POND Trade’s 2021 Water Artisans of the Year Winners

Published on March 3, 2022

In a year that saw record-breaking property values all over the place, 2021 also saw the most-ever entries in POND Trade’s Water Artisans of the Year contest — almost 70! Coincidence? We think not!

artisans of the year logo

Just like 2020, many pond-loving clients found themselves spending more time at home, which naturally meant more home improvement and enhancement projects. That’s precisely where the Water Artisans of the Year came in, and as you’ll see on the following pages, they absolutely crushed it this year.

There were a few firsts in this year’s contest, too, including the crowning of our first-ever three-time winner — Tim Wood of Aquatic Edge Consulting — and the first placement of a female pond builder, April Dugan of American Pondscapes, runner-up in the Most Naturalistic category. Special kudos to Bobby Kenyon of C.E. Pontz Sons as well, who racked up his contest-leading sixth finalist ranking, with two wins and four runner-up placements since the competition kicked off in 2016.

PONDTrade Water Artisan of the Year Contest
As in previous years, we collected project submissions in five categories and presented them to this year’s independent judging panel with no brand names or contractors’ identities revealed. This year’s categories were Best Pondless, Most Naturalistic, Best Project Under $15,000, Fountains & Formal Features, and new this year – Rock Artisans. We left the last category up to interpretation, and we’re sure glad we did. While Best Pondless and Most Naturalistic remained the most popular, we received some amazing entries for Rock Artisans that highlighted the innovative placement and sourcing of rock to orchestrate the movement of water. These entries really made a splash! 

We required a $25 fee with every submission, which culminated in approximately $1,700 donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, an award-winning charity that provides cutting-edge treatment to children without requiring payment.

Now, without further ado, your Water Artisans of the Year of the 2021 pond season!

Rock Artisans Winner(s) | Shane Hemphill and Heath Webb

Art of the Yard had to start with a completely flat backyard to lock in this Rock Artisans award.

Shane Hemphill and Heath Webb are Colorado-based Art of the Yard LLC | With over 50 years of combined experience serving metro Denver and beyond, Art of the Yard strives to provide customers with the best in quality and service. This is Art of the Yard’s second win in this contest.

There is perhaps no winner more appropriate for this year’s newest category than the masterminds at Art of the Yard, which is located in the Rocky Mountains just outside Denver, Colorado. This is Shane Hemphill and Heath Webb’s second win and third overall placement in the contest.

Shane Hemphill and Heath Webb are Colorado-based Art of the Yard LLC.

Ironically (and impressively), they had to start with a completely flat backyard to lock in this Rock Artisans award. In doing so, truckload after truckload of soil was brought in to construct a natural berm for a pondless waterfall, with three distinct starting points leading to multiple falls. In total, the feature manages to pump 21,000 gallons of water per hour.

Hemphill, Webb and their team used a carefully selected mixture of moss rock, granite and cobblestone to get the job done right. At night, purposefully designed lighting arrangements bring this feature to life for the customers’ enjoyment around the clock.


Fountains and Formal Features Winner | Erick Santana

Erick Santana, also known as the Pond Pirate at Bellas Aquatic Gardens, is a pond builder who specializes in concrete framing and construction. He has been professionally building ponds for 17 years. Santana’s mastery of several different styles of pond building has fortified his reputation for building one-of-a-kind koi and tropical fish ponds across South Florida.

A 1 ½-in. thick laminated viewing window fabricated from Starfire Glass unlocks the secrets of this bustling 10,000-gallon concrete koi pond, whose depth reaches 5 feet at its deepest point.

If you were to travel South Florida in search of the region’s newest jaw-dropping koi-viewing experience, ‘X’ would naturally mark the spot.

Erick Santana, Bellas Aquatic Gardens; also known as the Pond Pirate.

In this case, however, the treasure is too exquisite for an underground burial. Instead, Erick Santana, the Pond Pirate himself, designed this elevated concrete koi pond with his customers’ viewing pleasure in mind. A 1 ½-inch thick laminated viewing window fabricated from Starfire Glass unlocks the secrets of this bustling 10,000-gallon concrete koi pond, whose depth reaches 5 feet at its deepest point. 

Santana and his crew framed out the pond using No. 4 rebar and 4,000-psi shotcrete poured at 8 inches thick. A Diamond Brite finish applied to the inside of the pond cooperates with a 20-cubic-foot concrete moving-bed filter to guarantee clean water and unobstructed views of the below-surface activity. This doubles as a degassing mechanism for the direct-suction filter system, which consists of a 36-inch bead filter, a 3-Horsepower pump and two 110-watt UV light filters.


