Enchanting: Connar Franklin and Aaron Carpenter at The Biltmore Estate

Love is in the air at The Biltmore Estate as I reflect on a truly enchanting celebration — a wedding fit for a princess! Amidst the grandeur of the estate, I recently had the honor of creating a StoneWear gown replica for a fairytale wedding; a magnificent celebration, that mesmerized all who were in attendance.

Last August, Connar Franklin married Aaron Carpenter and wore an iconic Elie Saab gown. What an honor it was to sculpt! Photographer, Jose Villa, captured this beautiful moment in time as Connar received her StoneWear gown sculpture from her her mother, Cherise, on her wedding day!

Outstanding wedding planners, Josiah and Justin with Samkoma World,
worked with Cherise to have this unique surprise for Connar.
And what an amazing surprise it was!

A regal wedding design for a prince and princess! Connar & Aaron exchanged vows and celebrated their love story on the grounds of the magnificent Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina. Their ceremony aisle stretched nearly 200 feet down the center of the Biltmore’s front lawn and a 20 piece orchestra played as the bride walked down the aisle! The splendor of the Biltmore, with its sweeping landscapes and timeless elegance, provided the perfect backdrop for a day steeped in romance and regal charm. What an unforgettable moment in time.

Connar wore the iconic Elie Saab Bridal Fall 2023 Look 1 wedding gown. Elegance defined, with long sleeves, a column silhouette with dramatic skirt and train, and layered bodice. I just fell in love with the drama of this gown and the most delicate details of a button closure and buttons on the sleeves.

As I reminisce on this magical affair, I’m reminded of what a privilege it is to be a part of life’s most precious moments. I take immense pride in crafting artworks that hold memories that last a lifetime. To the newlyweds, may your journey together be timeless and as enduring as your StoneWear gown heirloom.

Stone-Where? StoneWear Ceramics at the Cavalier Resort

Come and see the StoneWear Ceramics Lindsey Gown sculpture on display at Virginia Beach’s historic Cavalier Hotel and Resort!
So much gratitude to beautiful bride Lyndsey, who was my inspiration to create this exquisite ceramic wedding gown sculpture now on display at 
It’s such an honor to have one of my pieces on display in this magnificent hotel. I am truly grateful to Joslyn, Director of Weddings, for collaborating with me and providing the opportunity to showcase this beauty in such an elegant space.
With so many brides choosing The Historic Cavalier Hotel & Beach Club for their forever vows,  The Bridal Showroom is the perfect setting to exhibit how wedding gowns can be turned into cherished works of art!
With lovely white sandy beaches, historic gardens and timeless luxury ballrooms there are so many amazing spaces here for the ultimate storybook wedding that celebrates love, family and future! 

Love Inspires: Aaron Michael & Project Runway

Project Runway celebrity designer, Aaron Michael is presented with a StoneWear Ceramics gown replicating one of his signature new bridal gowns from his collection. This design was inspired by his grandmother’s wedding dress.
Virginia Bride Magazine owner/publisher, Angeline Frame, made a wonderful connection and got me in touch with Aaron Michael, designer from Project Runway, Season 19. The rest is history! After speaking with Aaron about his wedding gown collection and inspirations, one thing was evident, his love for his grandmother. That love turned into inspiration which developed into a beautiful work of art, The Black Ribbon Gown.

About Aaron Michael 

“Aaron Michael grew up in Moorefield, a small town in West Virginia, where he always had a passion for fashion. After the loss of his mother, he was raised by his grandparents, who made sure he never felt less than others and would always be himself. A self-taught designer, Aaron cut his first pattern by tracing his body onto fabric while lying on his friend’s basement floor. Much of his early work was for drag queens and other performers he knew from his 20-year stint in the drag scene—he hosted a weekly drag show at the only gay bar in central Mississippi. Over the years, he has dressed multiple national pageant winners, Rupaul’s Drag Race contestants, university and regional theater actors, and others. Aaron’s focus now is on his two design lines: Aaron Michael and Aaron Michael Costume Shoppe. In 2019, Michael showed his designs at New Orleans Fashion Week, which put him on the map and was a defining moment in his career. Aaron recently competed on Bravo’s Project Runway Season 19!”

Celebrating a Legend: The David Tutera Experience

Sculptures from StoneWear Ceramics by Erika Hitchcock put the beauty of a unique wedding or formal gown on display. They commemorate weddings, anniversaries, sweet sixteens and other joyous occasions. More recently, two of our custom replicas served as the centerpiece of a tribute to an icon in the wedding planning industry and influential fashion designer, David Tutera.

