Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The definition of "kitsch" is sort of hard to pin down these days. Kitsch is often used by the "shabby chic" to adorn their abodes, but the word's origin rambles around in elitist conversations about high or low art. It can be anything now—ranging from mass-produced Van Gogh mugs to figurine collections to "vintage" '50s-inspired art reproductions.
Once really into blue glass, I had a whole collection of it in the form of vases and candleholders next to a window. My friend called me an "old lady" because of my collection. In other words: gaudy.
The confusion between kitschy, campy and "real" arts and antiques prevails. What I considered to be beautiful shades of cobalt blue, my friend considered tacky. And that's the thing: Taste is subjective. Whether your treasures come from second-hand stores or from catalogues or boutiques, it doesn't matter
how educated you are or how much design experience you have—no one knows better than you what you like.
So go on with your garden gnomes-of-the-world collection. Whatever the case, kitsch hunting via the scouring of thrift or antique shops, garage sales or flea markets can provide hours of joy. You never know what you might come across or learn about pop culture.
If you find something you like but it doesn't seem useful, another idea is re-purposing objects to suit your needs. For instance, an old silver vase you'll never use can dress up your desk as a pen holder.
On that note, rather than pointing in a particular direction, here are some suggestions—from an endless list of possibilities—for kitsch collections you can start. You can also use a little kitsch to add a zest to your place—just be careful about turning it into clutter.
Clocks—You probably don't want to have a whole room lined with clocks, but a vintage-style, or actual vintage clock in a home can really add some unique pizzazz to time-telling. Or, perhaps you could revive the cuckoo-clock craze.
Action figures or old dolls—Ranging from Star Wars collections to Care Bears to vintage Howdy Doody dolls, these can add nostalgia to a place, whether you have children or not.
Old games—Like dolls, they can really bring out the kid in anyone, whether they're reproductions or the real deal.
Snow globes—Travel the world and bring one back from every continent, every state. Best if they cost less than $5.
Americana—Old washboards, sleds, instruments.
Glass collection—Old lady or not, glass is pretty. And it can be valuable, too.
Ceramics—Teapots, mugs ... the list is endless.
Salt and pepper shakers—You've probably seen these in a relative's house or that quirky little eatery around the corner.
Paperweights—From state-named to scorpion-embedded to blown glass, this kind of collection can get out of hand if you choose to go down this path.
Clothes & Jewelry—Why not get into it with matching apparel? Your collection could be screen-printed shirts with your favorite '80s cartoon stars, like Wonder Woman or the Hulk, or '50s-style dresses or costume jewelry, like bauble-beaded necklaces or anything with faux-crystal.
Animals—You can find these in any variation or material. Be it "all hens, all the time," or a smorgasbord of creatures, this theme could be great for a child's room.
Magical stuff—And on the theme of decorating for the young ones, perhaps it's time to start that unicorn collection you always wanted.