Short Story is we're a family growing lavender and flowers and creating art from them from our small Iowa Farm.
Long Story Is.....
I'm a wife, mom, artist, business owner, lavender and flower farmer, and small-town girl from Iowa.
I've always loved art and looking at beautiful images. I clearly remember being a little girl when my mom told me I could grow up to be ANYTHING in the world I wanted to be. When I blew out the candles for my 7th birthday I wished I would grow up to be an artist, and it’s never changed. It’s the ONLY thing I’ve ever wanted to do.
Now I am grown (although I certainly don’t feel like it!) and am just a bit past 40. And I am an artist. An actual artist with an actual art company, Steel Cow, where we make very cool and fun prints and products from my original cow, farm and animal paintings. Honestly, some days I still can’t believe it. For the past 18 years and counting I’ve been obsessed with cows and painting animals and we have shipped tens of thousands of prints all over the world for people to enjoy and tens of millions of people have seen my images online.
Josh is my husband and we've been married almost 19 years! He makes Steel Cow run. We met the first week of college (we were both art majors) and have been together ever since. We have three beautiful and HIGHLY active boys aged 10-4, Eddie, Harry and Ellis. They are fun, happy, passionate and are a handful.
In early 2020 we started growing flowers because I wasn't in a very good state. I was crying in the bathroom (A LOT - in fact I would say looking back on it that I was close to losing it.)
I needed a break and something new to obsess over (and I needed a distraction from the frustrations that came from Covid and raising three active children who were always around while I tried to paint, homeschool and do what I needed to do for Steel Cow.)
Josh and I were hoping growing some flowers would help with my mood and also help teach the boys all those things that come from getting your hands in the soil - the value of hard work, being able to watch things grow, patience, and tons of other things. The kids have helped (although I would like them to help a bit more), and have been with us most of the way.
Sometimes it’s been EASY, sometimes it’s been really HARD, but it feels right to be able to work together learning new things and applying these newly learned things to something as beautiful as flowers.
The flowers we grow come from our yard and our 11 acres of farmland we have attached to our yard. Five years ago we bought the house I grew up in and we went from living above our studio and store (with no yard and a tiny urban garden) to having tons of outside space for the kids to run amok and for us to grow things. In 2019 we put in 9 acres of native grasses and wildflowers, some lavender and a small orchard with some fruit trees and grapevines. In 2020 we put in a cutting garden with rows for annuals and rows of assorted perennials.
When I started out growing flowers in the spring of 2020, I didn’t really know what I was doing. But I am learning. I have been reading and learning from some very generous gardeners and flower farmers.
This is all new to me but I LOVE it. It is not something I ever expected to do with my life, but I do feel it is something I NEED to do and something we NEED to share. I have killed a lot of plants, but with the help of some sunshine, nutrients and faith I have also nurtured and grown a lot of plants that have produced some beautiful flowers.
We give a lot of flowers away to family and friends and we also have a self-serve flower cart where we provide bouquets of fresh-cut local flowers in front of Steel Cow in Waukon, Iowa.
The flowers have become my muse and all the flowers and art from the flowers you see here (unless I mention otherwise) are flowers my family and I have grown in Iowa. We use no stock photography for any of the flowers (we do use some for indoor scenes - but never for flowers - these are all ours!) and the little colorful patterns are my watercolor paintings.
Most of the artwork for sale are photographs I have taken from these flowers, but we also have some paintings and illustrations I have done as well. This is a playful FUN diversion from the normal for me so I have quite a few different styles of flower art here - I even put some of our flowers on top of some of my favorite Steel Cow animal paintings I have done!
Last year in April of 2021 we had a fire at Steel Cow. It was a BIG deal and although we still have our building - a lot of things were damaged in the fire. It took almost 10 months to get back up and running again from it.
The flowers helped my sanity through this rough time and because I couldn't do anything in my studio - I spent more time with the flowers than I would have in a normal year.
This year in February of 2022 there was a fire on our block in downtown Waukon, Iowa. Although the fire didn't start in our building smoke and water sure made it to ours. The fire stopped just short of our building and once again we were spared from losing our building (THANK YOU Firefighters!) - but not from the work involved from cleaning and picking up from a fire again.
This is two mornings after the fire. It took almost 24 HOURS to get it out and every drop of water in our small town. School was closed the next day because we didn't have water in town.
We are still going through this process and once again the flowers are helping me through a difficult time. Although we are up and running and are able to print, make and ship artwork right now, my studio still smells like smoke and I don't want to be in there painting.
This is Steel Cow as of May 2022 - although we have cleaned up a lot on the inside of our building - as of November 2022 we are STILL waiting for the mess to be cleaned up from what's left of the neighboring two buildings until we can finish our restoration.
Instead of painting recently, I have spent the last few months taking photos and going through the photos I have taken during the past two years, editing them, and putting together Steel Cow Flower Art. Some of my 250+ peony bushes even bloomed this year!
When I first started growing flowers, I had no idea how powerful flowers are. They can say so much. And while I adore fresh flowers, they never last as long long enough. But images of flowers can last for a very long time and we are happy to share ours with you - so you can enjoy them yourself or share them with others!
All of our prints and products are made and printed by us in our Steel Cow studio in Waukon, Iowa. Between Josh and I we have over 40 years of printing experience, four art degrees and you won’t find these images anywhere else (or if you do they came from us :) - which means you can feel confident knowing you have something as special as yourself and your artwork will be unique, well-made and shipped with care.
And, as an added bonus a portion of each and every flower art sale will be used to provide memory inducing locally grown flowers to residents in the nursing home - so you can feel good about spreading the flower love with those who really need it.
I hope you find some inspiration, joy and beautiful images to look at on our website and we thank you for being with us on this journey we never expected to be on!
If you would like any help selecting the perfect flower art for yourself, family, friends or business just let me know. We are able to print, make and ship both small and very large orders and are happy to help in any way we can!
Valerie Miller (And Josh, Eddie, Harry and Ellis)
p.s. If you are wondering about our lavender - it is still a little ways away as we are just now planting our first big field of lavender and it takes a couple of years to really start to produce - so stay tuned - it is coming!
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