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Kitsch :: The Kapowder Room Secrets

by Folksy Support

Do you ever wonder what some of the tags, terms and genres you encounter on travels around Folksy actually mean? The Kapowder Room Secrets is a fortnightly column in which Konnie Kapow investigates the various themes and styles to be found in the wonderful world of Folksy!

This fortnight I am looking at kitsch. If you are Mr Kapow then you’ll pronounce this ‘Quiche’ like the often disappointing egg based party food which always looks tastier than it actually is. This is not correct, quite wrong in fact. It’s pronounced pretty much how it looks, and is actually a German word although you may have been able to guess that from the ‘sch.’ My auntie was a German teacher but this article is about KITSCH and not ME so I’ll get back to the point!

What is kitsch?

First of all, Kitsch is meant to be a belittling term. It’s trashy, it’s cheap and it’s mass-produced. Various internet sources tell me that the term was popularized in the 1930s when art theorists sought to polarize the kitsch and the cutting edge art. Because kitsch is unoriginal and sentimental (it appeals to our cute detecting senses!) theorists wanted there to be a clear distinction between art intended solely for consumption and well, actual art!

Kitsch means bad taste and tacky, it’s actually quite a derogatory term for things in popular culture, which is why I like it so much, I have a love for all things tacky, plastic and very very over the top. If it has two colours that really don’t gel well that’s fine by me. Esme, Cheap Thrill Seeker

I think the word kitsch used to be considered a derogatory term for items that are cheap, mass-produced, gaudy, plastic, insubstantial and superficial. Jayne, Voodooville

What does it look like?

Weren’t you paying attention? It looks cheap and mass-produced! Materials range from plastic to porcelain, anything really that can be used to make tacky souvenir style objects.

Objects such as flying ducks (remember the 3 flying ducks on a wall), Elvis toilet roll holders, popcorn making machines, lava lamps, piece of toast clock are examples of kitsch. Jenny, Little Red Robin

Think Hot Pink lipstick, Beehive hairdos, Fake leopard print coats, Pink flamingos, Gold lame suits, Cherry red stiletto heels, Showgirls, Pop Art idols, Heart shaped boxes, Tiki bars, Poodles, Glitter, Diamantes, Barbie dolls, Hollywood, Lollipops, Sailors & Pirates, Giant bows, Las Vegas revues, False eyelashes, Sequins, Gameshows, Casinos, Cocktails, Lounge music, Double Cherries, Babydoll nighties, B-Movies, Bubblegum…If it’s a glamour cliché, then it’s Kitsch! Jodie, Comf!

Why is it popular?

A lot of the appeal of kitsch comes from the sentimentality. Many kitsch items feature cute animals or nostalgic themes which invoke happy and warm feelings in the beholder. Seriously, I’ve got a pair of Hello Kitty jimjams which I always find myself seeking out when I’m in need of some R&R.

When I was growing up in the 80s I was surrounded by masses of popular culture and it was all pretty tacky stuff, but I have extreme fondness for all those items, they really make me very happy. As I grew older, shops have been more interested in more simple looks and I still craved that kitsch feel. Esme, Cheap Thrill Seeker

I think people like the fun element of kitsch and it brings a smile to their faces and others. Jenny, Little Red Robin

How can it be applied to crafting?

It seems to me that at first glance kitsch should not lend itself to crafting because crafting is all about one-off pieces and people putting their heart and soul into creating something from them. This should go against the concept of kitsch being mass-produced and unoriginal.

The reason it works for our intrepid crafters on sites like Folksy however is that they are able to incorporate kitsch elements into something that is their own unique design!

You can turn anything cute and plastic into jewellery. I recently saw someone wearing a tiny, plastic gnome on a bright gold chain. The epitome of kitsch! Adele, Vintage Kitsch

It’s so easy to do in crafting, I tend to look for bright things or things that you don’t normally see being used as an item of jewellery, or just throwing lots of random stuff together, go out and find bright vintage fabrics, look at vintage popular culture from the 1950s onwards, and take inspiration from those items. Esme, Cheap Thrill Seeker

So there you have it, be sure to keep a look out for the fab kitsch creations of our wonderful sellers!

List of images:

Kitsch pink charm bracelet by Comf!
Kitsch Red Reindeer Fabric Ponytail Holder by Little Red Robin
A Herd of Kitsch Giraffes Necklace by Cheap Thrill Seeker
Cute kitsch chihuahua pendant by Vintage Kitsch
Noddy Charm Bracelet by Chans Charms
Tomato Soup Earrings by Silver Tongue Devil

More about our columnist

Konnie Kapow is a superhero card designer on a mission to save the world from dull and namby pamby greeting cards! Her offbeat sense of humour combined with quirky card designs make her shop a popular destination for card shoppers. Konnie lives in Glasgow with her artist husband Mr Kapow! where they can be found collecting rock n’ roll memorabillia and knitting in bed.

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8 comments

Victoria March 29, 2011 - 10:22 am

Great post, I’ve always liked the eclectic mix that you find in kitsch. Theres nothing wrong with being a bit cheesy I for one love ceramic flying ducks!

heather aka NiftyKnits March 29, 2011 - 12:03 pm

kitsch is good :-)

OakGem March 29, 2011 - 4:29 pm

great article! will absolutely refer people to it in the future :)

Maria March 29, 2011 - 5:48 pm

Now I get it!!

Jenny March 29, 2011 - 10:06 pm

How enlightening. I must admit I had never heard of it before but it is rather colourful and very novel.

Loraine March 30, 2011 - 4:57 pm

I agree with what “kitsch” means but nowadays I have found that many people associate the term with “vintage” and ” retro”.
My own shop is called Kitschcrochet – colourful and retro crochet items, from ideas from the 1970’s.

Jenny April 1, 2011 - 10:42 pm

Thanks for including my reindeer fabric ponytail holders. Great article – its good to be different and i love those ceramic flying ducks too.

Folksy Blog – Pop Art – The Kapowder Room Secrets April 12, 2011 - 6:02 am

[…] fortnight’s article focused on kitsch, which leads on rather nicely to Pop Art which was a movement that came into being during the 1950s […]

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