Professor Karen Fleming studied at Loughborough and Ulster University. She began lecturing part-time while continuing as a freelance artist for 16 years before assuming full-time responsibilities at Belfast School of Art, gaining underpinning professional development to teach by completing a Master of Education (1995, distinction).
She was appointed professor (2008) and continues to practice, exhibit and curate. Having been external examiner of fashion, textile and craft programmes in UK and Ireland, she is motivated to develop courses that anticipate future creative careers.
She currently contributes mainly to the MSc Fashion and Textiles Retail Management, with a focus on design thinking, product development, new fashion and textile models of consumption, ethical engagement with communities and supporting our graduates to contribute to a more sustainable future.
Her research and supervision interests encompass the ecologies of the creative industries, cross-disciplinary collaboration and, of course, textile embroidery, construction and heritage. Having worked in the community and with adult learners early in her career, she remains interested in widening understanding of textile cultures in therapeutic contexts, design for ageing, protest textiles, Orange, Masonic and other community production alongside new career opportunities in film, animation and events.
Currently she is co-investigator of the AHRC funded Creative Industry Cluster ‘Future Screen NI’ and Ulster University Director of the Northern Bridge Consortium. She is academic chair of University Athena Swan (gender equality), having previously served as Research Director and Head of Belfast School of Art.
A trustee of the Museum and Galleries NI, she was a founding Trustee of Craft NÍ and a former trustee of the UK Council for Higher Education in Art and Design, for whom she founded the UK CHEAD (Council for Higher Education in Art and Design) Research Alliance.
She is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College, a Council member for JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) Digital Research Community and the 2021 UK Research Assessment Framework (REF2021).