This week we meet Cathy Olmedillas, founder/creative director of Studio Anorak, publishers of children’s magazines Anorak and Dot.
Cathy launched Anorak in 2006, when she couldn’t find a fun, educational and collectable magazine to read with her son. It was followed in 2015 by Dot, aimed at younger readers. To mark the magazines’ 14th and 5th anniversaries, Cathy talks us through her working week.
How do you start your week?
Mondays are all about being creative and not rushing headlong into answering emails. After a run around my area, I will catch up with friends on What’s App, listen to a podcast, read a chapter of a book, do some writing. In the afternoon, I will attend to any admin tasks like updating our blog, shop and writing newsletters.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your studio/office
Working at home now means I don’t have a dedicated desk as such. I have several spots that I work or Zoom from, either the kitchen counter (because it has a nice background with lots of artwork!), a seat on our balcony, our communal roof terrace, my sofa or my son’s desk in his room. It’s great for not being stuck to one place but it means Anorak has taken over our flat!
Which magazine do you first remember?
The first magazine I remember as a child was one called Podium, which was just like Smash Hits. The first magazine I remember buying as a grown-up was The Face. It had the house music trio Deee Lite on the cover, who I thought were so cool! I didn’t understand everything about the content to be honest because there were so many bands and artists featured in there that I didn’t know about but I made it my mission to discover them. A few years later, I ended up working at The Face, which still feels like a complete stroke of luck and a privilege!
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
I don’t read so many magazines these days as I tend to either read books or catch up with the news, in fact way too often! The last magazine I bought and really enjoyed is Deem. I’m still in the process of reading it but the article on Vienna’s public housing was eye-opening. I love it because its premise is about showing how design helps communities and can have compassion at its core.
Describe Anorak in three words
Joy. Childhood. Wonder.
Did you ever imagine you’d still be producing not just one children’s magazine but two, 14 years later?
Ahah, well, probably not! But I am so grateful that we are able to keep going! There have been times where I have wanted to launch a couple more and other times none at all!! Although it is 14 years, in my head, every issue still feels like the first one in so many ways. Mostly because we make every issue a new adventure with a new theme and a new guest illustrator.
My son is now 18 and older issues of Anorak spark memories of his childhood, which is lovely! He still works for us, in many ways, he has never stopped but now it’s a bit more serious as he does all the initial research into themes. Then I feel the weight of these 14 years!
Anorak has always aimed at the 6-12 age group readership. Have you seen kids that age change over the 14 years?
I don’t think children have changed that much but the world around them has. As the world is becoming more unsettling and because of the overload of information we all receive on a daily basis, oasis of fun, creativity and imagination become rarer and rarer.
What I have noticed – especially during lockdown – is that parents look for these moments of creative escape even more. I feel conflicted that this is happening, because ideally, education and the world would provide this for all but they simply don’t so we hope to – in our very own small way – fill that gap.
Over the years you’ve experimented with digital forms of Anorak; what worked, what didn’t? Do you remain committed to print?
1 million percent committed to print! We have had a few apps in the past and they’ve done well but they require so much investment. And I don’t have the passion for it!!
Having said that, we are now offering digital apps via Zinio for the simple reason that they do all the development so it’s easy and also because the pandemic has made air-freight very slow and a lot of our readers are overseas. We have found though that a lot of parents would rather wait and enjoy the paper version!
Share one piece of publishing/business advice that has helped you.
The best advice I have ever received is the one I didn’t agree with! Because it gave me an impetus to follow my instincts and make this business work in a way that suits me and the path I am on.
Looking ahead, what are you excited about this week?
I am doing a week-long series of lectures at the school of illustration Mimaster. They are done via Zoom rather than in real life in Milan but I am still super excited about them because we will be talking about my favourite things: story-telling, jokes and joy.