How did Okido start?
Okido started when my son Emil was four and not yet at school. We were on holiday in Morocco with just one Richard Scarry book that we were reading over and over again. So we started drawing our own book with some activity pages and a story about all the cats we were seeing and what we could call them all. We had the time to be creative as we were on holiday, but we thought it would be great to do the same thing more often together – read or make up lots of short, funny, stories and ideas of things to do. A magazine! There wasn't anything quite like that out there, so we decided then that we would do it ourselves! It was made much more possible because illustrator Rachel Ortas (co-founder of Okido) is part of our family, and a few very creative illustrators and designers we talked to about it loved the idea. We literally started it on our kitchen table as a family project, and with our own money. It is still produced in that spirit, the family is just a bit bigger... and our funder the Wellcome Trust has helped a lot to keep it going and growing.
What inspires the quirky characters in Okido?
Rachel’s character Messy Monster came from having one in her house – you know the Messy Monster responsible for all the missing socks or toys? He is always having amazing adventures with Felix and Zoe – he is in their imagination, he IS their imagination! Zim Zam and Zoom are virtual characters. They are there to play with and investigate all those questions children ask – they are our scientific curiosity. We all know a Squirrel Boy or feel like one sometimes, jumping into another skin when we don’t feel we really fit in our own. Foxy is in our back gardens or round the corner. We always look for Foxy. He is all children's "eye for details" – all those things they spot that we don’t!
What comics/magazines do you remember reading as a child?
I grew up in France and used to receive and read Pomme d'Api, a fantastic children magazine from which I still remember some of the characters. I also read lots of beautifully illustrated Seventies craft books that have lots of things to do and observe – how to print with potatoes or transform conkers into magical characters… This nostalgia of the children's magazines I grew up with strongly influences Okido, and has motivated its creation and justified the need for such a magazine.
What are you family’s favourite reads?
Our house is full of children books – they are fantastic and there are so many beautiful ones!
For the stories, illustrations and design we love The Moomins, the Barbapapas, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (of course), This Is London by Miroslav Sasek, and any Richard Scarry or Ann and Paul Rand books... These are our classics, as are many other hugely inspiring books from the Fifties and Sixties. Getting more contemporary, we love the activity books by Taro Gomi and Pascale Estellon, and Spot it by Delphine Chedru. There are some fantastic pop-up books. We particularly love Popville by Anouck Boisrobert, Louis Rigaud and Joy Sorman, and Alice in Wonderland illustrated by J. Otto Seibold. We love Snowy And Chinook by Robin Mitchell and Judith Steedman. And we love the selection at the Tate Modern bookshop and other museum bookshops.