Mike and Katie are TADO, a UK-based duo whose darkly adorable characters have been terrorising and delighting people worldwide for the past 10 years.
The pair, who live and work in Sheffield, work on a vast range of creative projects, from fashion through to advertising, and their artwork has been exhibited worldwide. Everything they do is done in collaboration with each other, and their clients include MTV, Nike, Kidrobot, Gola, Vodafone, Microsoft, Sanrio, Lucas and Virgin.
In this exclusive interview, the lovely pair talk to us about working and living together, their extensive toy collection and why Japan is one of their favourite places in the world.
QUESTION: How did you both start out in design?
"We've both always been drawers from an early age and followed the usual route of chewing crayons, followed by drawing on bits of our parents' houses, then school, college and eventually managing to narrowly miss getting proper jobs."
QUESTION: Where did you meet?
"We met during the second year on the Leeds Met Graphic Design course. A tutor of ours suggested we tried collaborating on some projects… and the rest is history!"
QUESTION: How did TADO start?
"The first thing we did was a Flash animation based on the story of Willow pattern china plates.
"Our two styles quickly moulded into one and we loved learning from each other and being able to bounce ideas about."
QUESTION: You work and live together. What do you like and dislike about being in each other's company 24/7?
"To be honest there’s not a lot we dislike about it – it would be a bit tricky if there was! We count ourselves very lucky to be able to spend our days together doing something we both love and are proud to have built up together. We also count ourselves lucky that we’re both very tolerant people!"
QUESTION: Tell us one interesting fact about yourselves...
"Katie is a fantastic baker and cook. Mike is fantastic at talking enthusiastically about very small Japanese cars."
QUESTION: What are your main sources of inspiration?
"We hope this doesn’t sound like a cop-out answer, but we really do pull inspiration from stuff we see every day and people and creatures we come across.
"Obviously our work is very influenced by things like Japanese animation and the aesthetics of Asia in general, but we think we also draw a huge amount of inspiration from British influences, particularly with regards to humour and attitude and its these things we enjoy mixing up a bit."
QUESTION: Japanese themes run throughout your work. What is it about the country and its culture that you love?
"We have an ongoing fascination for the visual culture of Asia as a whole really. One of the things we really love about Japan are the different sub-cultures that exist. For every subculture you can imagine you can guarantee that there will be at least another subculture of that subculture that you had no idea about. And whatever the focus of that subculture (be it toys, cars, sports or whatever), it will probably be some of the best in the world. And there’ll be a magazine for it too!
"We recently visited the tiny island of Yakushima in Japan. The forests on the island are covered in cedar trees that are thousands of years old and that formed the inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke. It’s truly the most magical place either of us have ever been."
QUESTION: Can you recommend a book or movie that inspires you?
"Tekkon Kinkreet. It’s both a book and a movie, so that’s good! We’ve watched it countless times now and it still blows our minds every time. The immensity and detail of the environments and the way the characters are so faithful to the original book make it the champion for us."
QUESTION: It's TADO's 10th anniversary this year. Have you or are you doing anything to celebrate?
"We decided to just crack on and get on with some more projects of our own this year. We tend to work on commercial projects for the majority of the time so this year we decided to try and be a little bit more selfish with what we get up to when we have time.
"We’re making an effort to explore some of the things we’ve been meaning to get round to doing for ages, having some fun with our own stuff, and learning some new skills."
QUESTION: What project are you most proud of to date?
"One of our favourite projects to date is the large wooden figures we made with our friend Nick Hunter, who’s an incredibly talented woodcarver working here in Sheffield.
"The original set were made for our 2008 ‘Lily the Littlest Cannibal’ exhibition and were carved from solid oak, lime and ash woods. We found the whole process a fascinating one and spent a lot of time watching Nick work in his studio. It was amazing to watch him slowly work into the blocks of wood, knowing that there was no ‘undo’ option and that one slip could easily remove an entire limb!"