Behind-the-scenes with Tadaa

Ozan and Anil

Incredibly, I didn't even meet Anil and Ozan Tortop - the wonderful creatives behind Meeka's illustrations and design, until after the artwork was finished. Such is the way of the modern, digital world I suppose.

Nevertheless, I felt like I knew them already when we finally got to hug it out in Brisbane during the CYA Conference, an annual celebration and meeting place for children's book writers, illustrators and creators.

I interviewed Anil and Ozan to find out a bit more about their booksmithing business Tadaa and general creative wizardry.

What inspired you to become children’s booksmiths?
Before moving to Australia, back in Turkey, we were making children’s books together in a publishing house. (Ozan as the art director, Anil as the full-time illustrator.) After coming to Australia, stepping into a publishing house to continue the fun didn’t seem easy.

Instead, we ended up working with a lot of independent authors. We started with illustrating and designing books for them. Then we found ourselves in a position where we would consult and help the authors with advice on technical stuff like offset printing, print on demand, ISBNs, etc; in short, guiding them from the beginning to the end of the process.

Then we wanted to collaborate with other illustrators too, so we took a step further and started our business as Tadaa. We us the term 'booksmith' as it defines us better than others. (Credits go to lovely Angela and Rob for this word.)

What does a creative day in your Tadaa studio look like?
We both work from home. Our 'business' day usually starts with checking the fridge-sized calendar at the kitchen, while having our big Turkish breakfast. We exchange ideas about the projects on this 'morning meeting', that we call breakfast.

Replying to emails and exchanging ideas with authors, illustrators and editors is the second big task of the day, which some days takes until the end of the standard work hours. Then we go to our rooms and start creating.

Being our own bosses means we don’t have strict working hours, which means we end up working day and night. We sometimes meet in the living room to talk about projects and we do a lot of brainstorming.

We’re not going into details about how we fight here, but a creative day involves some of them, too.

Below are some of the early sketches for Meeka. It was so exciting to receive an email from Anil and Ozan with the latest drawings! -- Suzanne

What is your favourite part of the process?
Holding the printed books in our hands and smelling them! That moment is so rewarding that we forget all the tiring days and hard work and go on with refreshed minds.

What are your favourite types of children’s books?
We both mostly like smart and fun picture books. Not only for their smell, but also for the ideas, story and the visuals.

Anil likes picture books with a smart story and great illustrations. Any 'hat' book by Jon Klassen makes her heart jump. She also likes ridiculous stories like 'Mr Gum' or 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'.

Ozan likes idea books, which make you think: “Why haven’t I thought about about this before?' when you see them. 'The Book with No Pictures', 'This is a Ball', 'Do Not Open This Book' and 'Treehouse Series' are some of his current favourites.

What’s next for Tadaa?
We don’t plan to do anything different from what we do at the moment. We try to make better books each time, that’s the goal. Being fully booked for 2017 and already having some projects for 2018 shows that we’re on the right track. Yay!

Anything else you would like to mention?
We love Meeka! We enjoyed every bit of the process and are very happy with the final result. Having worked with a very creative author is so delightful. On top of everything, seeing this lovely author happy is priceless. Thank you, Suzanne, for trusting us to take care of your baby!

Lastly, here's a time-lapse video of Anil working her magic on Meeka! -- Suzanne