The Eleventh Batch

Category: What on Earth!?
kitsch, kich, n. items mass-produced for the American Market (i.e. souvenirs and the like); generally something that recalls a specific vintage genre through its symbolism. Sometimes these items could be considered outlandish. Generally they symbolize an "age of excess" and the items are of value in that they were of popular appeal at one time while now they might be considered sentimental and of "poor taste"...leading kitsch to a charm of its own.

tacky, tacki, adj. 1 : not having or exhibiting good taste: as a : marked by lack of style : DOWDY b : marked by cheap showiness : GAUDY


Today we present you with a variety of items. But! Are they "kitsch"? Or "tacky"? (Or neither?!) I'm still a beginner on this topic. "Kitsch" is actually a genre of collectible. And can create some really cute results when displayed the right way. But how does one distinguish between "kitsch" and "tacky"? Can you tell?

We're going to test your knowledge by offering some photos of items left in the house...and you can give us YOUR opinion.

Item #1

A tissue holder made of yarn. Kitsch? Tacky? Neither?

Item #2

Pictures made from the bark of trees. These are unmarked. Could be Mount Fuji in Japan. Could be something in the Western U.S. We're not sure. But they are all about being three-dimensional.

Item #3

A photo of Boris Yeltsin superimposed onto a hanging banner. Very tiny. Maybe 7 inches high.

Item #4

A slightly blurry picture (sorry) of a "faux" ship's wheel clock (unless the ship was 4 feet long...then it isn't faux it might be real!) from Telechron. It's electric and it still works.

Item #5

It's, um, a bedpan. Of white metal edged in blue.

Item #6 < See these on the Estate Sale Site

These are brass candle holders...what do they represent? It's a mystery. But my husband used to live in Nebraska and they are vaguely familiar to him. (UPDATE: No longer a mystery, we found them in a book on ART DECO DESIGN! They were designed by Bruno Matheson. We couldn't believe it. Ystad, Sweden. Crazy. Some folks online were saying 1950's, but, well, there they were in the Art Deco Book. So.)

Item #7

Now these are nifty! If you have a lot of cups, these "...hold six cups in fond embrace, and take up little cupboard space."

Items #8 & 9

I know you want this one on the left. You know you want this. Burlap and yarn has never looked so good. And, confess. Someone gave you one of these (on the right) during your lifetime. Probably in the seventies.

Item #10

It's from Austria. Land of Lion Heads. Painted onto ceramic trash cans.

Item #11

We have two of these. No shades though :( The color blue is super cool. They would be even more vivid if I had time to clean the dust out of the little nooks in the porcelain.

Item #12

More usefulness!! These are bamboo cups from Jamaica. I know this because "Jamaica" is carved on the side of them.

Item #13

Fruit. Chalkware wall hanging fruit. These were featured in the latest issue of "Country Home Living." Strangely, many things that we've found in the house are in there. Wild.

Items #14 & 15

To go with these lovely placemats on the right (and they are in nice condition...they roll up for storage and remind me of mats in Asia. But I think they are from Hawaii or Mexico), are a set of curtains (see photo on left...this is just one of many.) The curtains are from Peru, I believe.

It could be a whole new Tiki look for your breakfast nook. :)

Looking for More?

House in Progress Search for more on 'kitsch' on this site. Search for 'kitsch' on on other houseblogs like this one.
Google Search for 'kitsch' on Google. Search for 'kitsch' on


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Eleventh Batch:

» kistch from boynton
That which once defined kitsch - the different strata of taste and sophistication - no longer exists. High and low culture are conjoined in their love of the fleetingly peripheral, outsider art embraced and rejected in a matter of minutes.... [Read More]


OK, on to the kitsch quiz. Here are my answers...
1. TACKY (I don't think this has enough popular appeal to make it kitsch.)
2. so very KITSCHY
3. NEITHER (OK, I'd like to call it tacky, but I really think it lacks that necessary jaw-dropping factor.)
4. KITSCHY (Why make do with an ordinary clock when you could have this beauty? Captain Ahab would be proud.)
5. NEITHER (This is far too utilitarian to be either kitschy or tacky. Now make it into a planter, and you've got somethin' special.)
6. KITSCHY (These candle holders are utilitarian, but their extreme design helps them cross the border into kitsch. A googie lover's dream.)
7. TACKY (These are too practical to be kitsch, but their funky paint jobs and trite sayings make them tacky...and very cute in my opinion.)
8. Now that is pure, unadulterated KITSCH! Isn't burlap everyone's first choice for a wall hanging?
9. I'll call it TACKY, but it's not over-the-top enough to be kitsch.
10. KITSCHY The thought that someone spent so much time painting something so's got to be kitsch!
11. KITSCHY This is a born dust collector, and its vivid paint job aids in its kitsch appeal.
12. OK, I admit it...I lust after these cups. They're a subset of KITSCH, known as tiki.
13. Oooo! Another great example of KITSCH. I collect these fruit plaques. I love them, especially if they're ugly and airbrushed. My only question is...are these really porcelain or are they chalkware (plaster)?
14/15. Hmmm. I'd call this borderline TIKI, but not quite kitsch. I won't hold it against them, though, because they're pretty cool.

To see other species of American kitsch in their prime habitat, visit my home...courtesy of the Ophoto link above. You have to become a member (it's free) to view my photos, though. Try not to hold it against me.

