The Maple Tree
[She Shed: Floral + Art]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Portrait & studio photography by Micah J. Zimmerman, Amdak Productions
Wedding floral photography provided by Sophie Grace Photography, Susie Rostad Photography, Vanessa Koep Photography, Ryan LaPlante Creative Photography, Harper Moon Photography
Since we never doubt the dynamic of a mother-daughter duo, this month, we took a trip to meet Karen Wulfekuhle and her daughter Rachel Wulfekuhle. Together, they've created The Maple Tree, a floral design and art studio "She Shed" in the rural outskirts of Fergus Falls, Minn. From the charming front porch to the pine walls of the studio inside, this is a backyard sanctuary and creative outlet, for all things beautiful.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
While Karen works intently on floral designs for an upcoming wedding, across the room her daughter, Rachel, perfects her watercolor technique. Only occasionally does the mother-daughter duo work in the studio together, choosing to keep their creative vibe and inspirations all their own. Despite mom's varying playlists and Rachel's vinyl records, both are equally drawn to the pine-enveloped space in the backyard of their family home.
The Wulfekuhle's "She Shed" began construction as a side project three years ago and was designed by Karen's husband of 25 years, Randy Wulfekuhle. Sparked by an idea from their artist daughter, the space was initially planned as a smaller 8x12 art and garden shed. Not long into planning, the shed took on a new life as a multi-functioning studio with a storage attic; a larger space that would be able to foster both of their passions.
Floral | Karen Wulfekuhle
By day, Karen focuses her energy in the field of Oncology as a Licensed Social Worker. In her off time, she gets to explore her creativity through floral design and connecting with the personal side of each bride-to-be. On a perfect day, she may even get to collaborate with her daughter for beautiful touches like signage, invitations and calligraphy.
"We didn't intend for this to become a business, so to speak. I've been doing floral design on the side for about 20 years; I'm self-taught and continue to participate in floral classes," explained Karen Wulfekuhle. "This has always been an opportunity to just be creative. The business happened by accident; people decided they liked what I was doing. When you're being creative and people appreciate what you do, it's very humbling."
Uncovering her passion for floral was as simple as volunteering her creative skills for family. Her first fresh floral designs were created for her sister's wedding in a garage in Minneapolis. "I offer more of a boutique type of floral service. I enjoy following the trends; last year it was larger bouquets, more statement pieces. This year, people are looking for bigger blooms and more flowers," said Karen Wulfekuhle. "I tend to love all flowers, but some are just easier to take care of than others; roses are always classic."
When choosing floral, Karen relies on plenty of preplanning and will take the time to educate brides on the different options, helping them to stay within their budget. "I'm always cautious about the seasons; I will advise them against using some of the more delicate flowers that might get easily damaged by the cold," she explained. "It's important to me that the bride feels incredible about their flowers and how they look for their wedding day. I strive to make the whole planning experience memorable."
"One of the best gifts I've ever been given was by a soon-to-be bride; she brought me a jar of upland feathers from the groom, an avid hunter. She said, ‘I've seen what you do, and I give you full creative liberty. Can you just make sure that these are in there?’ It was the most fun I think I've ever had," said Karen Wulfekuhle. "I even created a new playlist just for that day - I listen to everything from old 70s music, classic country, alternative and hair bands, the Rolling Stones...it just depends on what I'm working on."
For this wedding, the bride's grandmother had transplanted peony bushes from the farm in North Dakota to the lake near Detroit Lakes. She had reviewed with master gardeners and extension agents how to preserve the blooms. She then harvested all the peony blooms with her friends; cutting them early in the phases of growth and wrapping each stem in newspaper and prayer to store in a cool, dark place for a few weeks. The flowers were going to be the reception centerpieces.
"I used some of the Peony stems to surprise the bride by adding them to her bouquet, then asked for a sealed note from her mother and grandmother to accompany her bouquet when I delivered it," explained Karen Wulfekuhle. "The bride was so happy, it was very special to include these flowers that had such an incredible story."
Art | Rachel Wulfekuhle
Artist, Rachel Wulfekuhle, recently graduated from high school and plans to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth this fall, studying Biology. Although she currently works as a Certified Nursing Assistant, mainly evenings and weekends, she somehow finds time to pursue her creative talents, focusing much of her attention on watercolor and acrylic. Art is an interest she pursued some years back as a way to keep her busy after school and during the summer months. With ongoing encouragement from her family, she's since taken every art class within her reach as well as numerous independent studies in ceramics, drawing and painting.
Oftentimes, her artistic talents parlay to commissioned work for weddings and events, providing specialized signage, artwork, notecard sets, calligraphy and original watercolor invitations. She works regularly with Victor Lundeen Company in Fergus Falls to scan and make prints of her original artwork. Currently, she does not have her work in galleries, yet she's been able to reach a wide audience via word-of-mouth, charitable auctions through church and social media.
Rachel's studio side is marked with inspiration from all over the world, giving her an open space to explore different creative outlets. In her off-time, she uses the studio as a gathering place for fun, friends and the occasional Bob Ross painting party. In the winter months, Rachel and her mom use the studio to get creative with sewing projects and clothing modifications. Every changing season brings a new way to express their creativity.
Their family of five has lived in the neighborhood for nearly 19 years, moving in when it was mainly an empty hayfield and still being developed. As a family, they created the landscape, garden and sheds, doing all of the work themselves. Randy Wulfekuhle works full-time for Red River Grain and is a licensed builder on the side with his company of 12 years, Wulfekuhle Construction, Inc. As a benefit to building small, he was able to make use of extra or salvaged building materials. All of the shed's work was done by Randy and their two sons, Tanner and Henry, while Karen and Rachel stuck to finish work on the interior. For this family, putting in the work themselves was just as important as the creativity that now comes out of it.
"We are really drawn to our outdoor space. This is a very comfortable place for us to be in as a family. This was incredible that Randy led this building project and created this for us, it's been a true labor of love for our family," said Karen Wulfekuhle.
"This has always been an opportunity to just be creative. The business happened by accident...When you're being creative and people appreciate what you do, it's very humbling."
For more information, contact:
The Maple Tree
[ Floral Design & Art ]
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