Aran Illingworth MSDC

Stitched & Constructed Textiles

About Aran
Aran is a textile artist specialising in portraiture and depiction of the human figure in textiles. She originally worked as a trained nurse, specialised in psychiatry. She left nursing in order to bring up her son, but eventually returned to education, completing a degree in textiles from the University of Hertfordshire. Now established as a textile artist, she has spent several years perfecting her work and the techniques that she uses. She currently exhibits her work both in the UK and internationally.
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Aran's work focuses on portraiture and depiction of the human figure in textiles, inspired by the people around her and using photographs as an input. Her work is a visual narrative, which is intended to convey a certain emotion and which focuses on subjects carrying a specific message and meaning.

The gaze of the portrait toward the viewer has remained a constant focal point in her work over the years, as has her search for a narrative based on faces, context and gestures. The work is all hand sewn using cotton thread.

Over time, she has developed a sewing technique that allows her to blend colours and establish tonalities that resemble the techniques used in paintings. The direction in which the threads are sewn mimics the way brush marks are layered within a painting which, in turn, creates an illusion of depth, volume, and form. Her stitching methodology borders on the obsessive, but ultimately allows her visually to evoke painterly renditions of flesh, hair, and cloth.

A few years ago, her work generally had a feminist dimension, which was particularly evident in work focused on poverty. More recently, however, her work has addressed an increasingly wide range of other concerns, whether based on social issues or political ones. For instance, some of her recent work is on dementia, taking as input a photographic image taken from a series focusing on the photographer’s own mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Such images can grab the viewers’ attention and leave an indelible impression. The results can be profound and transformative.

Aran's main aim is to continue working and researching and in the process to contribute to the debates taking place in textiles. She is committed to help keeping traditional embroidery techniques alive at a time when so many of the opportunities to learn them have disappeared.

Resumé Back to top


BA (Hons) | 2010 | University of Hertfordshire

· Subject: Applied Arts

· Classification: First Class Honours

BTEC Diploma | 2005 | Huntingdon Regional College

· Subject: Art and Design

· Grade: Merit

Work Experience

Textile Technician at Kimbolton School

· 2008 to 2017

Registered Mental/General Nurse

· 1975 to 1994

Current Exhibitions

19th - 29th April 2024

Prism ‘Edgeland’ The Art Pavillon, Mile End Park Clinton Road, E3 4QY

14-17 March 2024

Exhibiting at Fashion & Embroidery, NEC Birmingham: : Exhibiting at Fashion & Embroidery, NEC Birmingham

2023 Exhibition

Saturday 25 November 2023 to Saturday 6 January 2024

Guildford House Open Exhibition,155 High Street, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 3AJ

"LINGERING MEMORIES" Fox Yard Studio , 6 Old Fox Yard, Stowmarket,

A Letter in Mind: Changing Perspectives,r Gallery Different (14 Percy Street, London W1T 1D

Together – an exhibition of portraits from the University of Hertfordshire Art Collection. University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, Herts

Wonder, Society of Designer Craftsmen, Oxmarket Contemporary in Chichester, West Sussex.

Letchworth Open 2023 , Broadway Galley, Letchworth, Herts

Contemporary Fine Art Textiles Exhibition, Stitch by Stitch, he Willow Gallery, Oswestry, Shropshire

Emerald 20, Celebrating the Art Project 2003 - 2023

The Conference centre, St Pancras Hospital, 4 St Pancras Way, London,

Animal Kingdom online Exhibition, Cultural Centre, Cape Cod, MA,US

Prism ‘Wrapped’, The Art Pavilion, Mile End Park Clinton Road, E3 4QY11th - 19th March

Norfolk Makers’ Festival 2023 ‘Bold Perspectives’ Exhibition,The Forum Trust, Millennium Plain, Norwich, NR2 1TF.