Hi Jeanne Marie

OK, here goes:
1. Neither. I think I made something like this once. Sort of like 3-D needlepoint?
2. Kitschy - and I WANT THEM!!!! If these are for sale, please let me know what you want for them. It reminds me of Adirondack kitsch and we are BIG on Adirondack kitsch. (Well, I am, hubby hates it, but that never stopped me from buying something)
3. Kitsch, maybe - but only if that's an autograph of Comrade Yeltsin. I can sort of read Cyrillic but can't make out the words.
4. Oh, yes, kitsch. However, if it were full size it would be tacky.
5. This is obviously a "ringer" put in to confuse those arts & crafts purists.
6. Tacky, Oh what a beautiful mawwww nin, (oops, that's Oklahoma)
7. Kitsch
8. Kitsch, peace & love, groovy
9. Tacky, tacky, tacky. Is it rose scented? Quadruple tacky.
10. Tacky (sorry to disagree with KW) HOWEVER, if it had the word "Austria" painted below the lions, it would be Kitschy. Better yet, "Osterreich.." (sp??)
11. You've got me stumped. I have to say "neither" because I have no clue.
12. Tacky
13. Kitschy or neither.

Have I hedged enough? Hard to be wrong when you give three answers at once.

BTW, thanks so much for the links to the archives. I missed a few weeks and was happy to catch up: the wasp story had me laughing so hard my stomach still hurts.

Warmest Regards, and keep smiling!! You sure are putting smiles on our faces!

PPS Love the puddy and puppy. Dave looks and acts like a Norwegian Forest Cat. Ragdolls have similar texture hair, Maine Coons are identical genetically (proving the Vikings really were in New England!)Can he climb vertical rocks? I had a NFC kitten who climbed straught up a brick fireplace. I must email you a photo of my dear departed Luciano.

In #14... I think that's a table runner. It looks just like some I've seen at Pier One Imports. I actually have something similar to #15 in both placemats and table runner, mine's split aged bamboo. Makes a nice effect.

The tree bark things are interesting. Nothing I'd want to own, but something I might take 5 minutes to admire the artistry of. The rest... blech. All tacky, some kitsch.

1. TACKY - It has no personality. The colors recall The Nothing of _Neverending Story_ fame. It is utterly nondescript. I'd say that both tack and kitsch display an absence of specialized skill in production, whether that be due to mass production methods or not. The ultimate distinction between the two is whether or not it makes you say, "Wow, neat!" Criteria beyond that are superfluous and open to debate.
2. KITSCHY - Even though they were certainly mass produced, they were mass produced by hand, individually. Each one rolling off the line was unique. They have personality. Also, the cultural exoticism factor is there.
3. NEITHER - It's just a photo that happens to be on fabric. If it had some sort of embellishment, some sort of illumination, it could easily be kitsch. It almost is kitsch just due to the fact that it hangs from a dowel which hangs from a string: that is so 70's. The political interest keeps it from being tacky.
4. TACKY - Unless it's in an area with a bunch of other pseudo-nautical stuff. It's not cool enough to be kitschy on its own.
5. KITSCHY - Bedpans are never tacky unless they're in regular use, or just left at an odd angle sitting on the couch. Ick.
6. KITSCHY - They look like fleurs-de-lis. Or corn. Wacky. Neat.
7. TACKY out in the open, KITSCHY in a cabinet actually being used.
8. TACKY - I bet it smells funny. These things have no personality and there were just too many of them made--they persist. Kitsch abides by Ezra Pound ("Make it new"), but only by virtue of our youth. Kitsch is just like Antique, in that way. Kitsch does not require, but does benefit from, scarcity. The "new" in "make it new" can just mean "sufficiently differentiated from the stuff to which we are, in everyday life, accustomed."
9. KITSCHY - It's outdated and droll, but unobtrusive. It it were obtrusive, it'd be tacky. It's an old, mass-produced idea, but it's still graceful, evoking Art Deco and stuff.
10. KITSCHY - It's handpainted, and heavy (ceramic) and the lion's eyes are out of alignment. All these contribute to personality.
11. KITSCHY if mated with an old shade. If not, the new shade would instantly become TACKY.
12. TACKY - but only because of their nondescript finish. Your 5th grader could have made these at day camp, man. If he/she did, tack-kitsch would of course be irrelevant. But he/she didn't, did they?
13. Careful, here. TACKY if hung in a kitchen with a modern paint/decor scheme. KITSCHY if hung on dark brown wood panelling/paint, or if framed in same (the warm colors, man).
14. TACKY - no redeeming qualities. Yuck.
15. KITSCHY - very mild if any wow factor, but very unobtrusive, since they're dwarfed by the tablecloth, or the rest of the place setting. I suppose that kitsch requires a wow-factor:obtrusiveness ratio greater than 1.

Straight outta the content of Disturbing Auctions:

I want that burlap wall hanging SO BAD

You are sooo bound for an Antiques Roadshow appearance! ; )

If Jamaica is anything like the rest of the Caribbean, it is unlikely that bamboo large enough to make those jamaican cups actually grows on the island.

It certainly doesn't on Cayman-- 80 miles west of Jamaica or so-- yet the south shore beaches often have lots of fairly large bits of bamboo on them....

Hmmm. An interesting clue. Would bamboo have grown there in the 1940's-50's, when this couple traveled there? Or were they shipped in as tourist items even back then?

Item #7 is ultra-cool! It shouldn't be considered tacky nor kitsch! :)

Some things we know now about these pieces:

Item #6 (items) are Art Deco pieces from Ystad, Sweden.

Ystad? Must've been his ironic period.

(entertaining collection of stuff!)


Email this Entry to a Friend

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

a neighborhood of home improvement blogs

Cabinet Refacing
Cabinet Refacing:
Face Your Kitchen | Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing