A Dales inn has paid tribute to a remarkable former neighbour by filling it with her art work. Sharon Dale reports
While family, friends and neighbours loved her and her paintings, few of them realised just how remarkable Sheila Bownas was.
The quiet and reclusive artist, who passed away in 2007, has since been publicly celebrated after gallery professional Chelsea Cefai spotted some of her prints on eBay, played detective and brought her talent to the attention of the wider world.
Sheila’s mid-century surface pattern designs were the subject of an exhibition at The Mercer Gallery in Harrogate late last year. A catalogue of her work, The Art of Pattern, was compiled and her art appeared on a limited run of prints, wallpapers and fabric.
Now, in a tribute to its former neighbour, the Fountaine Inn at Linton, near Grassington, has turned Sheila’s former studio into a guest room featuring her designs. The owners of the Fountaine bought the outbuilding after Sheila died as it sits behind the pub.
The Fountaine’s live-in manager Chris Gregson knew the artist and has overseen the refurbishment, while Sheila’s nephew John Younger did the decorating. Mr Gregson says: “Sheila lived next door to the pub and her studio was in a barn behind the property, so we were neighbours.
“She was a lovely lady and was very quiet. We thought it would be a nice tribute to decorate her old studio with some of her designs so people can appreciate her work.”
The room now features wallpaper printed with one of Sheila’s prints and a series of framed pictures of her work, along with an information panel telling guests about the artist.
Born in 1925, Sheila Catherine Bownas lived in Linton, where her parents Reg and Minnie owned the village store. Displaying a natural talent from an early age and with the encouragement of her art mistress at Skipton Girls’ High School, Sheila won a scholarship to attend the prestigious Slade School of Art in London.
She won several prizes and, after graduating in 1950, she pursued a career as a freelance designer, supplying patterns to clients such as Liberty and Marks and Spencer.
Her name went unchecked and her quietness, along with blatant sexism, meant that she was never publicly applauded. Chelsea Cefai stumbled across her work on eBay in 2008 when she was looking for artwork for her home. The seller had bought the prints at an auction of the contents of Sheila’s cottage.
Chelsea says: “I ended up with a treasure trove of artwork by an unknown artist but I knew I had something special - it was timeless and vibrant. My instinct told me there was a story behind the pictures.”