Made in 2022, Peterborough Cathedral, Peterborough

I’m Not Invisiable’ The Old Chapel Textile Centre Main Street, Greenham Business Park, Newbury, Berks ,RG19 6HW

·Hanging by a Thread: a Portrayal of Poverty (solo exhibition), Knitting and Stitching Show, Harrogate Convention Centre, Kings Road, Harrogate HG1 5LA (Nov 17th – 20th)

Hanging by a Thread: a Portrayal of Poverty (solo exhibition), Knitting and Stitching Show, Alexandra Palace, London N22 7AY

2022 Exhibition

Color Play, Swiss Fiber Art, Galerie Kalina, Am Platzl 1, 94209 Regen, Germany

Transformations, Society of Designer Craftsmen, Bankside Gallery, 48 Hopton St, London SE1 9JH

Reflection, Open Gallery, 18 Rawson St, Halifax HX1 1NH

Prism, Untold, The Art Pavilion, Mile End Park Clinton Road, E3 4QY

Janus Revisited, Cupola Gallery, 178, 178A Middlewood Rd, Sheffield S6 1TD )

Doncaster Art Fair (Virtual Exhibition), Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Women United Art Movement, We Create, (Virtual Exhibition), Czech Republic


Part of Beyond The Knitting & Stitching Show 2021, Self Portrait Competition, Harrogate

Designer Crafts from the Society of Designer Craftsmen, RBSA Gallery, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham

My Story, British Textile Biennial, Blackburn Cathedral, Blackburn

Prism - In Search of Possibilities, The Art Pavilion, Mile End Park, London

Part of Beyond The Knitting & Stitching Show 2021, Self Portrait Competition, Alexandra Palace, London

160th Annual Open Exhibition 2021, The Society of Women Artists (Virtual Exhibition)

130th Open Exhibition, Lovely gallery, Margate, Kent

‘Excellence’, Society of Designer craftsmen, The Oxmarket, Chichester, West Sussex

Textile Exhibition, Berkhamsted Got Talent, Open Doors Community Space and Café, Berkhamsted, Herts

Eye of the Beholder, Cultural Centre of Cape Cod (Virtual Exhibition) 307 Old Main St, South Yarmouth, MA 02664, USA

Threaded 111, Envision art online gallery, Texas, USA

Doncaster Art Fair, "Art as a Response to Mental Health 2021" (Virtual Exhibition)

Broadway arts festival, 2021 Open Art Competition, Theatre barn, Bretforton, Evesham

Absent gallery - Spring Open 2021 (exhibiting in a 3D virtual and interactive world) Somerset

Letchworth open, Broadway Gallery, Letchworth, Herts

Articles and Publications

Textile Art Around the World | Ellen Bakker | 2015

· An overview of the various disciplines and techniques from within the textile world presenting 160 artists from around the globe

Handmade in Britain: Contemporary Artisans | Piyush Suri | 2012

· A book investigating crafts-people and their work in fields such as jewelry, ceramics, textiles, furniture, and other craft

Other Articles:

Panorama Magazine 2023

Stitch Magazine feb/March 2023

Legal Women Magazine, The UK magazine for all women working in law Feb 2023

THE WORLD OF INTERIORS, KNITTING AND STITCHING SHOW, Haberdashery and more in Harrogate,Written by Ariadne Fletcher October 2022

Selvedge Magazine, 'HANGING ON THE THREAD', OCTOBER 1, 2022

'Apart at the seams' Embroidery Magazine May 2021

'Socially Conscious Stitching' in Be Creative with Workbox magazine, Issue 185, on sale February 19th2020

· ART Habens Art Review, Biennial Edition

· Fberart Now Textile fiber Forum magazine’s 122 in the readers

· Aran Illingworth | Artsbeat – Derbyshire's free arts magazine


· Fiberart International vol 3 issue 1 Fall 2013

· Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 61 May 10, 2013

· Aran Illingworth: Embracing Indian heritage


· BBC Wales report on Crafts in the Bay 2011

· Fairfields Art Centre, Basingstoke: Fairfields' fine show by ladies by Joanna Mace, 10/03/2011 in the Basingstoke Gazette


Women United ART PRIZE 2021 outstanding work:

The Knitting & Stitching Show 2021, Self Portrait Competition, commended

Envision Arts, Threaded III, 'East of Eden' Best in Show artist, 2021

The People’s Prize, Broadway Festival 2018 open exhibition, Little Buckland Gallery, Little Buckland, Broadway 2018: awarded for work ‘Fractured Memory – Who Is That?’

Best in Show at the 2017 Open Exhibition | Lovely’s Gallery, Margate | 2017

· This was awarded for my work “The Three Graces”

People’s Prize at the ‘H’ Themes Exhibition PEOPLE’S PRIZE AT THE ‘H’ | Harley Gallery | 2012

· This was awarded for my work “Madonna and Child”

UH Alumni Prize | Hertfordshire College OPen Exhibition | 2011

· This was awarded for my work “I’m a big girl now"

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