Gladstone High School senior Emily Hunt wanted to try something special for her final project in AP U.S. History. She decided to create and fire ceramic pots using techniques from 15th- and 16th-century indigenous tribes from the American Southwest.
"I've been doing a lot of ceramics in an art class this year, and I wanted to find a way to include that in my history project," Hunt said. "I decided to hand-make the pots and attempt to fire them in an indigenous way."
What made the project challenging was that Hunt had less than three weeks to complete the project, including construction of a wood-fired outdoor kiln.
"I made three pots, and two of them exploded in firing," she said. "But experiencing failure was actually a good thing. There was no way to learn and replicate centuries of knowledge and tradition in a three-week project. If I had succeeded perfectly, it actually would have been disappointing.
"I knew my teacher, Mr. [Matt] Misley, wanted us to take a risk and pursue something out of the ordinary. This assignment was more about what I learned than about making perfect pots."
While ceramics is more a hobby than an academic interest for Hunt, the project did inspire her to find ways to connect with contemporary Native American potters and watch them work.
"I learned a lot about Native American culture through this project," Hunt said. "In the Native American ceramics world today, pots fired in electric kilns are considered 'dead pots,' but those fired in outdoor wood-fired kilns are considered to be alive."
Hunt, the valedictorian of Gladstone's class of 2017, plans to attend the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon to pursue a degree in international studies.