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The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice by John Maeda, Mara Hermano, Rosanne Somerson

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Groundwork

Leslie Hirst

How does a new student of art and design transform into a creative and critical maker? Leslie Hirst, Associate Professor, Foundation Studies, argues that critical making is not something that just happens to people with certain gifts or abilities. Rather, critical making — transforming the ordinary into something meaningful — involves absolute focus and an enormous amount of doing that is often hard to qualify while it is being done. Through recollections and a series of lessons, Hirst demonstrates that the path to becoming a creative practitioner is never straight, and is strewn with obstacles as well as inspiration.

 

Throughout grade school I was accused of being “creative.” For this reason, whenever our class was required to partake in a group art project, the teacher put me in charge. It is easy to recall the burden of this label. It meant that I was expected to pull something foreign or surprising out of myself even though I had always considered my ideas normal and obvious, and I didn’t think I ever demonstrated that I was capable of anything else. I was certain at age seven or ten that others had misidentified my talents. I felt like a fraud. Simply, I was very good at making exactly what I wanted to make look exactly as it should look. It had not occurred to me that most people have no concept how this is done.

I grew up around makers, but not around artists. Perhaps necessity, limitations, and isolation fueled my need to “make” more than the desire ...

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