School daze: Maeve Murphy was encouraged to follow her heart to art

The operations manager of Cork Craft and Design fair on being encouraged to follow her dream in school 
School daze: Maeve Murphy was encouraged to follow her heart to art

Maeve Murphy, Operations Manager of Cork Craft and Design, which has over 70 events and workshops online during August. Pic Diane Cusac

Maeve Murphy, Operations Manager of Cork Craft and Design 

My most vivid memory of school has to be my work experience during Transition Year. I’got to do some great placements. For a while I wanted to be a garda so I went on work experience with the Juvenile Liaison Officer in Castlebar for a few days. It was great. Obviously I didn’t pursue that, but am grateful for them being so open to entertaining a young kid’s aspirations.

On my first day in secondary school, I got lost. It was like an adventure finding all the rooms to attend all the different classes. I loved when we got our timetable. That’s probably where my love for schedules started.

I was good at music and art. I taught myself a few instruments — it comes naturally to me and I’ve met many of my friends through music. My mam was artistic, that rubbed off on me, hence I went on to study textiles in college. 

Thankfully my parents encouraged all of us to follow our hearts, so my brother and I ended up going to art college and we both are working in the creative sector in Ireland in different capacities. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after art college, but I knew it was what I needed to do at the time. 

I loved physics too, but it was too early for my brain, I think. I can appreciate it now and find it fascinating, but I found it very hard to wrap my head around atoms and protons back then.

'It's okay to change'

My school years taught me that it’s okay to change — I switched from music to art in fifth year, which was a bit of a change at the time. And go with your heart. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I still don’t, but I know I love challenges and I love being creative. You can be creative is so many areas, not just being an artist.

If I met my school-age self today, I would say “own who you are, you are class just the way you are! Be yourself, because everyone else is taken.” I

 connected with friends musically during school (I was in a few bands) and I am still friends with many of them today — though we don’t have the time, and are far too many miles apart, to be jamming these days. Friends are so important to me and I’ve some amazing friends in my life that have been through the thick and thin with me. I’m still very close to two friends I went to playschool with.

The best advice I have ever been given is ‘what’s for you won’t pass you’. I truly believe that. 

There have been so many opportunities and situations I’ve gone for in the past that at the time I was gutted I didn’t get or I missed them. Now, on reflection, I realise that everything has it’s time and place.

My Leaving Certificate biology teacher Mr O’Connor had a major influence on me. He was a new teacher to the school and he put so much preparation into creating handwritten notes for us to study for the Leaving Cert. They were my bible for biology, I memorised them inside out. I’d like to thank him for supporting and preparing me for the exam so much — it’s the reason I got the grade I did! It’s from him I learnt about prep work really.

Anne McCarthy, at the Arts Office in Mayo County Council is not a school teacher, but certainly a mentor for me. I did my work experience there all through my college summers. It was through her that I realised I could work in the arts in the capacity I do now after art college. I’d like to thank her for sharing her knowledge and time to a student who had so much to learn.

My school days definitely influenced my career path. Studying both music and art certainly showed that I have a love for both disciplines and that I would work in both areas when I graduated.

After art college I studied a Masters in Cultural Policy & Arts Management, which led me to work with West Cork Music in Bantry and now with Cork Craft & Design. 

Arts and culture 'enhances everything in the area'

For me, managing and directing something like Cork Craft Month feeds my creative needs. 

Arts and culture is what attracts people to visit places and it enhances everything in the area — from business to community to people’s lives. 

The value of it is so underrated. It makes up our DNA, it’s what Ireland is known for nationally and I’m so proud to work in it and promote it.

Over 100 Cork makers celebrate contemporary Irish craft at Cork Craft Month this August. Over 70 events — 80% of which are online, it is run by Cork Craft & Design. Details at

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