Is it kitsch? Or is it vintage?


“While Jo and her apartment are beautifully styled, inside her kitchen cupboard all is kitsch.  It’s her guilty pleasure and the tackier the item, the better.  Quirky egg-cups, souvenir tea towels, oversized novelty spoons – her kitchen resembles a tourist-trap souvenir shop.”

From Over the Edge, p.57

It’s funny how little things from real life have made their way into my book.  Not that I have a kitchen full of kitsch like Jo, but I’ll admit I do have the odd item stored away.  Only, I prefer to think of them as momentos.

This little string-dispensing pineapple in the picture above has been in my kitchen for years, and my parents’ kitchen before that. Growing up, I thought it was something really special, especially with its inside lining of sparkly gold foil.  Although, as you can see, the gold foil is gone now. Long gone.  And modern-day balls of string don’t seem to fill it out like those of yesteryear.  But it’s still a fabulous piece of 70’s kitsch from my childhood, and it was the inspiration for one of Jo’s character traits in Over The Edge.

Jo’s kitsch obsession started one morning as I sat at the dining room table, drafting out some character profiles.  Jo was chic and modern.  Confident.  A woman of her times with a stylish studio apartment that could have come out of Vogue living.  When I’d finished her profile I went to make a cup of tea (and eat some Tim Tams) and while I waited for the kettle to boil, the little pineapple caught my eye.  Rarely used, it sat on a high shelf; a relic from the past, surrounded by today’s mod cons and a neutral colour scheme.  It seemed so out of place and somehow unexpected, and slowly, I began to see Jo a bit differently.  What if, beneath all the sleek and modern, was a passion for anything kitschy?

I went back to the laptop and began adding to my notes.  The little pineapple string-dispenser morphed into a pair of pineapple-shaped salt and pepper shakers that Zoe gave Jo as a gift.  And then that led me to drag out the shoebox stashed in the bottom drawer of my dresser.  The one with “Souvenirs” marked on the lid.  The one I hadn’t looked in since I moved out of home a couple of decades ago.

It was like stepping back in time.

Jo’s gold-fringed, black velvet cushion from the Kiama Blowhole was inspired by this little object d’art below.  We’ve all seen these, haven’t we?  Souvenir spoons?  This one actually came from a Kiama Blowhole tourist shop on the NSW south coast. The matching mug and egg cup are from Surfer’s Paradise on the Queensland Gold Coast.  The orange Luna Park cup came from, you guessed it, Luna Park.  Lots of childhood holidays.  A bit of kitsch.  Some great  memories.


If I saw the pineapple or the spoon or the egg cup in a shop today, I wouldn’t buy them. But because of the memories these ones hold, I won’t part with them. Call me sentimental.

But maybe my little momentos aren’t kitschy, after all.  When I went on-line to research more stuff for Jo’s kitchen, I discovered, surprisingly, that some of the items in the photo have become ‘vintage’.  Or at the very least, ‘retro’.  Maybe even prized ‘collectables’.  I don’t know when this shift happened, but it has.

See?  I was always just ahead of my time 🙂