Ruth Elliott – Delighted and Surprised to be an I.D.I.O.T.

This month's interview is with Ruth Elliott co-founder of Big Ideas Product Development, based in Manchester UK.   Ruth was the recipient of this year's International Designer and Inventor of Toys Award- affectionately known as the I.D.I.O.T. Award! This is presented at theUK Toy Inventor 's dinner and given as a tribute to luminaries who have made outstanding contributions to the Toy industry.


Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

I did a Graphic Design degree and my work included a thesis on The Teddy Bear and producing a children's book on Teddies. I designed and made all the bears and environments which I photographed for the book. My first job was with the advertising agency Bowden, Dyble and Hayes in Manchester working on packaging for Denys Fisher Toys. Soon I was involved in toy and games concepts. A couple of years later I left the agency with two colleagues and Carterbench was born. During that time I met the extremely talented Simon Skelton and we formed Big Ideas in 2001.

What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?

I love interaction between people, toys and games bring friends and families together. A brilliant example of pure fun is Pie Face- timeless slapstick humour! I am concerned when I see kids who have become insular by reliance on relationships with technology.

What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?

Research the market, understand kids, be different......its a tough job getting a winner!!!

What was your favorite toy or game as a child?

Bits of cardboard and a roll of Selotape – then I could make anything I wanted!!!

What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?

Summer job working in a factory at 16 to earn pocket money. I hand folded boxes for packing fridges. Made me determined to get good qualifications at school! 

What inspires you?

Great ideas!!! Not just in our industry, but anything that makes me stop, look and say 'WOW! I wish I'd thought of that!!!'

Where were you born?

In a little mining village near Durham in the North East of England.

Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?  

I grew up in what seems now like a different world. In general female aspirations were low, but there was a growing feeling of optimism that anything was possible .I wanted to draw and create. I remember my headmaster at school telling me I was wasting my talents by wanting to go to art college.( He felt strongly that I could be a good teacher- I didn't! )  When my own kids have had to make decisions I've encouraged them to work hard and follow their dreams. You need to be ambitious and a bit stubborn, and you need some luck!

What do you read every day, and why?

I read primarily for relaxation- at the moment I am into the wonderful Diana Gabaldon  OUTLANDER series. Problem is I don't want to stop- its 'just another chapter' syndrome. I speed read a proper newspaper ( how old-fashioned!) most mornings.

How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?

Creativity has a cycle. I know there is usually an 'I can't solve this' period on most jobs.( During which time despair and bad temper are common). I find if I stick at it, try to approach it from different angles, then the solution usually pops out- as if by magic!

Do you have any kiddos?

Three fantastic grown up kids- my best creations!  I was always a working mum and never felt guilty about that. They all are strong independent people following very different paths. We are a very close family and the three of them are always there for each other.

Do you have any pets?

Sadly our wonderful Great Dane- Stanley- died a month ago. I miss him like crazy.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Chocolate, gin and tonic, chocolate.....

What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?

It's all in the eyes!!!

Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?

Oh, happy endings every time! My imagination makes scary movies much more frightening than they really are!

Hugs or Kisses?

Depends who with!!!!

Favorite movie of all time?

'Love Actually” Oh , did I just confess to that?!!!

Do you have any special talents?

Well, I hope I'm good at inventing!!!

What are your hobbies?

Cinema,theatre, friends....... chocolate, gin and tonic........

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I never want to grow up!

What’s next?

More 'Big Ideas!'

How do you feel about winning the I.D.I.O.T. Award? 

Delighted! Its fantastic to be recognised by your peers in the industry. Particularly satisyfing for the award to go to a 'back room' person. I was surprised to find that there  only four women have won the award ( In comparison to 38 men). I would like to see that change in the future- in your hands girls.