A rock has never been just a rock to Tim Urban. Growing up in the mountains of northern New Jersey amidst one of the most diverse mineral deposits in the country, he collected rocks by the armful and kept boxes on boxes of the prettiest, shiniest and most colorful in his closet. Seeing mountains, skies, trees and streams in them, even people and animals, he was fascinated by the inherent artistry of such stones and was determined to someday build something with them.

Earning a degree in architecture from the University of Maryland in 1983, he married Cindy, the beautiful little blonde who sat next to him in first-year design studio, and moved to New Mexico the following year. Inspired by Santa Fe’s beautiful natural surroundings and the stunning works displayed by the many talented artists who call it home, it was almost inevitable that this entirely new palette of stones would quickly engage his imagination. The boxes in his closet never made the trip west, but a new collection was soon growing in piles around his house.

Taking his architecture degree for a brief spin before returning to his natural outdoor habitat, as a self-employed landscaper and stoneworker for the past 28 years Tim has gained a reputation for putting rocks together in a way that Santa Fe had not seen before. Characterized by his incredibly natural, large-scale boulder work and the contrasting detail of his finer stone elements, his landscapes have become exceedingly popular on local garden tours. Incorporating his signature “picture” work into many of his acclaimed garden designs, the birds, snakes, geckos and flowers inlaid into his stone patios, walkways and fountains have been admired for years.

Tim Urban - Grindstone Cowboy
Tim Urban - Grindstone Cowboy

Some people say that Tim Urban thinks like a rock.

As a stoneworker, he can think of no finer compliment.

Since it’s not that fun to be outside wrestling big boulders when Santa Fe’s cold winter winds are blowing, about five years ago Tim began to spend more time in his small, heated shop. Employing only a basic hand-held grinder mounted with a dry-diamond wheel and working in a cloud of dust for months at a time, he honed his cutting skills on simpler folk art images inlaid on stone countertops and accent furnishings before moving on to works of increasingly difficult detail.

Constantly challenging himself to create more finely-crafted images with each new piece he builds—rustic woods inlaid with varied quartzites, feldspars and sandstones creating timeless western scenes—he travels both near and far to find those perfect stones that can make his visions real. Often described as playful and serene—spiritual even—his work has been featured at the Western Design Conference, the Contemporary Art Fair NYC, and at the prestigious Trailside Galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In March 2015, his one-of-a-kind art will be on view at the world-class Architectural Digest Home Design Show.