Ross Atkinson is the man behind Salt Spring Wooden Toys, and he has been making children’s toys in his island wood shop for over a decade. His sons were his inspiration to design safe, healthy, non-toxic toys for all ages. Ross’ products are not only designed for and tested by kids, but are environmentally sustainable, too. He reclaims and reuses wood left over from construction and other wood working projects that would have otherwise been burned or taken to landfill sites. Ross is always on the look-out for others’ “scraps”, in particular from flooring installers, cabinet makers, instrument makers and boat builders.
What did you do in high school that connects to what your career as a toy maker?
In high school I took woodworking and metal shop classes that provided me with a solid foundation in hands-on making. I also took art classes which helped with the creative process. Math class was also very helpful for figuring out how to make things (calculating angles, geometry, calculating stock needs and totaling sales and taxes).
What training or jobs did you complete previously that led to this career?
I have always made things for my home and for the people I love including handmade gifts and functional pieces like shelving units/book cases, furniture, jewelry boxes, toys/games, cutting boards, artwork etc. I also enrolled in some continuing education courses/classes (life drawing, pottery). Salt Spring has a world-famous Saturday market that I was keen to participate in, so I developed a small line of toys to sell at the market. Over time this grew, and the product family developed, and we were able to shift more time to toy making.
What part of working with wood inspires you?
Our inspiration for toy designs comes from many places – from family and friends, the natural world, other toys, customers suggestions, books on toy making, requests from schools, and things we have seen on the Internet.
Whatever the source we make it our own idea by producing a prototype and refining it for production and aesthetics. We then make a small batch to see how they do at the market and make adjustments accordingly.Salt Spring Wooden Toys