Sealing Others’ Bonds is a Means of Keeping His Own

Illustrator Eddie Aaaronson and his twin sister, Stephanie, united their skills to grow a boutique business with seemingly endless possibilities.
Photo by Karin Strickland

For twins Eddie and Stephanie Aaronson, collaboration is their birthright. Their inherent ability to work intuitively with one another — including smoothing over rough spots almost before they even appear — has helped turn an ultra-boutique endeavor into a solid business. Windthrow is now a full-time job for one twin (Eddie), and headed that way for the other.

Windthrow’s specialty is 18-x-24-inch illustrated marriage certificates, originally known as ketubot (the singular form is “ketubah”). A ketubah was a traditional Jewish prenuptial agreement once used to outline the groom’s various responsibilities to the bride. Today, it’s a decorative record of the couple’s mutual vows — their promises to one another immortalized as a work of art. And the demand for customized ketubot now transcends any particular faith.

Castles in the Air: Windthrow can customize marriage certificates with depictions of a couple’s particular interests, whether the respective spouses like Disney or Dickens, Game of Thrones or Greco-Roman wrestling. 
Photo by Karin Strickland

“It really isn’t a religious document [anymore],” Eddie confirms. “We’ve received interest from couples with all types of beliefs, including a client in the Middle East. And that excites me.”

The sibling business thrives despite 475 miles of physical distance. Eddie, the company’s founder, who lives in Asheville and has a background in woodwork and graphic design, is the artist: His resúmé includes a job at Crayola headquarters in Pennsylvania and making dining-room tables for Asheville artisan-furniture honcho Brian Boggs. Stephanie, a resident of Pittsburgh, handles the business side of things.

Detail of Spanish moss on a live oak. 
Photo by Karin Strickland

But those lines blur. Sometimes Eddie takes over business dealings, and Stephanie — though she doesn’t physically make the artwork — is heavily involved in directing the creative process, start to finish. “I might spit out seven ideas, but Stephanie can act as the art director and say, ‘These are all great, but from what [the couple] has told us, these three are the strongest,’” explains Eddie. “An unusual ketubah I created had a few hurdles in the design, since the bride and groom wanted to celebrate their differences.” They got engaged at Disney World, and they wanted to incorporate that, but one was a history buff, too. “In the end, we decided on opposing castles, each inspired from different eras, water flowing between them, with a rollercoaster weaving in and out of the waves. It was wild.”

Other couples need more guidance during the brainstorming phase. So Eddie and Stephanie ask them a series of questions to get an idea of their personal style, even “what kind of music [they] like,” reveals Eddie.

Finished certificates are framable works of art.
Photo by Karin Strickland

From there, he produces several sketches, and he, Stephanie, and the clients work together to decide on a final product in the months just before the wedding. Eddie begins working, most often using pen-and-ink and watercolor. Once the last stage is reached, the couple usually signs the document, with witnesses and an officiant in attendance, to authenticate it.

The name “Windthrow” refers to the dramatically beautiful natural designs revealed at the base of a tree that’s been uprooted by storms. It’s a clear analogy for marriage itself, and the ketubah-making process is a distillation of that theme. “It’s a journey,” Stephanie acknowledges. “Sure, it takes longer than just ordering a print online, but it’s a personal process that’s fulfilling for everyone.”

Though separated by almost 500 miles, the twins work closely together.

Including themselves. Both twins say they feel their bond is stronger since starting Windthrow. The biggest advantage of the siblings’ closeness is an ability to “take shortcuts in communication,” as Stephanie puts it. And that was happening as far back as elementary school, recalls Eddie: “The few times our school put us in together in the same class, we could sometimes leave the [teacher and other students] stunned by how we anticipated each other’s questions. To us, it seemed normal.”

Windthrow, West Asheville. For more information, call 610-470-1584 or visit windthrow.com — also on Facebook (Windthrow) and Instagram: @windthrowcreative

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