Metro-East Living

Their handmade grapevine wreaths wrap love and work together

Kim Biekert knew she had chemistry with Mark Wolf the night they went out on a blind date and talked until 3 a.m.

But his gift of a beautiful handmade wreath a few months later sealed the deal.

The couple were married in January and recently started a part-time wreath business. Mark makes wreaths out of grapevines, and Kim decorates them with greenery, pine cones, berries and ribbons.

“What I like is the sustainability,” said Kim, 51, of Mascoutah. “You’re taking something that’s already there, producing something with what Mother Nature provides.”

The Wolfs operated their first booth at Kay Weber’s Fall Arts and Crafts Show in Belleville over Thanksgiving weekend.

Weber was impressed with the wreaths, which sell for $60 to $220, depending on size.

“I thought they were fantastic,” she said. “It’s a lot of work to do what he does. My niece bought one. She really likes it. It’s on her front door.”

The money and compliments are great, but Kim and Mark see wreath-making mainly as a creative and fun way to spend time together.

They also like to fish, hike and dance.

“My ideal date is to go out to dinner and then go dancing,” said Mark, 53. “We go to the Casa Loma Ballroom in St. Louis.”

“We love to dance,” Kim added. “But he’s country, and I like rock ‘n’ roll.”

Mark manages Braeutigam Orchards in rural Belleville. Kim is a financial assistant and biology student at St. Louis University. They have seven children, ages 17 to 27.

Both were divorced when they met in the summer of 2014.

“My uncle works with Mark, and it was a blind date, something I said I’d never do, but I took a leap of faith,” Kim said.

Dinner went fine at Papa Vito’s in Belleville, but then Mark announced he had to give his daughter a ride to St. Louis, which seemed odd to Kim for a first date.

After dropping off his daughter, Mark redeemed himself by taking Kim to a friend’s property on a lake near Freeburg. He built a campfire, and they had their long talk.

In the fall, Mark gave Kim a wreath, along with a bag of decorating supplies, and they worked on it together. Then he gave her mother a wreath for Christmas.

“That was my in,” he said, grinning.

Mark proposed to Kim in June at Missouri Botanical Garden. They stopped at a secluded bench next to a small creek, surrounded by pink azaleas. He got down on one knee.

Kim and Mark married Jan. 9 at Espenshied Chapel in Mascoutah. The ceremony was followed by a reception at Trinity Hall.

What did the Wolfs use as centerpieces? Mark’s grapevine wreaths, of course, laying flat on tables. Kim filled them with fresh blue spruce, Douglas fir and other evergreens; pine cones, berries and hurricane lamps with candles.

“They were beautiful,” Kim said, noting many wedding guests got to take centerpieces home.

Mark started making grapevine wreaths more than 30 years ago, when he worked at Braeutigam the first time as a teenager. Another employee taught him how to do it.

Wreaths are made of wild grapevines, which can be found in the woods, fields, parks and other non-manicured areas. It takes Mark about two hours to collect the vines and make a wreath, and another hour for Kim to decorate it. They work out in the field or in their kitchen or garage.

To work with them, Mark likes the vines to be 10 or 12 feet long.

“All you have to do is look on the outskirts of brush,” he said. “That’s where you’re going to find your beautiful vines.”

Mark quickly developed his own style, wrapping the grapevines tightly around a circular frame, rather than just wiring loose branches together.

For decades, Mark made wreaths for fun, giving them away as gifts to family and friends. He didn’t put on fancy decorations, just ribbons.

“If I was having a party, I would put a few outside on the porch for people to take with them,” he said.

Mark ended up going into the landscaping business and living in northern Michigan for 17 years before returning to Freeburg about 10 years ago.

Over time, Mark has gotten very particular about his wreath-making materials.

“You can’t just grab anything,” he said. “(The grapevines) have to be straight with no knots or other imperfections. I’m kinda fussy. And there’s a certain size. I like them about a dime in diameter or smaller.”

Their business is called Wolf Wreathes. They can be found on Facebook. For more information, call 618-830-1896 or 618-975-7537.