HOT SHOP: Flora Dora

June 15, 2011

I’ve stumbled across a real gem today. Flora Dora is a brand new mail order shop, selling previously unseen archive prints from the late textile designer Sheila Bownas, whose career stretched from the 1940s to the 1980s. Her wonderful 50s, 60s, and 70s designs are vibrant, colourful, gorgeous – and still very relevant today…

Sheila studied at Skipton Art School in 1941, then worked as a textile and wallpaper designer in London in the late 1950s and 1960s – during which time she painted wallpapers for the German firm ‘PW Bruck-Messel’. After a stint drawing botanical diagrams for the Natural History Museum, she returned to Yorkshire in later life and lived for many years in a cottage near Skipton, until her death in 2007. Sheila was a modest person and her relatives were amazed to find she had left behind a large collection of unseen patterns and paintings in a dusty drawer…

Two years ago, Rugby-based photographer, art gallery curator and mum-preneur, Chelsea Cefai, picked up the entire archive at an auction and, together with her husband, decided to share the designs with the world in a sympathetic way. Sheila’s family has been very involved with the whole process and, despite conversations with large companies such as Graham & Brown and Osborne & Little, the couple decided to keep things small-scale. Flora Dora was born.

There are 200 designs in the archive, but just two collections have been released so far, ‘1959’ and ‘1963’. This is a truly British venture; the cushion covers are sewn by Chelsea herself, the stunning art prints are produced in Birmingham, and the fabric is produced just 20m a time in a London workshop.

Got a vintage chair that needs re-covering? These fabrics are perfect! Mmmm, check out the ‘Loretta’ fabric on the Ercol studio couch.

Flora Dora also sells mid-century modern ceramics and retro tableware. Keep your eyes on the website; Chelsea tells me new collections will be released on a regular basis. I’m completely and utterly smitten. How wonderful to discover such a treasure trove stashed in a drawer. – Ellie

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