Born on 4th March 1925, Sheila Catherine Bownas was an only child. She lived in Linton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire, where her parents Reg and Minnie owned and ran the village general store.
Aged 22 and lodging at 60 Chepstow Place, Bayswater, London, Sheila started her course at the Slade School of Fine Art.
During the early 1950s, Sheila undertook some part-time teaching at Huddersfield Art School and began her work as a freelance artist, concentrating mainly on designs for fabric and wallpapers.
In 1962 the Natural History Museum commissioned Sheila to produce a set of intricate botanical studies for an exhibition, later this would lead to a six-year assignment for the BSBI (Botanical Society of the British Isles) These commissions clearly influenced her designs and she produced many floral and nature inspired patterns during this period.