Comments surrounding Critical Thinking

The words Critical Thinking are used many times through the OCA courses.  But what does it really mean in the context of Art and Textiles?

Critical thinking is defined as the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment (dictionary). This means that an individual is considering all the factors of a situation to make a decision.  Critical thinking in the fashion, textiles and art world is extremely important because a person is constantly making decisions on what they need to do, as in many areas of life.

I feel that it is very important to develop this skill, because that is what makes the objective better. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to understand the logic connections between ideas. Different ideas can come and go. Even in stressful situations, critical thinkers can rely on their logical decision making skills. Using logic to help you sort through life’s challenges can be extremely helpful.

Having read through Stella Cottrell’s book ‘Critical Thinking Skills’, the object of becoming ‘self-aware’ is also key.  This links in, because if we are not fully aware, our judgements many not hold up.  Our own assumptions and leanings can mar our judgement, thus we need to be aware of these.

Becoming more self aware actually is a brave thing to do, especially within our artistic practice.  Why?  Because we find out things that we would rather not see; our weak points.  Yet lets turn that thought around, as it is actually a positive to find these things out, so that we can remedy them.  Our beliefs may be challenged, which can cause us to have doubts about our “identity” as it were.  The trick as I see it, is to move forward rather than being stunned by what we find.

An example of this, would be my own journey through this level of course; I was found to be lacking in a few areas, such as the actual development of my work and risk taking.  At the time this was said, I was majorly stunted and did not know what to do with this “information”.  I wanted to challenge it rather than accept it.  However on closer inspection, I see why it was said and thus is has become a healthy thing which I feel I can work towards to “make better”, as it were.

I have discovered through my own research a few benefits of taking this quality on board and actually making sure to implement it.  At first it may seem like a “ticky box” exercise, yet very quickly it becomes a natural part of the course process and we implement it as a skill without realising.  In other words it comes automatically.

When we do achieve this ability to think critically, we benefit as we are able to:

  • Get our own views and point across in an articulate manner.
  • Define what is important within our own body of work; I.e. look at a substance of ideas and pick those with the most potential.
  • Focus our observation skills.
  • Focus our research so that it does not become muddied with a large amount of unneeded points.
  • Analyse our work and others in the form which is required, i.e. when it comes to researching others for a dissertation and talking about their work in an informed manner.
  • We glean more from whatever research we are doing, as it becomes no longer surface knowledge or a saturation of findings, but has more depth and reason to it.

Finally, I scanned in this part of the book mentioned above, as I wanted a blog post where I could look back on it easily:


On a final note, as a student I should be looking at the assessment criteria on a regular basis.  This should help me be reminded of what I am hoping to achieve and convey through my work.  It is my opinion that this should become a natural process as the level increases, in other words, I shouldn’t need to be tied up on checking it all the time, but should come be worked with automatically.

Through this assessment criteria, we are encouraged to become critically aware, articulate and self aware, amongst other things.  Thus this subject matter does need to keep being readdressed.

We may still wonder why it is so important, why cant we just enjoy creating art?  I have voiced those thoughts on a few occasions.  Yet now, I see it as a “teething time”, something which may feel painful at the time, yet opens your mind in the future and the pay off?  A better more rounded practice.

Finally, an established artist Janice Arnold had this to say:  ‘I have always loved making things. Undoubtedly, this stems from my frugal upbringing- where nothing went to waste. I learned to sew by altering the clothes passed down from siblings. I don’t remember having toys, just tools and raw materials. If I didn’t have the right tool, I figured out how to fashion one. This environment helped develop my design sense and critical thinking skills. ‘.  Thus our environment, or the one we create for ourselves can help us develop this way of looking and studying.  She is now able to challenge her practice, working on many scales and studying the area of Felt Making in a scientific way.

Surely it is best and most importantly VITAL to develop this Critical Thinking as early as we can and let it be strengthened through our learning.  This way we can come out of the degree path, not like an orphaned Bambi; but in contrast, with an ability to decide and make strong decisions, based on a rounded out knowledge and depth of thought.




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