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Making memories last forever with wood flowers

By mixing art and business, an Antigo woman turned her hobby into a full-time job

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March 4, 2024

ANTIGO – Andi Gretzinger – owner of North Wood Blooms, LLC in Antigo – said she’s frequently asked: “How in the world did you get into this?”

Gretzinger is a wood flower florist, a new and upcoming subsection of floristry.

She creates flowers made from a thin wood called sola.

Gretzinger said she was first introduced to wood flowers at a friend’s wedding – an idea she said her friend saw on the TV show, “Shark Tank.”

She said it was fitting for the wedding because the husband-to-be was a woodworker, and the bride-to-be was very creative.

Gretzinger, who was a K-5 art teacher at the time, said she was intrigued by the idea.

An unintentional business

Gretzinger said she originally bought the necessary materials to experiment a little bit – thinking she could use these for her lesson plans.

However, before long, she said she realized this was for her, not her students.

“I found a medium I enjoyed,” she said. “As an artist (you are always), looking for new mediums and something exciting.”

Gretzinger said she immediately realized how unique wood flowers were – including the little things, such as how they took color the right way, which made a big difference for her.

Sola, she said, is light (kind of like foam) and very pliable when it gets wet – which allows you to roll it and form the flowers, petal by petal.

As she continued to experiment, Gretzinger said she was buying rolls of sola and eventually offered to make the flowers for her sister’s upcoming wedding.

She said her sister agreed and she got to work – posting on social media throughout the process.

That, Gretzinger said, led to a friend reaching out regarding making flowers for her wedding after her florist backed out.

The weddings, she said, happened within two weeks of each other – giving her an instant portfolio of professional images.

Consequently, Gretzinger said, more people started asking about her work – and she realized that she unintentionally started a business from her dining room table.

Though it wasn’t what she originally set out to do, she said, as a new mom at the time, it gave her a creative outlet.

Gretzinger said that’s what wood flowers seem to be for a lot of people – a good hobby where they can craft for fun.

After starting herself, Gretzinger said she connected with a lot of other wood flower florists throughout the country over social media.

Because it’s a newer medium in the U.S., she said, connection is key – which eventually prompted the creation of a yearly conference and retreat.

“We get all these people from across the country (together), and we learn from each other for the weekend,” she said. “We make things and talk about business and then have a retreat day. It’s been really fun to find community through wood flowers.”

Hobby turned business

Gretzinger said she officially founded North Wood Blooms LLC in April 2018.

Though she said she didn’t initially intend to start a wood flower business, she did always want to be a business owner.

As she taught art and created wood flowers on the side, Gretzinger said she said she told her husband, “‘I think I started a business.’”

A business-minded person himself, she said he put her in touch with the Small Business Development Center in Antigo, where she participated in an entrepreneurial training program and wrote a business plan.

Gretzinger said the course teaches you how to run a business, plan for a business and understand the aspects of the business.

After graduating from the program in 2019, she said she received a small grant for her business.

At that time, Gretzinger said her business plan revolved around weddings – and then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, which focused her to pivot from weddings to home decor.

She said she has also started coaching other wood florists to help them make their businesses succeed.

Gretzinger said her husband remains a supportive resource if needed.

A luxury item

Gretzinger said she brands herself as a luxury wood florist, creating what no one else really can or has done so far.

She said she looks at it more like an artist – making her own flowers that have a very realistic look.

Unlike mass-produced items at big-box stores, Gretzinger said she can customize flowers to fit the look of a space or event.

She said the mission of North Wood Blooms is to spread beauty and joy through wood flowers. 

“I feel like a wood flower can last forever – especially because it’s made by hand and it can embody such a message that’s very heartfelt,” she said.

Gretzinger said her goal is to create bouquets that become family heirlooms where a daughter, even a granddaughter can see what was carried down the aisle. 

She said she has also been asked to create memorial arrangements.

“It’s personal, so it’s truly a work of art that means something, that you’ll want to keep it forever,” she said. “These are meaningful items to people.”

Gretzinger said she also has a lot of pre-produced items ready to ship.

“I’ve done a few vendor events, craft-show-type things, however, the trouble is trying to align your ideal client with your artistry,” she said.

Gretzinger said she wants to make sure the artistry shows through with high quality that can stand the test of time.

A little TLC

Gretzinger said she lists all wood flower care tips on her website ( and includes them in every order.

The biggest concern people have, she said, is dust.

A hairdryer on the low setting, Gretzinger said, will blow most of the dust free.

She said her favorite way to clean wood flowers is with a steam cleaner – as it not only cleans them but fluffs and rehydrates them as well.

However, Gretzinger said she warns not to use too much water because, like any natural materials, they’ll get mold and mildew. 

In the same vein, however, she said the dryer the wood gets, it will get brittle and may crack or crumble – so a little TLC can go a long way.

More on sola

The sola wood (scientific name Aeschynomene Aspera) is grown in India and Thailand in marshes, so Gretzinger said it inherently has a softer wood feel.

She said it grows in skinny tall shoots – growing fast like bamboo.

A lot of times companies, Gretzinger said, will put the tree through a machine to core it and make it into a veneer where they roll it out and make long flat sheets.

Some artisans, she said, use machetes, coring by hand to create the veneer sheets.

Gretzinger said it’s neat to see the varying techniques in the industry, and how they can impact the quality of what you get.

She said she prefers the machine method for consistency.

Because the wood is so thin you often don’t see the wood grain, but Gretzinger said sometimes artists like it when the wood grain shows through and dilutes the paint so you can see it.

If the piece still contains bark, Gretzinger said the bark itself will stay brown and will repel the color – creating a duotone, which is a nice touch to some of the arrangements.

Gretzinger said wood flowers are also eco-friendly and sustainable – as it is a natural material that can last far longer, with a much greener impact.

Changing business markets

Though she created the business in 2018, Gretzinger said she didn’t go full-time until 2020. 

Much of the products she makes, she said, are florals, home decor and gifts.

Gretzinger said she still does the weddings, but not as many as in years past.

She said she is thankful to be able to jump between the different types of markets as they build new revenue streams.

Gretzinger said her latest plan has her transitioning to more B2B explorations – creating larger floral installations that have gone into waiting rooms and common areas.

“We’re a bit more affordable compared to doing a fresh flower arrangement,” she said. “You might have a similar cost up front, but you’re going to get months or years, rather than weeks.”

Gretzinger said her business aim in this market is to show how high-quality, luxury wooden flowers can be used to impact people.

She said she also plans to implement wood flower workshops that show others how to make wood flowers – which would run similar to painting classes, where you get all the supplies and then you make something together in a two-hour timeframe.

Gretzinger said learning about and tapping into the different markets and revenue streams has helped her business survive through all the changes in the almost six years she’s been in business. 

The overall goal, she said, is to elevate wood flowers so that they can become more of an integral part of the floral industry in general.

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