Dishes Made From Fukushima's Radioactive Soil


Today in the annals of head-scratching design provocation: Hilda Hellström, a recent graduate of the master’s product-design program at RCA, has fashioned a set of dishes from the contaminated earth around the Fukushima nuclear disaster site. Who wants a bowl of radioactive ice cream?!

Okay, obviously these assorted bowls, plates, and vases are not meant to be functional. But you wouldn’t really want them in your living room as sculptures, either. So what’s the point? Hellström says she wanted to create food vessels, "which are just as useless for their purpose as the land and the farmers of Fukushima"—in other words, to make something as cosmically absurd, albeit on a much smaller scale, as the disaster itself.

Hellström flew to Fukushima to gather soil from the rice farm of Naoto Matsumura, the last known person still living inside the evacuation zone. (In a heart-wrenching video, Matsumura admits he wanted to stick around to tend to his animals. We also find out that he tried to flee to his extended family’s house, but they turned him away because they thought he was radioactive.)

Together, Hellström and Matsumura extracted soil from 3 inches beneath the surface of Matsumura’s fields, where the earth contains 2,500 becquerel/kilogram (units of radioactivity). That was "the right amount of radiation," Hellström tells us in an email. "It is safe to be around, but … I wouldn’t advise people to eat from the plates." Then she placed them into thick glass jars ("The radiation is low enough so I didn’t need any special casings."), threw the jars in her suitcase (DEFRA, the U.K.'s quarantine organization, okayed this), and returned to the U.K. to mold the soil into what she calls "slightly radioactive" dishes.

"The aim with the project is to … construct an object that speaks of a much larger event than the object itself and inhabits a narrative that goes far beyond its form or function," she writes. Mission accomplished. I just hope her roommates don’t mistake one of those things for a cereal bowl.

[Images courtesy of Hilda Hellström; h/t Dezeen]

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  • BB

    Matsumura is a hero to me. He didn't abandon his animals like so many. There are still 1,00's of "pets" abandoned in the do not go zone. The Japanese Gov't has abandoned them w/o food or water in a mass abuse. If they were that toxic they would be dead by now. Wish this "artist" had done something more meaningful than this from her trip there. 

  • Scott

    and she took that radioactive dirt in an airplane with other people who had no idea it was flying with them??? AND someone okay'd that?? what is wrong with people??

  • Dave Jenkins

    I'm not sure if I'd use the adjective 'absurd' to describe the tragedy.  I'd maybe go for something like 'tragic' or 'horrible' or 'heart-wrenchingly ruinous'.

    Also, if I lived there, I'd tell that European to take her bony white ass back to where it came from. 

  • Jessica Lovering

    The limit for radiation in food that you actually eat is 2000 bequerels/kg. So, if you ate these plates, that is slightly above the legal limit. But, it seems that the soil is not actually that dangerous. Maybe the farmland and farmers are not as useless as the artist implies.

  • Hanna

    this is not product design, might be art, but not product design. they're not even aesthetically pleasing.