As you know, I fire my kiln with recycled firewood. The wood I use comes into Japan as boxes of tobacco from the US for Japan Tobacco. It is therefore untreated with chemicals in accordance with safety regulations. In accordance with the Japanese industrial waste laws, it is then passed on to a licensed recycling company, in our case a wood supplier in Mashiko. He then bundles it into neat packages and it can be used in my kiln. I asked the wood supplier to provide certification that the wood was tested for radioactive materials and proven safe, and he in turn asked JT, who provided us with the above documentation, stating that the wood was maximum 0.15microsieverts of radiation, and well within the safe limits. SO, with confidence I fired my first test firing with my safe and wonderful wood! After the pots came out I checked them with my own handy dandy Geiger counter (never leave home without it!) and it told me that the pots were less than 0.05 microseiverts and unmeasurable with this equipment. HOORAY!!!
I contact the Gunma prefectural office of environment and forestry in Numata, our neighbouring town. I explain in detail the problem I have, and ask them what I should do? They tell me to prepare a 1 litre sample of saw dust according to the outlines on the MAFF homepage, bring it to them and they will test it for me for FREE! HOORAY!!!
On a clean sheet of plastic (free of potential contaminants) I cut ten separate bundles of wood taken at random from the wood stack with my freshly cleaned chainsaw. I gather 1 kg (which is actually more than 1 litre, but better too much than not enough!) and double bag it in two new plastic bags. I then took it straight to the Prefectural office in Numata and the very kind gentleman took my details and the sample and will contact me when the results come through. They have a back up of tests, so it will take ten days to two weeks, is that OK? YES!!!
So, if you were wondering why you can't buy my new pots yet, and why there has been this deafening silence, now you know. Probably the most important word in the mingei philosophy is "Kenzen", which means healthy or wholesome. When I make my pots, I make them for my loved ones to use. I will not compromise on safety, and until I can confidently provide art which is healthy and wholesome, we will just have to be patient. As I have said before, my vessels are a collaboration with nature, and through them I strive to enrich peoples every day lives every day. The more beautiful the process, the more beautiful the result. I will not be firing again until I have the official test results. In the meantime I will be making lots of pots in preparation for my renaissance exhibition. It has been a very long run, and hopefully this is the last hurdle.