Yorkshire-born Sheila Bownas studied at the Slade School of Art in London before beginning her career as a freelance textile designer in 1950.

Over the next 30 years she supplied designs for fabrics and wallpapers to some of the most successful manufacturers and retailers in the business, including Liberty, Marks & Spencer, Crown Wallpapers, Simpson & Godlee and Turnbull & Stockdale. In 1962, she returned from London to live permanently in Yorkshire.

This archive of 177 of Bownas’ hand-painted designs (examples pictured) reflects her remarkable talent, as well as the changing tastes of the period. Her range of work extends from radical geometric patterns influenced by designer Lucienne Day to more homely designs featuring Staffordshire figures, flowers and dancing children.

In common with most other textiles designers of the period, Bownas was not credited for her work by name, with the final products instead being sold under the manufacturer’s brand.

All the designs in this archive remained in Bownas’ possession until her death, with none of them put into production in her lifetime. A collection of 42 preparatory pencil drawings, together with some letters and other documents, is also included in the acquisition.

This archive joins the Dress and Textile collection, where it becomes an important record of 20th-century taste and design practice, as well as having a strong connection to the wider Yorkshire region.


The archive remained with the artist Sheila Bownas until her death in 2007. 2008 - The archive was sold, by the family/ executors of the will, at Hartley's auctioneers, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, UK and bought by Michael Vicary or Vicary Antiques, Lan

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