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Photo by Jay Paul
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Photo by Jay Paul
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Stu Hollins (Photo by Jay Paul)
Stu Hollins has been perfecting his art of sculpture and wood carving since the age of 5, when his father first taught him how to use a band saw. With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University and a background in woodworking, he created his very first wooden bow tie three years ago. “I was thinking about men’s adornment,” Stu says. “Some guys wear watches and rings and cufflinks, but there’s not as many choices for men as women and then I thought, ‘oh, bow ties.’” He then challenged himself to create the wearable art from hardwood and found success, creating his own Etsy business, Hollins Hand Carved. So when Stu decided to marry his girlfriend, Erin Ramirez, it made sense to incorporate his creative ties. Erin says, “I think we wanted to give them out as gifts to our groomsmen and then we thought, ‘why don’t we just have them wear them?’”
For his own wedding bow ties, Stu scaled up from the exotic hardwood options he offers customers: he used pieces of an old hot rod his father had made. His father, Warren Hollins, grew up in Richmond and was a career carpenter. It was a dream of Warren’s since he was a child to create a wooden hot rod, which he had seen in a magazine. Once he retired and moved to Florida, Warren decided it was time to finally fulfill that dream. After nearly four years of work, he built a unique open-wheel, street legal, wooden hot rod.
Several months prior to the wedding, Warren passed away. Stu called his brother living in Florida and asked if he could check in his father’s shop for leftover pieces of wood from that project. His brother picked through and sent him the best looking pieces and Stu crafted them into the wooden bow ties he and his groomsmen would wear at the wedding. Erin’s father, Anthony Ramirez, also donned one for the ceremony.
The Big Day
Stu and Erin have a love of botanicals as is evident in their large collection of cacti, succulents and other plants displayed throughout their Glen Allen home. In fact, they created drawings of their own cacti for their wedding invitations and decorated their reception tables with succulents that guests could then take with them. So it was a perfect fit to hold the ceremony and reception at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on August 15, 2015. “One of our first dates was there when we snuck Whiskey in — Whiskey the dog, not whiskey the drink,” Stu says with a laugh.
The couple chose to work with as many Richmond vendors as they could, using Urban Set Bride for the dress, Shockoe Atelier for the jeans the groomsmen wore and Amanda Burnette for the flowers. Erin says, “I was like, ‘I have to support all of my friends, now is the time to do it, if I’m able to help them out.’ ” The bridesmaids wore purple dresses of their choosing and the groomsmen rented vests to accompany their jeans.
With 16 people in the wedding party (including the bride and groom) and 100 guests, it was a full house at the Bloemendaal House on the grounds of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The two loved the historic home and the fun, family-feel that came with it. “We really didn’t need to decorate that much, because it was already so beautiful,” Erin says. “I didn’t want a lot of crazy decorations, I just wanted it to look and feel natural.”
Stu fondly recalls that Erin kept her dress a tight secret from him. As the processional began, a friend of theirs performed a song he wrote for the couple on his acoustic guitar. At the same time, the ceremony was being audio recorded. Stu and the groomsmen walked up, followed by the bridesmaids and then he looked up and noticed Erin approaching with her parents. “She grabbed her parents and ran behind a tree,” Stu says as he laughs. “I think I was the only person that saw her do that so I started laughing and no one else is laughing at all. So on the audio recording it’s this beautiful guitar music and then you just hear me laughing.”
Now a married couple, the two decided they would share both of their last names. Stu and Erin both changed their middle names to Ramirez and she took his last name. Stu says, “If she’s becoming part of my family, I’m a part of her family too.”
Tie One On
Stu’s wooden bow ties are available through Etsy at Hollins Hand Carved. He also has a line of wooden pendant necklaces and coming soon are a batch of earrings. The cost for a tie is $200 and the necklaces and earrings range from $15 to $25. He also has wall mounts and stands available that allow you to display your tie when you’re not wearing it, creating wearable art and a conversation piece in one. The ties are available in an assortment of exotic hardwoods including Canary, hickory, Purple heart and walnut. They are also customizable and incorporate movement, allowing them to be repositioned to create different looks.
He hopes to make more ties for wedding parties, especially ones that have particular meaning as his did. “If someone had an old piece of furniture in their family that was kind of destroyed, but still had that sentimentality, maybe I could use the wood from that to make a tie,” Stu says. In so creating such a piece, others are able to keep a wearable memory, something they can cherish for generations to come.
STU AND ERIN'S VENDORS
Photography: Jaclyn Brown Photography
Flowers: Amanda Burnette
Dress: Urban Set Bride
Jeans: Shockoe Atelier
Men’s Grooming: High Point Barbershop & Shave Parlor
Ear Jewelry: Onetribe
Wedding Bands: Jamie Lynch Jewelry
Rehearsal Dinner: 821 Café