Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The art of Bean Hole Days July 27, 2021

Pottery from When Pigs Fly Studio, Nisswa, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

FROM POTTERY TO DYED CLOTHING and much more, creative works filled tents and spaces lining a paved path through Trailside Park during Pequot Lake’s recent Bean Hole Days.

Lots and lots of arts and crafts, some with outdoor themes for cabin country. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

While beans, baked in massive kettles in an underground pit, highlight this festival, the Arts & Crafts Fair adds another appealing dimension. I always enjoy meandering among vendor booths, occasionally chatting it up with these creatives.

Featuring flags crafted from wood. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

A time existed when I, too, created with my hands. As a teen, I sewed nearly all my clothes. I also stitched dresses for my paternal grandmother. I loved sewing. But college, life as a working professional and then motherhood ended that. Perhaps some day I’ll return to sewing and embroidery, two favorite hands-on crafts. For now I keep my hands primarily on my keyboard and DSLR camera.

A Flying Pig by Alice Harris. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.
Artists’ statement. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.
A mug by Dale Goodhue. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I admire the creative work of others, including those vending in Pequot Lakes. Like the pottery of Alice Harris and Dale Goodhue, Minnesota residents in the summer, Georgia residents in the winter. They create out of their When Pigs Fly Studio in Nisswa. Alice crafts the pigs while Dale creates more practical pottery pieces like mugs and plates. What a difference in approaches to pottery.

A Puzzle Box crafted by Ken Spurlin. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Perhaps the most unusual art I discovered are the Puzzle Boxes crafted by Ken Spurlin of Nevis. He takes a chunk of wood and then saws it into a puzzle with a hidden space inside. It’s magical.

Crocheted art from Spun A Yarn. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

When I spotted crocheted panels in the Spun A Yarn booth, I engaged in conversation with the artist, who, as it turns out, is also a freelance fiction editor and writer. Miranda Darrow (her pen name) creates “crochet with character.” Her crocheted loon panel caught my eye given the northwoods location of the Arts & Craft Fair. Loons are common on area lakes.

Vending dyed goods and other art. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.
Used for natural dyes. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.
A sampling of the dyed clothing. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

A creative backdrop and vendors dressed in dyed clothing caused me to stop and peruse the art of Shea J Maze and Diaspora Textiles. Memories of tie dying in the 70s flashed back. But unlike the chemicals I used to dye tees, these items are dyed naturally. A jar of dried flowers sitting on the table proved that. Beautiful, soft hues define this natural dying method.

Kids play at the Wondertrek booth. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Farther along the trail, the bold colors of mega blocks drew kids (and me) to the booth of Wondertrek Baxter Children’s Museum. The museum is an in-process undertaking.

Bean Hole Days included a small carnival. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Across the park, inflatables splashed color into the landscape in temporary, interactive public art.

Loved this little guy’s colorful sweater. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I can see art most anywhere, including in the striped sweater worn by a preschooler wandering the fest grounds. Handcrafted or not, I don’t know. But I found it visually appealing, albeit seemingly too warm for the hot and humid July day.

Oh, the sweetness of this little girl, providing entertainment as people waited in line for free baked beans. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

While I’ve only shown you a sampling of the arts and crafts featured in Pequot Lakes, I hope this entices you to attend Bean Hole Days next summer. Not only for the delicious baked beans but also for the art.

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Please check back for one final post (of three) on Pequot Lakes Bean Hole Days.

© Copyright 2021 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.