Now in its seventh year, the Water Artisans of the Year contest has opened the floodgates of water-feature-building talent in the industry. The cream has risen to the top.
We are proud to announce the 2022 Water Artisans of the Year winners, including our second triple-crown winners — Shane Hemphill and Health Webb of Art of the Yard — along with two other winners who also placed second in other categories. It certainly seems that a few pondscaping powerhouses are emerging as consistent contenders year after year. Read about them below and see what you’ll be up against if you decide to enter the contest next year.
As in previous years, we collected project submissions in five categories and presented them to an independent judging panel with no brand names or contractors’ identities revealed. This year’s categories were the same as last year, with a slight increase for our budget category to account for inflation. The categories were Best Pondless, Most Naturalistic, Best Project under $20,000, Fountains & Formal Features and, back by popular demand, Rock Artisans.
We required a $25 fee with every submission, which culminated in approximately $2,500 donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This award-winning charity provides cutting-edge treatment to children without requiring payment.
Now it’s time for the fun part. We are proud to present your 2022 pond season Water Artisans of the Year!
Winner – Under 20k | Eric Arntson
Eric Arntson started Stonebridge Pond and Waterfall Company, a design-build landscape business in Austin, Texas, in 2003. An artist at heart, he followed his aquatic intuition and made the switch to strictly water features in 2018. This is Arntson’s second win in the contest.
Ten tons of naturally weathered limestone transform this otherwise arid Texas Hill Country backyard into an aquatic playground. How mastermind and designer Eric Arntson pulled it off within a $20,000 budget remains a mystery. With breathtaking views from the living room, dining room and patio of the home, the owners find themselves gazing and often losing themselves in the tranquil bliss, utterly in love with this skillfully carved work of outdoor art — as do the many inhabitants of the local ecosystem that have made a habit of stopping by.
“The client is thrilled with the visiting wildlife,” Arntson said. “They plan to add a pond this coming year!”
We will be waiting for our invitation!
Winner – Rock Artisans | Landon Malave
Landon Malave is the owner and creative lead at LCM Waterfalls & Ponds, a Colorado-based waterscape builder. He prides himself on making the customer a part of the process to ensure the highest level of satisfaction. This is his first win in the Water Artisans of the Year contest after placing second in 2018 and 2020.
If this natural swim pond with grotto and waterfall looks familiar, it might be because it was featured in our January/February 2023 issue . (This was long after the judges had completed their review). Landon Malave credits his own patient planning and thoughtful reflection in pulling off this stunning behemoth of a water feature.
“I was able to sit on the overlooking deck and really think about how, where and why every rock is placed in this feature,” he said.
Every single boulder was placed, directed and considered again in crafting all the possible vantage points around the property. From the vertical monoliths that crop the outdoor kitchen to the floating-rock bridge that transverses the middle of the grotto, the meaningful hand selection of each component of this project makes it one of the signature features in the growing portfolio of LCM Waterfalls & Ponds.
Winner – Pondless | Jonathan Marston
Jonathan Marston built his first water feature at the age of 18 for his grandparents in Massachusetts. This is his second win in the Water Artisans of the Year contest. He is a Master Certified Aquascape Contractor and currently owns and operates FallingWater Scapes in Dover, Massachusetts.
It’s not every day you hear someone boast about the view from a basement window. For Jonathan Marston, who won in last year’s Best Under $15k category, this view of his own personal multifaceted series of falls and spills has almost every element one could wish for in a water feature.
“It’s located right outside my office window,” Marston said. “I knew I couldn’t spare any details — otherwise, I’d for sure notice!”
It’s a view that will never disappear or disappoint. Fifteen distinct waterfalls cascade over large, mossy boulders and splash into and out of spillway bowls. A custom-made cedar bridge looms above an array of strategically placed driftwood and accent lighting. The 300-gallon reservoir allows for operation during wintertime, and a 115-foot-long, 5-foot-deep overflow pipe runs until daylight, reliably mitigating stormwater during the occasional downpour.
Winner – Most Naturalistic | Shane Hemphill & Heath Webb
Shane Hemphill and Heath Webb operate 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. Art of the Yard is a three-time winner in the Water Artisans of the Year contest.
Shane Hemphill and Heath Webb are no strangers to the Water Artisans of the Year competition, and this towering, 95-foot pondless beauty has landed them their record-tying third win in the contest.
The primary waterfall and stream system boasts three additional entry points, giving the impression that the ancient springs below are coming up from beneath the stones to greet you. The finish of the feature is hidden in the distance, belying the endlessness of a Rocky Mountain stream.
Hemphill and Webb used a mixture of moss rock and granite to help the feature emulate its natural surroundings and look as though it has existed here forever. It’s a true sight to behold for the homeowner, whose new backyard landscape is rivaled by no other in the area.
Winner – Fountains & Formal Features | Matt Hiner
Matt Hiner founded Hiner Outdoor Living in Colorado Springs, Colorado in the winter of 2008 with $300 and a dream. Today, his business has grown from a one-man owner and operator to a dedicated team of 18. He prides himself with a unique ability to blend modern amenities within a natural setting.
Infusing a hybrid element into a formal feature is a calculated risk for any waterscape designer, but in the case of this Zen-influenced koi pond with natural-style waterfall nestled into the Colorado wilderness, Matt Hiner really pulled it off (and then some).
The echoes from the 5,000-gph waterfall in this contemporary courtyard centerpiece have a surprisingly soothing effect from the adjacent patio, bestowing the homeowner with a place to unwind their body and mind with taste of nirvana. With panoramic views of the surrounding mountainscape, this is not your typical Zen Garden.
“We were able to create a one-of-a-kind backyard for this home,” said Hiner, who celebrates his first win in the Water Artisans of the Year contest with an unheralded marriage between traditional and contemporary building styles.