Interview with Cathy Olmedillas, founder of Anorak Magazine
When did you start Anorak, and why?
I started it ten years ago in 2006. I had been working in the world of independent magazine publishing, but took a break in 2002 to have my son, Oscar. It was during that break that I realised the kids’ magazine market was really poorly served and that maybe I should launch something more akin to the magazines and comics we used to read as kids. All I saw was a sea of glittery pink magazines with tatty plastic toys on the cover.
How old was Oscar when you started your business?
Oscar was four and at preschool when I launched Anorak. I had just gone through a divorce and was working in the advertising world as a producer. I was ready for something more fulfilling but had no idea at the time that I had these creative streaks in me. Oscar was the catalyst to all that.
How has your child influenced your business?
Frankly there would be no Anorak if Oscar hadn’t come along. All the early editions are intrinsically linked to my relationship with him. The museums and countries we visited have fed into Anorak’s editorial, and the themes we explore in every issue connect in some way to what’s happened in our lives together. For example, I decided to do a ‘friendship’ issue when Oscar fell out with his best friend and was questioning what friends were. Also, the ‘fear’ issue stemmed from when he started having night terrors, which totally took us by surprise and really freaked us out. I look at some of our back issues and they spark plenty of lovely memories.
How do you explain to your child what you do?
Oscar has been involved in the making of Anorak since the beginning, so he knows what we are doing. He has written poems or stories, tested some products and even devised games.
Does he like what you make?
He definitely did when he was younger; although, being a football fan, he always pushed me for more football content. I used to put Anorak together after he had gone to bed, and I remember overhearing him one day saying to one of his friends: “My mum, she wakes up in the middle of the night to create a magazine!” Now that he is thirteen years old, he’s not so interested in a ‘kiddies mag’. But he is still proud, deep down, and most impressed by our followers on Instagram.
What’s the last thing you made that you didn’t like?
I’m incapable of following a recipe and always have to improvise. I made a cake the other day, which stubbornly refused to cook. It was just goo even after a few hours in the oven.
What’s the last thing you made and loved?
The latest edition of either Anorak or our new title DOT. I love writing and commissioning artists, so both magazines give me plenty of satisfaction. I consider myself very lucky and I am grateful I can do this every day.
Sometimes it can be a struggle to be fully present with your child when you’re feeling creative. Do you find this happens to you? Oh yes—it has happened a few times. In my case, being more present with my son always sparked ideas for the magazine. I think I have tried as much as possible to compartmentalise. I carry many notebooks with me everywhere, all the time, so if an idea strikes I can quickly write it down and revisit it later when it’s time to produce the magazine.
What do you wish you knew about being a parent before you had a child?
There are no rules to parenting. Instincts you didn’t even know you had can help you navigate through anything.
What’s the best part of being a parent? And the worst?
Seeing your child grow up is the best part. I’ve always thought from the start that good parenting involves a huge amount of letting go. Seeing him explore and come up with his own conclusions has always been a joy for me to witness. The worst is that it goes too quickly.
What do you find yourself doing that is exactly like your parents?
When I was a kid, I moved around on average every two years because of my dad’s job. We never properly settled anywhere. I never thought I would do the same. I’ve lived in the east of London for over fifteen years, and I was quite impressed with that up until a couple of months ago, when I mentioned it to my son. He made a quick calculation and pointed out that while we had been in East London all his life, we had moved house roughly six times! So our family’s nomadic genes have managed to manifest themselves after all.
What did your parents teach you that you have passed on to your child?
From my dad: self-discipline and a strong work ethic. From my mum: the love of anything funny and surreal.
What do you hope your son learns from you?
Never lose perspective on how ridiculously lucky we are and how privileged our lives are. Find the one thing you love doing and make that into your day job.
What have your children taught you about yourself that has surprised you?
I didn’t know I could be that patient! And creative! And that really deep down, I am probably still only eight years old anyway.