How 4 Cool Couples Keep The (Creative) Fires Burnin’!

Single, married, shacking up, eternally pining — life can be challenging no matter where you are in the relationship game. And while we like to think of ourselves as mighty individualists all the way, there's no denying it can be a comfort to have a solid partner in crime in your corner: Someone who loves you, respects you, gets all your secret hand gestures, and, ultimately, makes your good works in the world even that much more meaningful (and major!). So, in honor of the très corny day that delights in all things true love, we’ve gone in search of four truly inspiring couples that give the double-duty theme new meaning, sharing their lives and their creative inspirations — and proving, at least in our eyes, that that whole thing about soul mates just might be true after all.
Lola Albright, actress and model, and iO Tillett Wright, artist
When did you meet?
iO: “Our friend hooked us up, thinking we'd make a good fling. Neither of us wanted a girlfriend. Whoops...a year later, we slipped and fell in love."
Lola: “I was DJing at a dive bar in the East Village, the first time we spoke. Our mutual friend had blown both of us up to each other separately for weeks, about what she knew would be the perfect fling. We flung so hard we flew!”
Do you have an influence on each other's creative work and/or style?
iO: “It's kind of nice actually, that there's a bit of separation in terms of work. Of course she influences my style, and my everything personal, because I value her opinion (which she readily offers), and I love to photograph her, but in terms of real work, we like to brief each other on what we're doing, and lend thoughts without being too heavily involved. It allows some space in the relationship. And some surprises. The biggest influence she's had on me on a daily basis is the music I listen to, and that has seeped into everything I've done.”
L: “iO's never-ending excitement for a challenge and her thirst to break through her own personal barriers influences me constantly. She sees no obstacle, and she does it with so much grace and heart, inviting everyone along right beside her. She doesn't get caught up in the skin-deep, which is phenomenal! I feel so lucky to have that added fire and flavor in the mix everyday. Life is exciting!”
What's one thing each of you knows about your partner that no one else does?
iO: “Her version.”
Lola: “Everyone who has ever crossed iO's path knows her affect on them through her raw energy and spitfire spirit. She also has a sweet and soft center that is the truest I've ever known in a mate.”
Any sweet nicknames?
iO: “Lollipop.”
L: “They are pretty endless. She inspires a lot of them. But she's my sweet potato. My curly fry. My strawberry shortcake.”
What's the best piece of advice you’ve given each other?
iO: “It’s not a one-liner, but she teaches me to take better care of myself, at all times, instead of focusing on everyone else. That's invaluable.”
L: “Definitely not a one-liner. We both always only want each other’s happiness — real happiness, freedom, and growth. We remind each other constantly of that. Our advice is living by example for one another.”
Photographed by Kava Gorna
Besides sex, what are your favorite activities to do together?
iO: “Traveling, when we get to do it together. We went to Japan in August because I had a show there, and that was a game-changer. We want to road trip in the desert and never come back. Daydreaming. Going to the cinema. Staying home and cooking. I have yet to take her to the opera...big fail on my part.”
L: “Travel and dance! We release the beast! And also just being present and trying to make an adventure out of everything, daily, no matter how small or big.”
What quality do you love most in your partner?
iO: “Her imagination, her metaphors, and her tendency to make EVERYTHING smell good.”
L: “Her drive! Her vulnerability. The fact that she naturally cares so intensely about the well-being of others. Even strangers. And her bite.”
Without saying it, how does your partner show you that she loves you?
iO: “By actually listening when I tell her I need her to change something she's doing, and then really making an effort to change it.”
L: “Showing me. It's in everything she says and does. Love is doing.”
What's the secret to a happy relationship?
Lola: “Loving yourself first. Then it's boundless.”
Photographed by Kava Gorna
An Hoang, artist, and Jeremy Barbour, architect
When did you meet?
An: “I stalked him 14 years ago, in undergrad. Jeremy worked part-time at the local art store, and I figured out his schedule and waited to buy my art supplies on the days when he worked.”
Jeremy: “She used to come into the art store where I worked. I liked her so much, but was too chicken to ask her out. This went on for a month, then in the end, she made the first move.”
Do you have an influence on each other's creative work and/or style?
An: “With so much time dedicated to our work, the most important thing we did was set up adjacent studios linked by a door. This allows us enough personal space to develop independently, yet still be there for one another at critical moments in the process. Oftentimes, I am exploring architectural ideas in my paintings, so it's nice that Jeremy's an architect and can give me feedback.”
J: “Luckily, when we met, we were both just beginning to embrace our newfound passion for art and architecture. You could say that this was definitely part of the attraction. An had a great eye and from the beginning, she has played a critical role in every project I've worked on. She is my secret weapon.”
What's the best piece of advice you gave each other?
An: “Always be prepared.”
J: “An has advised me not to talk too much. I'm still working on this.”
Besides sex, what are your favorite activities to do together?
An: “Going to the Met, eating, buying trinkets at flea markets. Watching old movies over and over.”
