Written in Stone

Virginia Beach-based sculptor reimagines wedding dresses as custom miniature works of art

by Betsy DiJulio | Mar 20, 2022

©Fresh Look Photography

After a series of personal tragedies, Virginia Beach-based artist and educator turned entrepreneur Erika Hitchcock found new purpose in creativity. The phoenix that arose from the ashes was a powerful symbol: the wedding dress. Hitchock began making replicas of wedding gowns in clay as she remade her own life. And her fledgling business, StoneWear, took flight.

Each intensely handmade custom dress—sometimes commissioned by brides, but often by husbands as anniversary gifts—is sculpted from buff-colored, high fire stoneware clay. Working from photo sources, Hitchcock lovingly and laboriously fashions every detail of every dress for 25 hours and more. 

What began as more purist clay-and-glaze creations have become mixed-media works of art featuring hand painting, beading and other intricate embellishments. “I am constantly testing,” she explains, figuring out how to recreate draped fabric, intricate lace patterns and barely-there translucency.

Hitchcock enthuses without hesitation that her favorite aspect is hearing “the inspiring love stories” that emerge. And some stories are so touching that they led to Stronger than Stone, a program through which the artist donates one of her sculpted gowns to very grateful and surprised recipients. 

A portion of her proceeds is also donated to local organizations that bring “social opportunities to adults struggling to find normalcy and companionship while living with mental illness.”

A wedding dress symbolizes many things. To Hitchock it symbolizes “change—in its purest and most powerful form. It celebrates a promise that, in this world, you will never be alone.”

Learn more at StonewearCeramics.com. 

Betsy DiJulio is a full-time art teacher, artist and curator with side hustles as a freelance writer, including for Coastal Virginia Magazine, and a vegan recipe developer and food stylist and photographer for Tofutti Brands.

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