Art of Critical Making, Article by Leslie Hurst
Even though the article is primarily, or solely, about undergraduates…I think a lot of similar ideas apply to us as graduate students, if not even more so. We are coming in with experience as ‘creatives,’ so there is a pressure there to continue that stream; to have moments of inspiration. Professor Hirst mentioned that students feel like they need to channel all their abilities into making transformative things and having great end products. I liked that she talked about how this can impact a student’s appreciation for the process. Not just the process of making, but also the process of learning. Her story about Tauba Aueberbach and students almost being depressed by seeing her work (which was pretty great) was interesting…it’s like in that moment they realized: I can’t do this and it’s going to make me hours and hours and hours of work just to beging to figure out how to do this. That was telling, and something that I’ve definitely fallen prey to even though I do spend hours and hours of work on things. Sometimes, I just want to get there…without cost. But it doesn’t work like that.
I think one of the most prescient few lines was when she said that students often feel the need to do something original, something that hasn’t been done before…but they don’t have enough context to know what ‘before’ is. I definitely could fall into this trap as I begin to explore design concepts outside of furniture. I like coming up with new/original ideas (or at least I like to think they are), but as I begin to work in new areas of research that are not my particular area of expertise, I’m worried about potential naivete, thinking I’ve found answers to big problems, but really I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.
So, in view of that…a remedy Prof. Hurst proposes. Maybe not a remedy but at least a helpful proposition: focus on learning, focus on your research, keep a goal in mind for an end project but don’t let it subsume you. I’m taking this to mean that: whenever I read a cool article and have learned something new, and if I get an idea from it…I don’t need to jump up quickly and say: New idea for a thesis! Got it! (I am kind of doing this a little bit right now) I just need to sift through information, explore possibilities, take good notes, have a general goal but necessarily a plan and keep my head down and work. A note I jotted after reading her article was: ‘Learn cumulatively’…I don’t need to find my thesis next week, I just need to keep studying and build toward it.