Most Naturalistic Winner | Tim Wood

Tim Wood is a Master Certified Aquascape Contractor and the owner of Aquatic Edge Pond & Landscape Solutions, a full-service design, repair and installation company in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He is the first three-time Water Artisans of the Year winner and was named Aquascape Inc.’s 2020 Artist of the Year.

Mossy boulders and native-style plantings — both aquatic and terrestrial — round out the scene as a perfect backdrop for this remote aquatic locale.

As time moves on, the Water Artisans of the Year contest and Aquatic Edge Consulting’s Tim Wood have practically become synonymous. This project, which he designed to mimic a spring-fed stream and pond, clinched his third win in the contest — the most of any contractor to date.

For the client’s viewing enjoyment, a small patio observation area serves as the only hint of nearby civilization and the sole reminder that this precipitous pondscape was handcrafted by a decorated Water Artisan, and not Mother Nature herself.

PONDTrade Water Artisan of the Year Contest
A 40-foot stream meanders through the mountainside landscape and feeds a large-scale pond measuring 15 by 25 feet, with just over 3 feet of depth. Upon first glance, it’s impossible to tell that this natural waterscape was ever touched by human hands. Mossy boulders and native-style plantings — both aquatic and terrestrial — round out the scene as a perfect backdrop for this remote aquatic locale.

Tim Wood, Aquatic Edge Consulting

For the client’s viewing enjoyment, a small patio observation area serves as the only hint of nearby civilization and the sole reminder that this precipitous pondscape was handcrafted by a decorated Water Artisan, and not Mother Nature herself.

>> For more images of the Water Artisans Winners, click here!


Under 15K Project Winner | Jonathan Marston

Jonathan Marston built his first water feature at the age of 18 for his grandparents in Massachusetts. After high school, he moved to British Columbia, where he studied water features and interned with Streamworks Designs in Vancouver. He is a Master Certified Aquascape Contractor and currently owns and operates FallingWater Scapes in Dover, Massachusetts.

It’s particularly shocking that this feature was originally installed for just $14,660.

Feet away from a nature trail, this 10-foot pondless waterfall fits right in with the natural scenery. With more than 4 feet of elevation change, Jonathan Marston and his crew had the opportunity to use large machine-placed boulders to make this feature feel as though it had always existed here in this very spot. 

Jonathon Marston, FallingWater Scapes, Dover, MA.

Given the close proximity to the woods, they also took advantage of the surroundings, collecting moss, repurposing a stump and harvesting a few weathered boulders from the client’s own yard to give the project a particularly home-cooked feel. 

It’s particularly shocking that this feature was originally installed for just $14,660. Marston has since returned to fill in the space with additional landscaping and a custom tree package that features additional native plantings. 

Today, all passers-by — including the homeowners, mountain hikers and the local wildlife — can reap the benefits of the beauty and sustenance provided by these incomparable cascades.


Pondless Winner | Diego Asturias and Dan Peterson 

Diego Asturias and Dan Peterson own Fontana Ponds & Water Features in British Columbia, Canada, which expanded from a landscape construction and maintenance company to a full-time water-feature builder in 2019. They have a passion for water and a hunger for continuously learning new techniques and developing their artistry.

The main stream is 25 feet long with four cascades, a deep stream area and three basalt gurglers. A second stream is 15 feet long with a spillway bowl for its head waters.

Sometimes the best projects spawn from existing features in need of a little professional tender loving care.

Diego Asturias and Dan Peterson, Fontana Ponds & Water Features

When Diego Asturias and Dan Peterson arrived on this scene, they encountered a 10-foot pondless waterfall that was having trouble holding water. Even worse, the feature was practically out of sight from all major viewpoints of the client’s home. 

Asturias and Peterson applied their craft to construct two separate pondless features with one larger reservoir, completely revamping the landscape and rejuvenating the former fledgling feature. The main stream is 25 feet long with four cascades, a deep stream area and three basalt gurglers. A second stream is 15 feet long with a spillway bowl for its head waters. Perhaps most importantly, a new overhead bluestone bridge leads to a destination seating area, allowing the homeowners to finally enjoy their yard’s undulating upgrade.

A zoom out on the award-winning pondless installation.

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