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!”

Commemorating A Dream Destination Wedding

Thanks to the rise in remote work, office romances aren’t so common these days. Recent statistics show that one in every ten couples who marry first met on the job. When it happens, as it did with Alli and Matthew, it’s special… and definitely worthy of commemoration.

An Acquaintance Becomes A Friendship 

Alli and Matthew’s journey from co-workers to couple is a story of instant chemistry, delightful secrets, and a shared love for ancient cultures and traditions. When Alli approached us shortly before her first wedding anniversary, she wanted Erika Hitchock, founder of Stonewear Ceramics, to incorporate some of these elements into her ceramic gown commission.

Alli met her husband in 2019 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, where both had graduated from the nursing program. Their manager, noticing their compatibility as co-workers, asked them to jointly interview a candidate for a Patient Care Technician position. Afterward, the two decided to have a late breakfast together and ended up spending four hours at the restaurant getting to know each other better! Their casual work relationship strengthened as they began carpooling into work, but something else was happening.

A Friendship Becomes A Romance

Alli told us, “We started talking more and more… and started liking each other as more than friends, but we didn’t know if the other person was just being nice.” While Allie’s feelings for Matthew developed, she was happy to know he felt the same way when he asked her out on a date. After an evening at a local trampoline park, Alli said, “We were hooked. We spent all our time together.”

However, they still worked together and weren’t certain if others at the hospital, especially their manager, would accept their romance. Alli and Matthew decided to keep their love a secret, and managed it for several months until they planned a trip together and co-workers figured out their coincidental requests for time off and travel plans. Thankfully, their manager okayed their relationship so long as it didn’t interfere with their duties.

A Romance Becomes A Celebration

Before he proposed, Matthew spent six months searching for the perfect engagement ring for Alli, accepting help from fellow co-workers. With some COVID restrictions still in effect, the couple decided against a traditional wedding, preferring to elope and indulge in their love of travel. “We hadn’t really discussed what type of ceremony we wanted but, when I was looking for wedding planners, I discovered the Mayan Ceremony,” Alli said, after her mother suggested marrying in Mexico. “It incorporated everything we valued and more.”

Alli and Matthew wed in two ceremonies on Valentine’s Day, 2022. During the legal ceremony in Playa Del Carmen, the officiant accompanied them to a beautiful spot in the jungle. Alli, forgetting her hiking shoes, had to walk out in her dress and her wedding slippers!

For the spiritual Mayan ceremony, Alli and Matthew were wed in a sacred Mayan cenote, Hatsuts, by a shaman. The wedding party floated on a wooden raft in the groundwater formation, surrounded by traditional offerings to the Gods held in large sea shells. Each item, Alli told us, symbolized an aspect of marriage and helped connect the couple with the earth and universe.

The ceremony began with the blowing of the Ritual Conch Shell horn, and copal incense was burned to purify the ceremony and cleanse it of negativity. Rose petals, signifying love from Mother Earth, the Cosmic Energy and the couple’s families, were showered over Alli and Matthew. The presence of the corn and bean offerings in their shells symbolized prosperity and fertility. 

“One of my favorite parts of the ceremony was when we ate the cacao bean with honey,” Alli said. The shaman told them the significance of this tradition, how the dual flavors of the cacao–sweet and bitter–would represent the “for better and for worse” moments in their marriage.

“Even when things are bitter or hard, always remember the sweet part of your relationship. It’s what makes the Cacao bean whole. You can’t have the sweet part of it without the bitter, too,” the shaman told them. 

Following the ceremonies, Alli and Matthew spent the remainder of their stay in Mexico as their honeymoon. They explored the beaches and unique attractions, including a zipline tour that sent them through several rings of fire! The experience seemed to connect with their wedding ceremonies, symbolizing their dedication to remain in love through “trials of fire.”

A Celebration Becomes Immortalized In Stone

As their first anniversary approached, Alli discovered Stonewear Ceramics and decided to have her gown cast in stone to commemorate her magical Mexican wedding and honeymoon. She asked Erika if it was possible to include the many symbols of the Mayan ceremony into the sculpture. Enchanted by Alli’s story and eager for the challenge, Erika set to work.

The entire sculpture, consisting of the gown, the wooden base serving as the “raft,” and the Mayan elements, took thirty hours to complete. Erika embellished Alli’s mermaid-style gown with glass beads, pearls, and sequins. The same clay sculpted and fired for the dress was used to create the scattered red rose petals and the sea shells used to hold the cacao beans and corn offerings to the Gods.

When Erika delivered the finished gown sculpture, Alli was amazed by its beauty and attention to detail. “I was so excited to see it that I opened it immediately once I walked inside! I couldn’t wait any longer,” she told us. “When I unpacked it, I was speechless. It was so beautiful. It was perfect. The tiny details were amazing. And every time I look at it, I’m reminded of our special day.”

