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Metamorphosis: Turning To Stone

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 them 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 that sat next to him in first year design studio, and moved to New Mexico the following year. Inspired by Santa Fe’s beautiful natural surrounds and the stunning works displayed by the many talented artists that 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, he worked as a self-employed landscaper and stoneworker for over 30 years, during which he 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 became 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 are admired to this day.












But as it’s not all that fun to be outside wrestling big boulders around when Santa Fe’s cold winter winds were blowing, in 2008 Tim began to spend more time in his small, heated shop. So was born the "Grindstone Cowboy." 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 built – rustic woods inlaid with varied quartzites, feldspars, and sandstones creating timeless western scenes – he traveled both near and far to find those perfect stones that made his visions real. Often described as playful and serene – spiritual even – his work has been featured in elite national shows such as the Western Design Conference, the NYC Contemporary Art Fair, and at the prestigious Trailside Galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He exhibited his art pieces in the prestigious MADE section of the 2015 Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York City and was selected by an international jury to represent the art of the American West at the exclusive Biennale exhibit on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy the following year.


Tim returned to his folk art roots with a move to Amelia Island, Florida in 2017. His current Beach Feet pieces feature fun coastal images - pirates and mermaids and sea turtles - oh my! 

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Photographic Evidence Supporting the Artist's Candid Admission
To Having Waaay Too Much Fun

The Artist's Candid Admission To Having Waaay Too Much Fun

I don’t want to make any overblown artist’s statement about my work. Simply said, I make pretty pictures out of stone. Pictures that make me smile inside. That swell my heart with awe and emotion. Forever moments captured by forever materials. Because it’s those little moments, those peaceful, joyful, timeless moments passing all-too-quickly all over the world every day that seem to be the very essence of life.

From a young age I had a fascination with the possibility of building pictures out of stone. It all started with a rock the shape of my home state, New Jersey. With that in hand, I figured to build a stone map of the entire United States. That didn’t go so well. Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming – not too bad. Lots of straight edges. But Maryland – the state in which lived my future wife – was a serious pain in the butt I would have done better looking through a scrap heap. Not for my wife, I don’t mean – the rock. Anyway, in the end, combining just enough of an artist’s eye with the skills acquired during a 30-year career as a landscaper and stoneworker to execute the work, it is without a doubt the God-given patience and the hardcore do-it-again-again-and-again demeanor to survive those frustrating days when the progress is more backward than forward that has allowed me to realize my vision. All the cursing and the screaming and beating my head on the wall when I run the blade across my fingers, or that tiny piece I’ve been working on for the past two hours goes flying out of my hand to land in the deepest, darkest recesses of my incredibly dusty shop? Really just part of the fun of it all.

I could bore you with the long history of the art form I unknowingly stumbled upon while researching how to increase the likelihood of still counting all ten fingers when I’m old and gray. An art form that has become my passion because of the immense challenge it presents and the great sense of accomplishment I get when I finally complete a work. I could tell you that the Latin term Opus sectile literally translates as “cut work” and properly refers to an art form that began in the Hellenistic world, first appearing in Italy before spreading to the greater part of Europe as a decorative tradition. I could tell you about how its popularity declined with the fortunes of the Roman Empire, but was then revived during the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century. I could tell you the main difference between the most common type of mosaic in which the design is composed of many small cubes (tesserae) of stone or glass is that opus sectile pieces are much larger and can be shaped to define larger, component parts of the design. I could tell you all that and more. But I won’t. Because, as I said, I don’t want to bore you.


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More photographic evidence supporting that the artist is having waaay too much fun!
The Artist's Actual Footprints!
Other Stuff You Absolutely Don't Need To Know About Tim Urban

Favorite Foods

Pasta, Pasta, and more Pasta!

Hatch Green Chile on everything!

KRAFT Macaroni & Cheese

Favorite Sports Teams

Detroit Tigers

San Francisco 49ers

New Mexico Lobos

Favorite Books

Homer's Iliad

Dante's Inferno

Go Dog Go!


Married college sweetheart, Cindy Durkin, in 1984

Three amazing children: Blaise, Reina & Colton

Two fun, loving sisters: Jill and Cindy

BEANS - A fat cat with major anger issues


University of Maryland, College Park

B.S. Architecture, 1983

Pope John XXIII High School, Sparta, NJ


Born in 

Philadelphia, PA

Raised in

The mountains of northern New Jersey

Lived most of my life in

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Now gathering shells on the beaches of

Amelia Island, Florida

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