History: A Designers Life

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.


She was recommended by the Council of Industrial Design (now known as the Design Council) to work on contemporary and traditional patterns for numerous manufacturers including, vinyl-coatings for Dermide Ltd and the German textile firm, PW Bruck-Messel. Throughout the mid 1950s, Sheila would travel down to London to present her portfolio and sold patterns to the likes of Liberty and Co. and Marks and Spencer.

Towards the end of the 1950s, Sheila returned to work and live in the London area. She lived in a cottage in the grounds of a home in Kingston- upon-Thames, owned by the parents of her Slade school friend, Betsy Raskin (nee Tootill). From here she would take the bus into London to attend appointments with various designs studios, including Bernard Ashley, the husband of Laura Ashley, who at this time ran a small screen printing workshop producing tea towels and furnishing fabric. What transpired from this and other meetings with John Lewis is still unknown.

Sheila returned to Linton for good in the mid 1960s, where she worked (quite privately) as a freelance artist, selling her designs for another 25 years. She kept a meticulous record of pattern numbers and accounting, which details an extremely productive period in the early 1970s. During this time she created some bold and colourful work using clever pattern repeats with beautifully formed geometric shapes. Sheila was at her happiest in Yorkshire; it was here that her natural talent truly flourished as an artist and designer.

  • 1970s draft design in pencil
    1970s draft design in pencil
  • Finished design in gouache
    Finished design in gouache
  • Sketchbook detail
    Sketchbook detail
  • Sheila (centre) with Slade School friend Betsy Toothill (left) who's family kindly offered Sheila lodgings in Kingston-upon-Thames during the late 1950s
    Sheila (centre) with Slade School friend Betsy Toothill (left) who's family kindly offered Sheila lodgings in Kingston-upon-Thames during the late 1950s
  • 1970s draft design in pencil
    1970s draft design in pencil
  • Finished design in gouache
    Finished design in gouache
  • Design in repeat
    Design in repeat