Photographed by Kava Gorna
What quality do you love most in your partner?
An: “I learn something new from him all the time.”
J: “She has a very good heart and always puts others before herself.”
What habit drives you crazy, if any?
An: “He leaves the bathroom light on when no one is in there, but curiously turns it off when I'm in the shower.”
J: “She kicks the blankets off every night.”
Without saying it, how does your partner show you that he/she loves you?
J: “She tells me jokes to pick me up when I've had a long day.”
An: “He laughs at my jokes.”
Photographed by Kava Gorna
Lisa Salzer, jewelry designer, Lulu Frost and Marlon Taylor-Wiles, ballet dancer with Armitage Gone! Dance
When did you meet?
Lisa: “I threw a reggae party with the amazing Winston Irie band this past summer, and I guess Marlon saw me dancing and was impressed. I then saw him dancing like no other and I felt silly, paling in comparison—but the spark was lit.”
Marlon: “At Lisa's reggae party — I was performing at Central Park's Summer Stage series and a couple friends invited me — as a party crasher. I saw her dancing and knew I had to talk to her.”
Do you have an influence on each other's creative work and/or style?
L: “Definitely — Marlon has impeccable taste and I trust his opinion. Just yesterday, he supervised a shoe purchase that I'm very pleased about. Also, since I'm so happy in my relationship, I get super creative and the jewelry gods seem to smile down on my design process.”
M: “Yeah. She's definitely having an influence on my style — I've never been into the badass all-black New Yorker look, but I see my wardrobe slowly starting to change.”
What's one thing each of you knows about your partner that no one else does?
L: “Oddly, Marlon can whistle in tune but cannot sing one note on key to save his life. I like to test him on this, often.”
M: “Ha. I knew she was going to say that. Maybe I can whistle my way to Broadway. The answer to your question is: I plead the Fifth!”
Any sweet nicknames?
L: “Wolfie.”
M: “Sweetz.”
Photographed by Kava Gorna
What's the best piece of advice you’ve given each other?
L: “He told me to live my life for myself. Simple but very strong advice, and just what I needed to hear at the time.”
M: “Lisa told me to believe in the value of my work — I've learned to be a gnarly negotiator.”
Besides sex, what are your favorite activities to do together?
L: “Eating home-cooked meals in front of the tube and vintage hunting.”
M: Exploring the city together. Going to the club every night. Kidding.”
What quality do you love most in your partner?
L: “He is there for me, always.”
M: “There isn't one particular quality — everything about her.”
What habit drives you crazy, if any?
L: “There's a really weird sound that comes from Marlon's eyes when he rubs them. Way too juicy.”
M: “Lisa has an insane wardrobe so it's hard for her to decide on what to wear for the day. Once the decision has been made, there are clothes everywhere.”
Without saying it, how does your partner show you that he/she loves you?
L: “He walks me to work every day, even if we're coming from Harlem. I work far downtown!”
M: “Sometimes it is hard for me to sleep in bed because of the aches and discomfort of being a dancer. In the middle of the night I'll grab a couple of blankets and hit the floor. Next thing you know, she's on the floor with me.”
Photographed by Kava Gorna
Ouigi Theodore, owner, The Brooklyn Circus and Gigi Gray, writer, The Brooklyn Circus blog
What is the most significant way each of you creatively or imaginatively influences the other?
Ouigi: “I am very impulsive yet very calculated about my final decisions. I explore and expose myself to a lot and make several edits toward my final decisions. Gigi, on the other hand, is very calculated throughout the whole process. She is a natural writer and researcher — she researches everything. Over the years, I've been [very] inspired by her approach, and she, by my impulsive nature."
Gigi: "Before we met [I] wasn't really into vintage, but now, I incorporate it really well into my personal style."
What do you admire most about each other's creative thinking?
O: "I think in reverse, always in search of the road to the final point, always asking 'where is this going, and where will it end up?' Creatively I am very inspired by contrast, classic approaches and a clash of cultures and ideas. Gigi, on the other hand is very traditional in her approach but unconventional in her philosophy, if that makes any sense."
G: "Our common ground is that we both share the love of always wanting to make a difference through our body of work."
Photographed by Kava Gorna
Do you enjoy working together, and, if so, what projects do you love collaborating on?
O: "She is an amazing writer and genuinely cares about people, she loves to write about food and life."
G: "We are currently collaborating on a Food & Style project, bringing my love of food and [his] love of style/culture together."
O: "I love the fact that she understands her perspective and is not afraid to express it, so this project will be a beautiful contrast of thoughts and approach."
How best would you say your thinking compliments one another?
O: "We are both very head strong Capricorns, so it's always a challenge to get to a final point, but I love it."
G: "We both work well with people who help us see things from a different angle. We're both leaders who aren't afraid of leadership. We always end up complimenting each other's thinking, as crazy as it is at times. I love it!"
Photographed by Kava Gorna