From his early work developing a successful landscaping business, his eye for signature stones quickly set him apart. He became known as the originator of the "water boulder." When Ryan began distinguishing himself as a sculptor of new sculptural designs in stone that incorporated water and light features, the transition from artisan to artist was clear. From that time on, he began to work exclusively with stone, combining his mastery of landscape design, adding value to public and private gardens with his stone sculptures.
A forerunner in stone fountain artistry, Ryan unites the elements of stone, water, and light to create what he terms “Living Art.” He is unique in the field for his dedication to craft, and his desire to maintain an aesthetic featuring the natural, organic forms and design innate to stone. His sixth sense for spotting the perfect stone, his unwillingness to work with imperfect stone, and his willingness to travel to select mines across the world have only widened the gap between his artistry and the work of others in the field. "What no one can imitate," says Steffens, "is my eye for stone, my 24-7 dedication to searching unique locations, and my interest in befriending small mine owners who provide stone to me that very few can obtain. From the time I began working with stone, people copied my style or features, but nobody who is a copyist can get that perfect stone or develop the eye. Only someone as dogged as me can create stone sculptures at this level."
At first, he began slicing stone to study its natural formation, using marble from hyper-local mines. Then he explored the geological terrain of greater New Mexico -- sculpting travertine, sandstone, granite, onyx, and quartz. Now midcareer, his work has led him on a quest to find rare stones from small quarries and mines across the globe--often in places only reached by pack animals. When his curiosity leads him to an unknown region or a kind of rock that is new to him, he seeks out geologists and experts in various fields to supplement his education and provide him with the required expertise to explore geological potential in different regions.
Currently, Ryan works at his ranch studio, not far from Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is committed to continually challenging his own approach and ideas about stone and water sculptures. Among his aims is to make his “Living Art” sculptures suitable for any landscape or climate. One way he has done this is through the development of water-sheeting. Steffens says, “When I create my stone and water sculptures, the water-sheeting on stone allows for no evaporation or mineral deposits. I create a minimal coverage for each stone. For areas with draught, there’s minimal pull on water, even as there's 100% water coverage on stone. Turn the volume of water up or down; at any flow level you still get good coverage."
Art collectors respect Ryan for his excellence, ethics, and creative stone concepts--as well as for leading the field. He is now one of the most sought-after artists working with stone and water in the Southwest, with a growing national and international interest. Frequently featured in landscape design and home and garden magazines, you can find his work in public spaces and private estates around the world, from public gardens, botanical gardens, zoos, and universities, to small private gardens.