A Sculpture Becomes a Legacy

Every wedding begins with an incredible story, just as every wedding gown has a special significance for the bride. For Alli, the memory of her wedding included more than the beautiful dress she wore when she exchanged vows with Matthew. Thanks to Erika Hitchcock of Stonewear Ceramics, her enhanced gown sculpture will show everybody who sees it all the symbols of their poignant, spiritual ceremony.

What unique elements of your wedding would you include in a gift sculpture? Whatever you envision for a wedding, anniversary or birthday gift, Erika can create it. Browse our gallery of one of a kind wedding dress sculptures and ceramic special occasion gowns to see the possibilities, and contact us today for more information on commissioning your own keepsake gown.

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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.

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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

8 Reasons A Wedding Gown Sculpture Makes the Perfect Gift

The ideal bride’s wedding anniversary gift relays a personal message of love and celebration. A gift embodying one of the happiest days of her life is one to forever cherish, whether she is celebrating her first or twenty-fifth year of marriage. 

A wedding gown is one of the most important dresses a woman will wear in her life. Sadly, after the wedding these dresses are boxed up and stored, rarely seen again. A ceramic replica allows the beauty of the dress and memories of the bride’s special day to remain vivid and always on display. As you consider your options for ordering a wedding anniversary gift for the special woman in your life, we invite you to learn more about StoneWear Ceramics by Erika Hitchcock and what makes a ceramic dress sculpture the perfect gift. We could speak for hours on the beauty and artistic qualities of these works, but here are our top eight reasons:

1. A StoneWear Ceramics Gown Is A Unique Work Of Art

No two StoneWear Ceramics sculptures are alike. Every sculpture is one of a kind and modeled after the bride’s wedding dress and figure. Browse our gallery of wedding gown sculptures and you will find reproductions of couture gowns, bespoke dresses designed by the brides themselves, and gowns handed down to multiple generations. You cannot buy a StoneWear Ceramics sculpture in stores. The sculpture your bride receives is uniquely fashioned just for her by professional artist/sculptor, Erika Hitchcock.

2. Every StoneWear Ceramics Gown Is Sculpted By Artist Erika Hitchcock

Professional artist Erika Hitchcock handcrafts each and every commissioned piece. StoneWear Ceramics gowns are not mass produced, but formed using high fire stoneware clay. Each sculpture is also carefully detailed to bring out the distinct features of the dress–beading, lacework, trains and even the bride’s shape, so the sculpture resembles how the beautiful bride looked that day. When you order your wedding gown sculpture Erika will consult with you on the design so that you receive an authentic representation.

3. StoneWear Ceramics Sculptures Showcase Wedding Memories Every Day

Every wedding dress has its own story–some are handed down for generations and some are custom designed. Some brides will try on dozens of dresses before choosing the perfect one that speaks to their style. The StoneWear Ceramics wedding dress sculpture is an extension of that story. It encapsulates the memories and emotions of the bride’s big day.

Like any fine work of art, these sculptures catch the eye, and friends and family will notice. Wherever you display your gown sculpture, it will stand out as a showpiece. Check out StoneWear Ceramics on Instagram to see how some brides have shown off their sculptures.

4. StoneWear Ceramics Sculptures Preserve the Memory of the Gown

Husbands, mothers of the bride, mothers-in-law, sisters, and best friends have commissioned StoneWear Ceramics gowns as gifts. Erika has created sculptures for newlywed brides and for women like Mrs. Martha Tucker, who wore a wedding gown for the first time at age 94. The sculpture created for Mrs. Tucker represents the legacy of her loving marriage, long after the dress was put away.

From mermaid silhouettes to sweeping A-lines, billowing ball gown styles to adorable tea-length dresses, any wedding gown can be replicated into a StoneWear Ceramics sculpture. Erika can also color match the sculpture to the gown if the bride wore a specific color. See the gallery of special occasion gowns for the possibilities.

Photo by Michele Heffernan

5. Ceramics Sculptures Are Designed To Last

Gowns may be preserved, but fabrics and colors can fade. Not every wedding dress is handed down to the next generation, either. A StoneWear Ceramics replica, however, is a legacy artwork. These sculptures will increase in sentimental value over time, and the resilience of the stoneware clay used to create them means they will last for years. When you commission your own sculpture, you will learn about the process that goes into making your work of art, and how your “memories in stone” gift will highlight the colors and details of the dress.

6. It’s Easy To Commission A StoneWear Ceramics Gown!

Erika works closely with each customer to ensure your bride’s ceramic wedding gown matches her original bridal look. The StoneWear Ceramics design process begins when you contact StoneWear Ceramics online to commission the work. From there, you will receive a consultation and quote, and Erika will create the perfect gift for your bride. Erika will communicate often with you throughout the process, sending photos of your gown sculpture at different stages of development–from shaping the clay to the final touches. StoneWear Ceramics clients are excited to see the gradual progress of their gifts!

stonewear ceramics thoughtful anniversary gift for her

7. Your Bride Will Love Her Sculpture!

The reactions of surprise, awe, and happy tears StoneWear Ceramics receives from brides who see their ceramic dress replicas for the first time are a joy to behold. Many brides arrange for special photo sessions with their sculptures, while wearing their gowns. Browse StoneWear Ceramics’ Facebook page to see the amazing pictures sculpture recipients have sent over the years.

