Rugby exhibition revives work of twentieth-century designer

How might you use a design archive in creative ways?

In 2008, art gallery professional Chelsea Cefai was looking for artworks to decorate her newly-renovated Victorian home when she was drawn to a collection of 210 bold hand-painted designs by Sheila Bownas. She bought them on impulse from the Yorkshire antique dealer who had successfully bid for them at auction when the contents of Sheila's cottage and studio in Skipton were sold following her death in 2007. Since then, Chelsea has been researching Sheila's life and work. The images below show just three of her designs. 

Chelsea's discoveries prompted her to put on the exhibition currently on show at Rugby Museum and Art Gallery. A Life in Pattern: The Life and Works of Sheila Bownas  looks at the development of Sheila's artistic and textile design practice through bringing together paintings, textiles and patterns she made in the Fifties and Sixties for companies such as Liberty's of London, M&S and Crown Wallpapers with photographs and private letters that lay out details of her business life. Chelsea is keen for visitors to explore the relevance of Sheila's work to contemporary textile design, and has been given permission to reproduce her designs by the surviving members of Sheila's family - who felt 'she'd never been given the limelight she deserved'. This has enabled Chelsea to create an impressive centrepiece for the exhibition in the form of a modern living room with contemporary wallpaper, furniture, textiles, lighting and ceramics by contemporary British craftsmen and women that feature Sheila's distinctive designs. 

Installation shot of A Life in Pattern, Rugby Museum & Art Gallery, 2016

Installation shot of A Life in Pattern, Rugby Museum & Art Gallery, 2016

The exhibition runs until 3 September 2016. If you're planning to be a textiles or homewares designer, why not go along and have a look at it?