for these papers – they make excellent backdrops for our website & blog photographs, creating a distinct atmosphere for the object we’re photographing – and if you mount the paper on boards they can easily be moved to where the light is best. These orange Op Art circles would be great to show off 1960s pottery & glass…

groovy op art wallpaper

…and aged weatherboard patterns would be perfect for staging vintage industrial items.

weathered wood patterned wallpaper

Those are relatively easy decisions to make – more thought is required when it’s a large expanse of wall in our lounge.

numbers wallpaper

The room houses quite an eclectic mix of country furniture, leather club chairs & vintage industrial – along with 1950s & 60s ceramics & textiles.

log patterned wallpaper

We need to give it some careful consideration – perhaps avail ourselves of some samples which is always an option.

dotty wallpaper

The perfect paper is out there – we’re off for another browse!

Gimme Five! Wallpapers

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selection of 5 large patterned wallpapers

We’ve been glued to the recent series, Great Interior Design Challenge over on BBC2. One of the things we enjoyed seeing was all the amazing, statement wallpapers many of the contestants used in their rooms. From Jordan’s handmade origami to Susan’s big, blousy florals to Sarah’s dainty Chinoiserie.

The resurgence in wallpaper is showing no sign of diminishing. Not so many years ago the only wallpaper in view was that awful wood chip that was almost impossible to remove. Thank goodness things has moved on! Here are a few other great designs we’ve found around the web.

  1. Figs – posset – £59.95, Missprint
  2. Dungeness wallpaper – concrete – £50.00, Mini Moderns
  3. Vintage wallpaper, large rolls of 1970s floral wall covering – £18.70, Etsy
  4. Coastal Cottages – £120, by Jessica Hogarth Designs Notonthehighstreet
  5. Beech Leaves in kraft – £69.00, Hannah Nunn

Wallpaper Sale!

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mosaic made from the covers of issues 1-15 of Wallpaper* Magazine
you can click on the mosaic to expand the view

We’ve been having a bit of a spring clean this week. We’re letting go of a few things – one of the first things is this collection of Wallpaper* Magazines.

The group consists of the very rare and covetable launch edition and the following fourteen issues – they span late 1996 to late 1998.

They’re currently up for sale as a single lot on eBay!