One can’t talk about upscale, fairytale nuptials without including David Tutera in the conversation. Weddings are quite literally in David’s blood, as he is the third generation of his family involved in event planning and dress design, and a sought-after name among the A-list. 

In his decades-long career, he has planned rock legend Elton John’s wedding, celebrity parties for Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, and after-parties for the Grammy Awards. David also hosted a popular television show, David Tutera’s CELEBrations, which chronicled his work for his many clients in entertainment, sports, and politics. His bridal gowns reflect the unique beauty and personality of each woman for whom they are designed.

An Experience To Remember 

Our involvement in this year’s DTE, David Tutera Experience, an annual gathering of event professionals and entrepreneurs, was an exciting recommendation from a StoneWear Ceramics client.

Last year, in search of unique gift ideas, Linda Mitchell found our Instagram and commissioned a ceramic sculpture of her daughter-in-law’s wedding gown. Linda loved the result so much, she hired us again to replicate her multi-generational mother of the bride gown in stone.

As the owner of Luxury Destination Travel, Linda is one of the primary resources responsible for organizing travel and accommodations for DTE and assisting David and Joey with all the fantastic event logistics. As one of our biggest fans, she connected us with David’s husband, COO and Executive Producer of Dada Media, Joey Toth, to arrange for a special presentation at the 2022 event at the Four Seasons Hotel, Westlake Village, California.

Labors Of Love

Two gowns in David Tutera’s stunning 2020 Atelier Collection are named for his daughters. The Cielo is a soft, ethereal ball gown with a layered tulle skirt, and the Stella gown features a strapless bodice with a floral design and a long, textured skirt and train. Cielo herself even assisted her father in her gown’s design, adding another generation of talent to this influential family.

Both dresses evoke images of Old World glamour and romance. Joey revealed that David’s designs for these gowns were a labor of love for his family, and that David hopes his daughters would one day wear the dresses they inspired when they marry. 

I was thrilled and honored, of course, to create ceramic replicas of the Cielo and Stella gowns as a surprise gift to David. Just as David put his time and creative energy into dresses intended as a legacy for his children, so I approached the sculpting of our replicas as a labor of love, celebrating a man’s love for his family.

Surprise And Celebration

I set straight to work sculpting our stoneware clay into the Cielo and Stella gown styles. In total, I spent over sixty hours over a period of three months on each sculpture. This included hand-sculpting each dress form, applying the textural elements that define each dress, and adding the hundreds of rhinestones, pearls, and glass beads that give each dress their alluring sparkle. 

Once the sculptures were finished, though, their story was only beginning! We had to get these beauties to Los Angeles, safe and sound, for the presentation. The Cielo and Stella replicas each stood thirteen inches tall and twelve and a half inches wide. Rather than check them as baggage, we carried them with us on the flight across the country to ensure they stayed intact. 

This year’s David Tutera Experience, night one welcome event, was held at David and Joey’s beautiful home, and the gown presentation was scheduled for the first night. It was an amazing evening with over seventy-five wedding planners, designers and other industry professionals in attendance. David and Joey were gracious hosts and provided a beautiful backdrop for their symposium, and we could not have asked for a better reaction when David was presented with our sculptures.

Order your Stonewear Sculpture

David was thrilled to see his two special designs immortalized in stone, in works of art he could proudly display in his home. He joked with us that he hoped these sculptures would remind his daughters that their dresses were still available to them to wear when they planned their own weddings. We loved to hear it, because a StoneWear Ceramics gown is meant to be a visible, third-dimensional memory of a special occasion. Wedding gowns are boxed and stored after the ceremony, but a StoneWear Ceramics replica stands in its place for all to admire.

We also had the opportunity to contribute to the gifts distributed during the event. All attendees received a custom StoneWear Ceramics ‘from the heart’ token, especially handmade for the event.

Overall, organizers spend nearly a year planning and executing the David Tutera Experience. We at StoneWear Ceramics by Erika Hitchcock were honored to have played a part in the 2022 experience, and we thank Linda Mitchell and Joey Toth for orchestrating the presentation of our gowns. Also, we thank David Tutera for his hospitality and for his stunning designs which inspired our artwork.

StoneWear Ceramics wishes to acknowledge the following creatives who came together to make this event possible:

The David Tutera Experience Team:

Four Season Westlake Village – Venue and host hotel

Creative Team

Night One 

Night Two Entertainment

Calesta “Callie” Day

Night Three Entertainment