Mika Negishi laidlaw

Artist Statement

My recent work has developed from the ideas of “Unconditional Love” and “Memory of Cells”. The work has a lot to do with my relationships to people who are important to me. It has been changing and evolving along with events in my life such as my grandfather’s complex end of his life, my grandmother’s progressing dementia, and taking a new role as a mother. What motivates me to create my work is highly personal, but I intend to send more universal messages to viewers.

As a child, I often visited my grandparents who lived in countryside of Japan. When I was very small, my grandmother called me “a little gymnast”, because I used to roll from one end of tatami floor to another during my sleep. Grandmother put one more futon around me, then two…. and soon she ended up with filling the entire bedroom floor with all futons she had so the “little gymnast” would not hurt herself during sleep. As I became older, my grandmother continued to treat me like a princess. During my occasional visits as an adult, she would stack layers of futons for me to sleep on. Having children of my own made me recall some of the fondest memories from my childhood. In my work, futons or pillows represent the unconditional love that is passed from one generation to the next.

The idea of “Memory of Cells” came to me when my children were newborn babies. Taking care of small children takes much time and care, yet children of very young ages cannot remember these critical times. It is the concept that while we cannot recall the earliest memories in our brains, cells, which create our flesh, bones, skin and organs, remember how people who loved us used to hold, rock and sing to us. I also wonder if I could apply this concept to minds of people with dementia. Although my grandmother can no longer remember my name or what she did five minutes ago, she showed such tenderness when she held her great granddaughter in her arms. While I don’t have a way to prove this, I want to believe my grandmother still retains a lot of memories in the cell level. I came to believe memories come in many different forms.

With my work, the themes of “Unconditional Love” and “Memory of Cells” are deeply related. I express my gratitude for life and existence through creating my work in clay.


Born and raised in Kobe, Japan, Mika Negishi Laidlaw has been working both in the U. S. and Japan. She currently teaches as an Associate Professor of Art at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She earned B.A. in Studio Art from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in 1994. From 1994 to 1997, she worked as a ceramic apprentice at Akishino Pottery in Nara-City, Japan, and studied traditional pottery under Masaya Imanishi. In 2000, She received her M.F.A. in Ceramics from Kansas State University where she met her lifetime mentor Yoshiro Ikeda. Other accomplishments include; recipient of 2001 McKnight Artist Residencies for Ceramic Artist at Northern Clay Center, Summer Artist Residence at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Art in 2003, and 2004 Emerging Artist at the annual conference of National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) in Indianapolis, demonstrator of 2006 NCECA in Portland, OR, and recipient of 2011 and 2006 McKnight Fellowship for Ceramic Artists. She exhibited nationally and internationally including, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Guam, and Spain. Mika lives in Mankato, Minnesota with her husband Les and two small children.