Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“Crochet in Translation”: the art of Malia Wiley July 16, 2019

Malia Wiley’s “Swine in an Afghan.” Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


WE SHARE THE COMMONALITIES of attending the same Christian college, Bethany Lutheran in Mankato, and of being creatives.


Malia Wiley with her oil painting, “Stag Luxuriously Robed in Crochet.” Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


I write and photograph. She paints and crochets. She is Malia Wiley, a young southern Minnesota artist who specializes in painting primarily pet portraits. But Malia also crochets and has now combined her two creative passions into an artistic endeavor, Crochet in Translation.


Flying geese in crochet and painting by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


“Cozy Squirrel” portrait up close by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


Love the vivid colors in this rooster portrait by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


The result is a signature art form unlike any I’ve seen. Novel. Unique. Memorable. And truly creative with the colors and textures of crocheted afghans inspiring, weaving into and enhancing Malia’s portraits of animals.


Malia Wiley, left, chats with guests at her recent Owatonna Arts Center Crochet in Translation gallery opening. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


Recently I attended an opening reception at the Owatonna Arts Center honoring Malia and celebrating her work as an artist. A gallery exhibit of her art continues there until July 28.


“Hens on Crochet” by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


I chatted briefly with this talented artist and learned that her grandma taught her to crochet. Her “Hens on Crochet” incorporates an afghan crocheted by her grandmother and exhibited with the painting.


Malia Wiley crafted this jewel-toned afghan, the inspiration for a peacock painting. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


“Bundled Sheep” by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


Afghans from Malia Wiley’s collection stacked in a corner of the gallery. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


Malia also crafted a few of the showcased afghans. But most were found—at thrift stores and garage sales. Crocheting an afghan, Malia says, takes considerably more time than painting an animal portrait. I don’t doubt that when you look at the intricate patterns of crocheted afghans.


In addition to originals, Malia Wiley sells prints of her animal portraits. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


That Malia makes her living as an artist delights me. With this Lake Crystal artist’s level of talent and signature style, it’s easy to see how she has become a successful professional artist. On a larger and more public scale, Malia’s work is featured on a mural she painted for the ag-themed Grow-It Gallery at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota in Mankato, a museum on my to-see list.


“Preparing the Den” by Malia Wiley. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


I love when young people, anyone really, follow their passions and find joy in the talents with which they’ve been blessed. We are all the richer for the creatives who enrich our lives through their art.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Paintings were photographed with Malia’s permission.


28 Responses to ““Crochet in Translation”: the art of Malia Wiley”

  1. Marilyn Donnell Says:

    Oh what fun, great fun! Mother Fox and Cozy Squirrel have captured my heart.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    What an interesting exhibit! I marvel at the creativity!

  3. valeriebollinger Says:

    Very creative! I love the “Bundled Sheep”. I find it interesting that it takes longer to crochet an afghan than paint a picture. I hope to see this exhibit. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Oh my goodness these are amazing!

  5. Littlesundog Says:

    Oh, Audrey, I LOVE this artist’s work!! Of course you would know I’d find her pieces fascinating because of my love of wildlife, but I am crazily drawn to her “signature” style. I will be researching her work – and thank you so much for showcasing her talent!!

  6. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. I love the paintings, so detailed and colorful, and then throw in the afghans next to the paintings… that is beautiful. I could never pick a favorite, they are all amazing.

  7. Malia Wiley Says:

    Audrey! This is wonderful, thank you so much for doing this and putting it out there for others to enjoy. I’m so glad that the show resonated with you and it looks like others find it interesting too.

  8. Incredible talent and what fun!

  9. Gunny Says:


  10. Bella Says:

    What a fun and unusual display of art! So difficult to pick a favorite-her art work bursts with joy and creativity.Certainly hanging one of her paintings in your home would be a real conversation piece.

    voting for the squirrel one

  11. Norma Says:

    I love to see all this crochet. My mother was an avid “crocheter” She would just see something, and start crocheting it. I still have so much of her work, and really feel sad that it is not really wanted or cherished by the younger generations in my family. I suppose that when I’m gone, all of her work will also be gone.

    • What did your mother crochet? My grandma tatted. I have some of the lace she tatted stitched onto a cloth angel I sewed. I sewed angels for all of my siblings using Grandma’s tatted lace. I hope my siblings treasure this art. I bet you will find someone in your family who will want your mom’s handiwork.

      • norma Says:

        My mother had started a couple of afghans shortly before she died. Since I did not have a talent for the art, I gave them to some of my friends to finish, and do with them what they decided. She had made afghans for all of her grandchildren, and for me. She had finished a bedspread, and table cloth. I gave those to two of my girls. She also made many doilies. Large, medium and small. I still have several of those items. Also couch and arm chair covers. I no longer have those. I never learned because I never had the patience.

      • What a gift your mother had in crocheting all those works of art.

  12. What FUN and oh so AMAZING!!! Thanks for sharing – brighten my day and put a smile on my face 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy

  13. Brenda Says:

    Thanks for sharing Malia’s art! It is so fun to see as she is from Nicollet originally. Her Dad is on my “call list” if I have vehicle problems on the mail route. She is a very talented artist indeed! Love the animals and crochet together!

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