San Diego Craftsman Brings Wood to Life

Ryan Steppe at work on his craft. Courtesy Photo
Ryan Steppe at work on his craft. Courtesy Photo

By Edward Henderson – Contributing Writer

A different kind of love goes into creating a wood project with your bare hands. The time, precision and heightened focus of the human mind results in a final product with a completely different energy than something constructed by a machine. Ryan Steppe, 32, can attest to this principle directly. He is the craftsman behind A&R Wood Design which produces customized wood signs in any design imaginable for his clients by hand.

Steppe has built things since he was a child. The Emerald Hills native would often create small projects and drawings for fun with his brother. As he matured, the passion continued in high school through creating functional objects like wooden speaker box installations. Steppe stepped away craftsmanship momentarily while attending the University of San Francisco to pursue his degree in communications. It wasn’t long, however, before his friends took notice of his hidden talent.

“I made a bed for my apartment and wanted something decorative to go above my bed,” said Steppe. “I ended up Steppe1cutting out my signature and as my friends came by and saw it, they all wanted one of their own. I saw an opportunity to make some money and I started making names at that point.”

The idea to expand the business concept came from Steppe’s girlfriend at the time (now wife) Autumn. She was a nanny during her off time from school and thought it would be a good idea for Steppe to start carving custom baby names for children’s rooms. Autumn’s business mind coupled with Steppe’s skill set, A&R Wood Design was born.  After college, the couple moved back to San Diego and ran the business while maintaining other jobs as well.  Things began to pick up for the business through partnerships with interior design companies and Baby Exchange. The Steppe family create the perfect balance with their roles in helping their brainchild grow.

“Once I get started on my end of the process it’s what I love doing,” said Steppe. “It’s a pleasure to be able to work with wood daily and release some stress for sure.”

Looking forward, Steppe would like to see the business grow to inserting product in new stores so his work can be available to more people while maintaining his unique touch and customizations. He also has a strong passion for seeing others within the African American community succeed in entrepreneurship.

“A lot of times growing up in underprivileged communities we find ourselves stuck in a path that’s already been created and we feel like the only way to achieve success is to work for somebody else and help them build their dream,” said Steppe. “I think it’s important for the youth to know that if there’s anything you’re passionate about you can turn it into a way to provide for yourself and your family through hard work and dedication.”

Visit A & R Wood Designs to see some of Steppe’s creations or submit an idea for a custom creation.