Remember the web pages from the 90s? One thing I remember about them is that they were brimming with GIFs that may had been the cause for many photosensitive epileptic seizures. Obviously, they were one of the first image formats commonly used on web sites. Overused, to be honest. But after the first intense bombarding, times started to change and animated GIFs could once again be hella cool. They were renewed in unconventional ways, offering new space for creativity. Maori Sakai is one of those smart cookies who bit off a part of that opportunity and started creating witty, cute and playful animated GIFs. We're talking about a freelance illustrator and graphic artist based in Tokyo. Her GIFs caught my attention because of their high level of detail, perky everyday motives and playful nature of the stories they portray. Her tools are really basic, consisting of pens, paper, and her unbelievably engaging imagination (and of course a suite of indispensable computer tools). Enough chatter, let's wander into Maori's animated world.

Konnichiwa, Maori! What was the first thing you thought about this morning?

I'm just thankful to be alive, I'm thankful for this beautiful life and place :)

How did you get into illustration, GIFs and graphic design? What were you doing before?

I went to design school for 3 years after graduating from high school, and I learned graphic design, illustration and animation there. Then I was working in the production companies for 3 years. Anyway, I was always making some kind of artworks.
What came first – the love for illustration or the love for animation?

This is a very interesting question. I have never thought about it! Hhmmm… I have no real answer to that question, because I have been in love with illustration and animation since I can remember.

Where do you draw your inspiration from and how does that inspiration turn into reality?

Places, seasons, people, coffee and chocolate, music... I think everything I see in my life is an inspiration to me.

What does your workspace look like? Which tools and materials do you use?

I live in a two-story house, and I use the first floor as a workspace. I like to keep workspace and living space separate. I usually draw with a pencil and graphic software. I like the fusion of digital and analog.
What might you be doing if you weren't making art?

I have no idea! I've really liked craftwork since I was a kid, and I don't have any other skills besides making art!

Are there any aspects of your life that you try to capture in your work?

I'd like to capture my feelings and all the daydreaming.

What makes you smile the most?

Somebody's smile :).
Who's your childhood hero?

Walt Disney, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Totoro (the Studio Ghibli movies).

What are you grateful for at this point in your life?

I'm grateful for my family, my friends, and all of the people who have been involved with me. Of course I'm grateful for my health and the beautiful nature. Lastly, I'm grateful for my mistakes, because everything is teaching me a lesson.

Thanks so much for your time and answers, I really appreciate it!

What do you guys think? One thing is sure, Maori totally owns the contemporary GIF world. You can catch up with Maori over on her official site, FB page, Tumblr, or Giphy. Now excuse me, I have to go and stare at her work for a couple of hours.



  1. Oh wow, mesmerizing! Love it :)

  2. :o While I was looking at the GIFs I noticed that I was smiling and I thought "that's going to be my comment! The GIFs made me smile. And the next quastion was: "what makes you smile?". And the answer was: "somebody's smile :o

    What are the odds?:p

  3. Wow, I absolutely love these! They are so whimsical and creative- truly beautiful! Great feature :)


  4. Ok, seriously dope. Love these animated illustrations. BTW I'm trying hard to remember what those GIF's were back in the old days. Maybe they were that terrible my brain has blocked them all loooooooool.