Margaret Hyde Has A Nose For Pursing Her Passion

Author. Photographer. Academy-Award nominated filmmaker. It’s all in a day’s work for Margaret Hyde. The multi-hyphenate mom has created a life simply by pursing her passions, and has the accolades to prove it. Her latest venture is a series of books dedicated to a dog named Mo, who sniffs (and savors) his way through life’s greatest moments. We spoke with Margaret about why it’s important for her to be a role model for her kids and her overall scentsational life.

Let’s talk about life before Mo.

In the early 90s, I did a collection of board books called The Great Art for Kids Series. At that time, they were the first books that featured master works of art. I did another book with that publisher, and I thought that I was done doing children’s books.

I started writing for myself and taking my photography more seriously. It was my own passion but as I traveled more and took my kids on these adventures, friends of mine started wanting to buy my photographs. It developed from there and I had a big show. I got invited to go as a guest to some amazing places. I got invited to go to Bhutan as a guest of the royal family as part of a documentary crew — around that time, Bhutan changing from a monarchy to a democracy.

That led to the President of Liberia asking me to photograph the orphanages and the rebuilding of the country. That was amazing but also heartbreaking and dangerous — it was very emotional.

And in the midst of all this, I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea of Mo, who is actually my best friend’s dog, using his nose to the see the world.

What breed is Mo?

He’s part Pit with some Dalmatian thrown in there. You never know with a rescue, though. I wrote the story, woke up my husband and said, “I wrote something great!” and he said, “Go to bed! If it’s great, it’ll still be great in the morning!” [laughs] In the morning, I still thought it was great, so I called my friend and told her I wrote a story about her dog and I wanted her to illustrate it. But when I dreamed it, I dreamed it in Japanese ink brushes. She’s an oil painter and she thought I was crazy, but she learned how to do the ink brush for the books. That’s how Mo was born.


Let’s talk about the books.

In the original books, I had him smelling all the colors of the rainbow. Then I started to research how to update scratch and sniff. I loved scratch and sniff; when my teacher would put those stickers on my homework, I loved it. They never quite smelled exactly how I wanted, and I realized that there must be a chemical component to it. I was trying to find a way to make it safe for kids and update it. too. We decided to use all essential oils because it’s aromatherapy. You might not like a scent but because it’s aromatherapy and 100% oil, you can’t be allergic to it and it’s not allergy-producing.

Once we had that, we wanted to develop a technology that would hold so no oil or scent was released unless you were pressing it. That was a much longer process and once the technology was developed and patented, it worked really well. Started 5 years ago but developed technology and patented it.

So it’s safe for kids and parents to sniff.

Yes, we’ve done all the testing. Because this is new technology, we had to do the same testing that you would do for toys which is much more extensive. We have a commitment to be as mindful and eco-friendly as possible. Initially part of that was keeping the printing here in the United States. It lowered our carbon footprint which is great but has become increasingly difficult to do pricewise. We monitor the books being printed from start to finish. We use soy ink and recycled paper to limit the impact as much as we can and then we give 10% of the proceeds to in honor of the original Mo who was a rescue.

Aww. So let’s talk about the new book, Mo Smells Sweet Dreams.

It’s the last book in our color series where Mo is saying goodnight to all the colors. He’s saying goodnight to red, green, blue, and pink. He finally goes to sleep because these aromatherapy scents are very soothing and calming.


How are you able to balance your passion for photography with your role as book author?

Being a working mother thing is more difficult. I haven’t been able to do extensive traveling because of my new baby, so I have to do more California or U.S.-based things that I want to photograph. I made a film 4 years ago in Memphis that was nominated for an Academy Award and an Emmy.

I love my Nikon. I love shooting anything that’s not posed. People will ask me to shoot their kids, but that’s not my strength and I find no joy in it. I like photographing people doing what they love to do. One of my favorite images was of these boys in Indonesia washing their miniature horses at low tide in the ocean. It was so beautiful, and everyone loves a beautiful sunset. I think people doing something they love makes me feel their passion, too.

What’s next for you?

With Mo, we are working on a bunch of different TV ideas but geared more towards 3–7-year-olds. They would be miny episodes for the web that can combined into a TV show if that were about to happen. Kids have shorter attention spans and for me, I like shorter things, too. We’re talking to investors to do that, and that’s what I’ll spend the next year on.

Being green is very important to you.

I write for other publications in the parenting/green eco-friendly space. As a mom and a concerned consumer, that’s my passion. There’s so much info online, and it can be hard to know what’s real and who the experts are that you should listen to.

Do you live green with your family?

Well, I try to. Green is a very complicated issue. We have the greenest old home in America. We have a 100-year-old craftsman and it’s the first lead remodel, too. It was a really extensive project, and I learned a lot. You have to be really mindful when you want to be green because some things that may seem green can have other consequences that you haven’t thought of, and it’s really particular to your home, your environment, and what you can really be consistent with.

We also have organic veggie gardens. I also started composting. I thought it would be gross and hard and it’s actually one of the simplest things I have ever done. We use it to fertilize our garden.

What’s it like having kids who span all ages?

Starting over is hard when you have grown kids, but it’s great too because I appreciate that it passes quickly. In a heartbeat, my baby will be in high school, so I try to savor those moments. I came to terms with all that mom guilt. When my kids were younger, any time I did something for myself, I felt horribly guilty. I have less of that this time around. I realize I need to have my own life too, and be someone they can look up to, and not have my whole life revolve around them. My job is to help them turn into individuals who can go out and have their own life and lead a productive life. And I want to be that example.

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