Pair (n): Two individual persons, animals, or things of the same kind, taken together (esp. when associated in function, purpose, or position), but not necessarily forming a fixed set; a couple, a brace.

Slate‘s Creative Pair series features some Chestertown locals from Idiots’ Books. The article puts two creative partners through a series of questions/studies to mark their relationship to each other and their relationship to their collaborative work. The pair, both married and professional couplings, express difficulty in separating oneself from other, the rate at which couplings proceed to “we” from “I” and how this factors into the creative process.

If there’s one thing that defines Robbi and Matthew’s work, it’s the collaborative method itself—the long, creative tumble that they take together, like kids going downhill in a tire. Matthew says that his work doesn’t even exist until he and Robbi talk about it and make it into something together. The collaboration extends well beyond their work, to encompass their very identities. “I know it sounds totally lame,” Robbi says, “but Matthew really is the other half. He’s half of what makes me.”

[Robbi] didn’t just appreciate Matthew’s writing. She also felt drawn to work with it herself. Illustrators usually represent in image what’s already articulated in words. But with the huge spaces in Matthew’s work, Robbi felt an opening to both follow and lead—to punctuate the text and to carry it along like a schoolmarm bending a little boy’s ear. The two found themselves hashing out the ideas in Matthew’s pieces—and how to compound, contradict, and enrich them. “It was the most thrilling artistic thing that had ever happened to me,” Matthew says. “It was like the first time I took a drink. It was this visceral gut-wrenching thrill of being in a new time and place. It was, ‘Oh my god, this is something I can do.’ “

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