«Kokotājs» — «Oliver Latvia». Photo by Lūcija Rošāne

By creating the brand «Oliver Latvia», the artist Ieva Ekmane has turned her creative skills into a business. One of the company’s activities is production of educational games for children. Two of them, «Kokotājs» and «Putnotājs», have been created for kids to explore the nature in Latvia and for adults to be able to tell where a great tit lives and how an aspen leaf is different from that of grey alder.

Stories Veronika Viļuma January 11, 2017

The brand «Oliver Latvia» was established around two years ago, when its owner, the artist Ieva Ekmane finished her Master’s studies at the Art Academy of Latvia and decided to start her own business. Ieva’s partner Pauls Bite took care of the necessary legal issues, while the company’s name is dedicated to Ieva’s godson Olivers. «First, I started to create various games as presents for Olivers. I couldn’t find suitable aesthetic and educational products in stores, so I decided to create them myself, thus the gift would also have a special value. I still bring him to test products before the production. Olivers always honestly tells his thoughts and I get to understand how children think,» says Ieva, the director of «Oliver Latvia».

«Kokotājs» (from the Latvian word «koks» — a tree) and «Putnotājs» (Latvian «putns» — a bird) are games, created to train children’s memory and to help them recognize common trees and birds of Latvia. Each play set has 18 laminated cards with drawings, highlighted with varnish layer. Nine cards of «Kokotājs» depict trees and nine — their leafs and fruits. The main task of the game is to find compatible pairs, but these cards can also be used to play a memory game. Same rules apply to the sequel of «Kokotājs», the game «Putnotājs», where one has to connect the birds with their nests or juvenile birds. Both games come with informative brochures and posters with all pictures of the birds and trees and their names are also available.

Although the countryside and forests have always been close to Ieva, during the work on «Kokotājs», which is the first game in the nature series, she herself was able to discover many new things. Ieva did her research and consulted with biologists who examined the paintings so that all images could be as accurate as possible. While in the production process of «Putnotājs», a close and successful collaboration with the Latvian Ornithological Society was established.

When the workload increased, Ieva’s assistant Romija Štāla, a student at the Art Academy of Latvia, joined the «Oliver Latvia» team to take care of the graphic design, but the illustrations for «Putnotājs» were created by a young painter Madara Kvēpa. «I supervised all processes, but also wanted to give the opportunity to young artists, while gaining more time for other projects,» comments Ieva.

The director of «Oliver Latvia» reveals that she wants to continue to create educational products for kids, trying to cover all stages of their development. This year’s plan is to develop a game about numbers and, most likely, to continue with nature series, covering mushrooms, fish and insects. «I have many ideas. Hopefully, I will be able to pursue the right ones,» says Ieva. Gradually the «Oliver Latvia» product range is complemented also with items for adults. Ieva already sells reproductions of her paintings and posters and a desk calendar for 2017 has also been published.

One of Ieva Ekmane’s aims for the future is to create an all–in–one space for her painting studio, shop and creative workshops: «I’ve learned that both children and adults are enthusiastic to learn new things,» says Ieva. For now, «Oliver Latvia» is located at the premises of the Latvian Artist Union, but they start to become too small for Ieva’s creative scope and all the intentions.