Artist Spotlight: Little Critterz
Artist Patrick Korch makes a big impact with a small piece of art
Sometimes a little thing can make a big impact, and that was certainly the case with Patrick Korch, a professional fine artist and the art, sales and marketing director of Little Critterz.
A number of years ago while traveling in Europe, Korch was painting a street scene in the Lake Como area of Bellagio, Italy, while his wife, Roberta, wandered around doing some window shopping. At the time they were operating a number of stores in southern California that carried small handcrafted items created by people from all around the world, and when she spied a line of miniature animals in a store window, she excitedly brought Patrick to see them.
We bought a traveling bag full of these critters from the Italian wholesaler for our stores, and they sold very well,” Korch said. “That started it! In 2004, we contacted the factory that began to produce a new line of porcelain miniatures, ornaments, earrings, etc., to our specifications, sold our stores and became manufacturers and wholesalers.”
From there a large vision grew, and they now offer more than 950 figurines and 12 display options to address the assortment of merchandising concerns and needs for a variety of specialty retailers.
A Winning Combination
Along with being the art, sales and marketing director of Little Critterz, Korch is a professional fine artist whose love for the arts has existed from childhood, passed on from an interior designer mother and a father who was both a successful businessman and amateur photographer.
“I have to draw, sketch, paint or sculpt,” Korch said. “It’s a compulsion. In general I have the urge to create all the time, and luckily for me, my family and friends encourage my artistic endeavors.”
Korch attended UCLA and graduated from San Diego State University on the Dean’s honor roll with a degree in fine arts before continuing his education with travels throughout Europe, studying at various museums and ateliers of various masters. Upon returning to the United States, he met his wife and began illustrating for various publications, including Harper and Row, Sunset Magazine and many more before going back to pursue his own art — painting and sculpting.
“It’s a deep-seated love for the beauty and diversity of life that inspires me,” Korch said. “I see a landscape scene every place I turn in the city or the country. I envision a sculpture in everything I see, whether it’s an animal or a person at the gym or a dancer. From my mother I also gained a great sense of humor, some great people skills and a genuine and caring interest in everyone I talk with and meet. Being an artist and a marketing/sales director is a good combination.”
With Korch’s artistic and marketing skills and Roberta’s creative sense of color, design, form, merchandising and business sense, they designed a whole new line of figurines. They originally started with a larger line of miniatures called the Northern Rose Collection — which were still miniatures, but larger — and they still have those and have added to the line. But a few years back Korch decided there was a need for a smaller miniature to meet the young and the young at heart with a less expensive price range, all while keeping the unique detail they were known for.
From that, the Little Critterz Collection was born.
Depth and Diversity
Unlike the Northern Rose Collection, Little Critterz are pretty much all the same size and price points. They started with a general assortment of animals — field and forest, marine, farm, zoo, dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, etc.— and then added the injured critters for the wildlife sanctuaries.
The newest Little Critterz are what they call the Critter Tailz Collections — Critterz with a story — and include Endangered Critterz, Egyptian Critterz, Totem Critterz and Chinese Zodiac Critterz. The new “dressed critterz” include American Tailz —”Uncle Sam” as an eagle, “Betsy Ross” as a chipmunk sewing her flag and more, and Fairy Tailz — Puss and Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, Robin Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk, just to mention a few. These collections are pre-packed and merchandised in a clear view acetate box with a story card.
“I enjoy thinking of what else besides figurines I can make with the line, which is what starts the creative process,” Korch said. “I then start sketching out ideas for earrings, ornaments and the like and send these ideas and sketches to my manufacturer. He puts his very creative sculptors to work, they send us samples and we approve them or make corrections.
“The quality and depth of our line is what makes us very unique in the industry,” he continued. “Each of our very realistic and finely detailed porcelain pieces is a hand-painted piece of art, and our customers — young and old — intuitively appreciate the quality of design and form that sets us apart.”
Little Critterz have distribution everywhere from the U.S. and Canada to Europe and Australia and are carried by museums, zoos, aquariums, national and state parks, specialty retailers, nurseries — even a hairdresser and a baker have sold the lines.
“Our products are manufactured in Thailand by amazingly talented craftspeople with a long tradition of creating porcelain gifts, but our designs are proudly created in America and are produced for the American marketplace,” Korch said. “Our business supports many other American businesses including UPS, local printers, office suppliers, packaging suppliers, dock workers, advertisers and others, as well as contributes jobs and profits to the many retailers who carry our lines.”
Korch said he enjoys the stories related to them by their retailers, such as the time a young boy picked up the Horned Toad and thought it was so real that he asked if he squeezed it would blood shoot out of its eyes. Another time an aquarium called to place a reorder even though she had just received her previous order. “I know,” she told Korch, “but I had a troop of 80 Girl Scouts in the other day and more than 50 of them each bought one.”
“All I continue to see every day are more opportunities,” Korch said. “So I say to those that aspire to be in the arts, ‘just do it.’ Roberta and I love what we do, work hard and are always so excited about each new, sweet critter we create.”
And that’s proof that yes, sometimes a little thing — be it a figurine or an attitude — can make a big impact.
By Abby Heugel