Wolftree Magazine founder Noah Kupcho is the son of a lumber-jacking coal miner.
After spending his early years in his hometown of rural Hazen, North Dakota, Noah made his way east for college, where he found a creative outlet in making photo books and zines.
When he graduated with a degree in photography from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2012, he encountered a challenge faced by many graduates with liberal arts degrees: how to turn creative passion into something ongoing and sustainable.
Like many bold men from stories past, Noah was inspired to take a risk on his creativity by the instigation of a beautiful woman; his wife Brooke.
“I probably would’ve just backed away had I known that I would have to spend $37k in the first short while,” he recalled, “but ignorance was on our side.”
And compelled by more than just ignorance, Noah and Brooke were surrounded by friends and collaborators who believed in their dream and voiced their support. One such advocate was Ecce Art Gallery’s owner, Mark Weiler, who encouraged their aspirations, lending them a great deal of confidence in their vision.
Then, a serendipitous collision of events transpired during Misfit’s first annual conference in May 2013 — the very same time Wolftree would be launching their magazine’s first volume.
Mark introduced AJ and Melissa to Noah and Brooke, which planted the seeds that would soon blossom into a beautiful partnership. At this year’s second annual Misfit Con, the inclusion of Wolftree Magazine in Misfit’s craft publishing arm, Misfit Press, was officially announced.
“They call us the Wolftree kids because they want to help us out,” Noah shared with a laugh.
In his humble and soft-spoken way, he continued to explain that Misfit isn’t like a typical publishing house that only seeks to make a quick profit off of their creative work.
In fact, AJ told Noah that he knew Misfit probably wouldn’t make a dime on this investment. But, Misfit absolutely shares Noah’s passion for the arts — that was the reason for starting the Misfit Journal and that was the reason for wanting to partner with Wolftree.
“It’s really shocking to see someone help you out when it’s not helping them out,” Noah added.
In the partnership, Wolftree retains all creative freedom to make the magazine that they’ve dreamed of making.
“It’s their magazine, we just help them publish it,” said Misfit Press’ Director Jessie White.
What’s a Wolftree?
The word Wolftree literally means, “a very large forest tree that has a wide-spreading crown and inhibits or prevents the growth of smaller trees around it.”
The name was decided upon during a Christmas gathering with friends in Noah and Brooke’s apartment in Fargo. In thinking up names, a friend shouted out “Wolftree!” and everyone agreed that the name sounded intriguing.
Upon looking up its definition they realized that it was the complete opposite of what they hoped for the magazine to accomplish. So, rather than scrap the word, they simply decided to lend it a new definition by associating it with things that represent their vision.
“By doing so, we aim to redefine the way people view what comes out of Fargo,” Noah said.
Instead of growing so big that nothing can grow up around it, Wolftree exists to allow others an opportunity to thrive.
“When we started, it was for me to show my work because I was stuck and no one thought I was important. I felt diminished,” Noah explained.
“Everyone wants to feel important, so to be able to do that for someone is our mission; to raise someone up is why we started.”
In selecting submissions, he said they look for someone excited about what they do. Celebrity, widespread social networks, and a thriving web presence aren’t required. Instead, Noah picks the pieces that resonate with him and his editorial team. He selects the submissions that give him chills or bring tears to his eyes.
Starting a business was not without its challenges, but Noah recalls the words of his coal-mining/lumberjack father when he showed him Wolftree Vol. 1: “I am proud of you and what you’re doing.” For a man mostly disconnected from the world of art and creative communication mediums to so readily validate the importance of Wolftree was all the encouragement Noah needed to continue on with Vol. 2.
In addition to paternal support, Noah credited the community of Fargo, the Misfits, and Wolftree readers for the ongoing success of the magazine.
“Support and relationships have been the most beneficial things. Being in a community like Fargo has been everything for us.”
The magazine has only been in existence for a little over a year, but they are well on their way to publishing Volume IV. When asked what this year has taught him, Noah said that it may sound cliché, but that he’s learning to go after the things he really wants in life.
He posed a musing challenge as we concluded our interview:
“People live foolishly,” he said, adding that we should do something that we actually want, rather than stuff that bogs us down.
He now aims to use Wolftree as a megaphone for a voice that’s been lost in the world of magazine.
“We’re trying to reclaim a voice of humility and honor,” he said.
Whether submitted pieces are published on Wolftree.co or printed in beautifully crafted volumes, every single drop of creative energy is poured into each and every aspect of their work. From the design, editing and layout, to the stunning photography that accompanies written pieces (often taken by Noah himself), to choosing the paper, ink saturations and packaging. Everything about Wolftree is intentional.
“We’re not here to make money, we do it because we love it.”
~ Dane Johnson, Wordsmith-in-Residence posted up in Misfit’s Raven’s Nest in Fargo.