8. StoneWear Ceramics Customers Love The Sculptures

Clients who have commissioned gown sculptures from Erika Hitchcock have nothing but praise for her artistic skills and service. Some, in fact, have requested multiple gown sculptures and referred StoneWear Ceramics to new customers!

Check out all the amazing reviews of StoneWear Ceramics on Google and rest assured you will receive a unique, quality gift for your bride. This next wedding anniversary, express your love with a truly one-of-a-kind present that represents the strength of your marriage bond. Your bride will forever treasure her gown in stone. Contact StoneWear Ceramics by Erika Hitchcock and begin the journey of turning your beautiful bride’s gown into a timeless gift.

Photo by Michele Heffernan

A Mother’s Gift: The Making of a Dress

Some wedding plans fall easily into place, while others require a bit of patience to complete. Susan Timm’s determination to realize her daughter Jenny’s dream bridal look is an inspiring story of perseverance and love.

A Special Gift For The Bride

When Susan approached us in January, 2022 to commission a sculpture of her daughter’s bespoke wedding gown, the story she told was as amazing as the dress itself. Not only did Susan’s daughter Jenny design her own dress for the big day, Susan–a professional designer and seamstress of custom bridal wear–put together the gown herself using gorgeous French fabric. 

“I purchased the fabric in Paris on a trip I took as part of a sewing course,” Susan said. “At the time I purchased it, I had no idea that it would be for my own daughter’s dress.” Creating the dress from Jenny’s sketches would be the perfect gift from the mother of the bride.

Unexpected Events

While some brides spend months searching for that one perfect dress, this particular aspect of Jenny’s wedding was perhaps the easiest task to check off the list. As Susan related to us, the journey from Jenny’s engagement to the “I do’s” took longer than originally hoped. Yet, the bride and groom–and the mother of the bride–faced each obstacle with patience and grace. To hear Susan tell it, it seemed something different cropped up nearly every month leading up to the wedding!

It all began in January, 2020. Jenny’s groom, having come down with an illness, was recovering and the happy couple resumed their plans. Susan went straight to work on the dress through the next several weeks, when a trip to Guatemala for volunteer work in late February paused her progress. Susan hoped to bring Jenny in for fittings upon her return, but the national COVID lockdown beginning that March kept them apart.

Susan, undeterred, continued to sew the dress. She and Jenny were not able to meet in person until May, and that’s when they discovered the initial measurements were too big. Jenny’s lockdown weight loss necessitated alterations, which didn’t discourage Susan. “Easier to take in a dress than to add to it,” she pointed out.

By summer, when Susan was close to finishing Jenny’s dress, she had to vacate her Minneapolis-based studio in the midst of tensions occurring in the area at the time. Her studio was broken into, but since it sustained minimal damage she was able to return a short time later.  The gown was finally completed in August, but by this time other aspects of Jenny’s wedding had to change. 

COVID restrictions required Jenny to scale down her ceremony and reception, and just days before the wedding Jenny sprained her calf after an auto accident! The bride rehearsed on crutches but thankfully recovered in time to walk down the aisle on her father’s arm for the big day.

A Special Memory For The Bride

Susan noted a spirit of kinship when she approached Erika Hitchcock, artist/founder of StoneWear Ceramics, to commission a sculpture of Jenny’s gown. A designer of bridal gowns reached out to an artist of bridal gown sculptures. It seemed the perfect project for Erika to immortalize Jenny’s vision into a treasured keepsake.

Overall work on Jenny’s sculpture took 30 hours over 8 weeks to complete, from the floral and pearl detailing on the long skirt and hand-sewn bodice to the pearl beading and rhinestones around the waist. Matching the patterns on the Parisian fabric required Erika to piece together small bits of lace from multiple patterns and texturize and carve the clay to recreate the likeness of the gown. When Susan presented Jenny with the completed sculpture, she was so thrilled she planned a professional photo shoot and got back in her wedding dress to pose with her beautiful mother and the StoneWear gown. The unique artwork inspired by Jenny’s one-of-a-kind dress symbolized the amazing journey of mother and daughter to Jenny’s happily ever after.

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When Memories Become Art

Every StoneWear Ceramics sculpture, like Jenny’s, is handmade and designed to match the wedding dress or special occasion gown from top to bottom. A woman’s wedding day is one of the most important of her life, and nothing commemorates this better than the gift of her dress replicated in stone. Pictures may capture the beauty, but a wedding gown sculpture brings the memories to life.

StoneWear Ceramics gowns are commissioned by mothers of the bride, husbands, sisters, and best friends. Each sculpture we create is one of a kind, not mass produced, because they are modeled after your dresses, your body form. If you are looking for a special wedding, birthday or anniversary gift for the woman in your life, contact us today to learn more about giving her a StoneWear Ceramics work of art created by Erika Hitchcock.