Wood Wildflowers and many of our timeless designs have been around for almost 40 years. When Ted Nienow first started the business in 1985 (then called Wood ’n’ Things), he made wooden cattails and sold Pampas grass and other small wood decor items at local craft shows.
Ted first came up with the concept of making wooden flowers after customers at regional art shows talk about how they wished they could enjoy the Pink and White Lady Slipper in their homes (as the Minnesota state flower, it's illegal to pick it). After three years of designing and testing wood cutting and bending techniques, Ted released the wood version of this beloved perennial. The immediate success of this wood flower led to the creation of a new wood flower each year, including the Meadow Beauty, Mariposa, Buttercup, Marsh Five Finger, Tway Blade, Trillium, Toad Flax, Purple Iris, and Dog’s Tooth.
Ten years after the creation of the wood flowers, Ted had another design breakthrough. After walking the edge of one of the swamps on the property, he noticed the slight twist and bend in the shape of cattail grasses. This discovery led to experimenting with new production methods of shaping the wood to hold twists and bends—allowing for the creation of the wood leaves, reeds, and grasses that are still used today. This design transformation made the crafty designs feel like works of art.
As a boy, Nathaniel would accompany Ted at summer art shows to help set up the booth and keep his dad company for the weekend. It's at these craft shows when Nathaniel learned the art of talking with people and listening to what others loved about being able to showcase nature’s beauty in their homes.
At age 8, Nathaniel started experimenting with his own designs and created thumb-size flower arrangements using his grandpa's wood lathe. These miniature creations featured tiny sprigs of dainty dried weeds and sold for $2.
Growing up, Nathaniel worked in the wood shop with Ted throughout high school and even into college, assembled flowers after class to earn money for expenses.
After graduating with a graphic design degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead and working at a design firm in California for a couple of years, Nathaniel realized how much he missed the Northwoods of Minnesota, and creating things with his hands in the shop. It turns out, sitting in front of the computer monitor all day long wasn't in his DNA.
In 2005, he moved back to Minnesota to rejoin Ted in the wood shop and helped rebrand the business to Wood Wildflowers. The new name better captured what people loved most about the designs—the flowers. With the new focus, this is when Nathaniel's idea of creating large, premium flowers was born—first with the sunflower and then later the lily, lotus flower, daisy, and poinsettia.
Today, Ted is enjoying retirement by walking in the woods in search of the perfect mature tree to harvest and saw into lumber using the small sawmill on the homestead. The wood needed for the flowers, as well as the ash, oak, maple, and birch trees used for many of our vase designs, is harvested right on our 160-acre property.
Nathaniel continues to innovate and come up with new flower and vase designs each year—the latest is the Easter Lily, which will be released spring of 2018. He and his apprentice David continue to work in the wood shop each day—creating every Wood Wildflowers piece one at a time.