We are Makers and Creators: Head of Postgraduate Taught Awards – Marie Brennan

We are Makers and Creators: Head of Postgraduate Taught Awards – Marie Brennan

Meet Marie Brennan, head of postgraduate study

Marie heads up our MA courses, bringing a uniquely distinct career in visual arts, curation, design and performing arts.

We explore Marie’s current practice in this blog, as part of our Makers and Creators photo series, showcasing our talented staff.

Can you tell us a bit about your philosophy?

I am someone who loves working across disciplines and I believe that creativity and the creative imagination are vitally important to help us navigate the world we live in.

Creative projects and ideas people help find solutions to problems and issues in society and offer space to help us understand our world.

I am aware of the role that creativity can play in helping us address social and environmental issues and I’m keen to develop projects that allow us to live in closer harmony with nature – even if our existence is an urban one.

I love design history and when designing shoes I always try to think about the wider world, history, heritage, contexts and purpose and incorporate these ideas into the design and manufacture – this incorporates not only the look of the shoe, but the materials used to make them.

Marie Brennan's shoemaking

Tell us a bit about your career to date

I have blended my career path to include both academic and creative routes and I find that my current job incorporates the best of both of these worlds. 

I saw the job advertised at NUA and felt it call to me – it really appealed as it required a very diverse skill set and creative understanding and I felt this would consolidate all of my experience to date and allow me to apply it to help others on their own creative pathways.

Marie Brennan works on her shoemaking business in the NUA MA Fine Art studio in front of art

What are the high points of your career to date?

With such a diverse career, working across documentary through to visual arts, curation, design and performing arts, I have had many highlights – but for anyone just starting out a career, it is important too to build resilience and an ‘icebreaker’ mentality to keep on going when the going gets tough.

I was extremely fortunate to start a freelance career as Visual Arts Education and Galleries Consultant for the Anish Kapoor Sky Mirror Project at Nottingham Playhouse. 

Being recognised as a cultural expert for the EU really validated my experience where I was evaluating multi-million-pound creative projects across Europe.

In April 2019 I was appointed as an Advisor to the Arts and Creativity Group for the British Council and I am honoured to be working with them on arts and creative projects internationally.

Marie Brennan, head of postgraduate courses at Norwich University of the Arts works on her shoemaking in the NUA Fine Art studio

"I am very aware of the role that creativity can play in helping us address social and environmental issues and I am really keen to develop projects that allow us to live in closer harmony with nature – even if our existence is an urban one."

Marie Brennan

Can you tell us about your shoemaking?

I was very lucky to learn shoemaking and design from my partner – from design, through to taping up last to drawing your pattern on.

I ran an award-winning shoemaking business in Ireland called Shoeniversity which won a Design and Tourism award at the Irish Tourism Awards and our footwear business was also shortlisted for the National Start up Awards with the Bank of Ireland.

I sketch directly onto the shoe last and I do this before taping as it allows me to see if the early design sketches work before I commit.

I prefer this approach to CAD as I find it more organic and natural – especially when dealing with the architectural, sculptural form of a shoe on the human foot.

Do you have a dream project or goal?

I am really keen on developing the creativity of others and helping them build networks and partnerships. Given the age of anxiety that we live in, I would love to develop more projects that help us protect and support the environment we live in. I think projects with social and environmental purpose are so important.

I would love to engage more with designing sustainable products and working with cities to create new opportunities to design more creative, eco-inclusive spaces.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering MA study, what would it be?

Be brave, take risks and innovate. When you reach MA level, there is no path to follow. You are now the pathfinder, an adventurer, a pioneer. Congratulations.

Photography by Denisa Ilie, BA Photography graduate.