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Thirteen Fragile Retro Kitsch Craft Items

All of these were found in magazines from the late 50s and early 60s, and as handmade kitschy crafts, this is likely the only way they have survived.

#1 Dolls displayed in a dead tree. My sister has a fear of dolls. I could understand if she’d ever seen this… What a great way to scare and emotionally scar your little girl.

Dolls Displayed In Dead Tree

#2 – 7 Hobby wall panels. Rather self-explanatory…. but still I shall comment as I feel is required.

So we’ve got baseball, football, golf and pool; how about something for the little ladies (who don’t golf)? Ah, a gardening motif. I don’t know about you, but upon spying the little plastic shovel, I expected to see a matching little plastic beach pail.

Retro Gardening Wall Decor Project

If they all suspiciously look like Christmas trees… That’s because they are suggested holiday decor. And nothing, but nothing, says, “Merry Christmas!” like a wall panel Christmas tree made of swords and guns.

Retro Trophy Holiday Weapon Wall Decor

(Note: The designer, Robert Hammer, is credited for this one.)

#8 Construction paper food. The instructions leave much to be desired. “Most are easy to make. For example, the banana is merely a crescent-shaped piece of yellow construction paper. Fold down the center, stapled at the ends, gives it a lifelike, three-dimensional appearance.” I think we knew to use yellow, and the basic shape… What about the turkey?

Contruction Paper Food Craft

#9 Muffin cup ornaments. Eight kitschy paper ornaments, right from mom’s cupboard. Paper propped-up next to those old stings of Christmas lights, with their uber-safe sockets and hot bulbs, will really light-up your holiday celebration.

Retro Muffin Cup Ornaments

#10 Muffin cup wreath. Muffin cups were apparently a cheap commodity, replacing popcorn in holiday crafting and ornamentation. I’ll buy that. But what the heck are “paper honeycomb balls”? I bet they stopped making those when kids confused them with Honeycomb cereal.

Retro Muffin Cup Wreath

#11 – 12  A quadruple lantern of spray painted cardboard to match the long-gone scenic wallpaper.  And hey, the wrapped gifts match too.

Retro Paper Lantern

I don’t remember a time when holiday decorations were supposed to match your home; I had previously always believed that the red & green of Christmas were selected for their inability to fit discreetly in any home.

#13 Frighten your babes in toy land.   Construct a several feet tall city to prevent the kids from bothering you during holiday cocktail time!

Retro Chunky Dolls & Toyland

The “chunky dolls” are just under 4 feet tall, enough to intimidate any toddler — or drunk adult relative. Which is why no matter how much time “father — or doting grandfather” spent making this, it went curb-side at the first sign of spring.  Or maybe even was tossed with the tree.


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Susan Helene Gottfried I can usually find one redeeming quality in your list, something that I can be positive and fun about. Not this week. I'm SO glad I live now. And that I'll be dead when it's time to make fun of my stainless steel appliances. (btw, yes, I wrote this week's TT. That's Susan the way she'd be if you met her on the street. And no, she doesn't usually talk about herself in the third person. I think these kitchy things have affected my brain.) March 27th, 2008 at 1:23 PM

Grandmother Wren I love this list - I think it's my favorite this week. I think you should add one of those pasta shell wreaths, they're quite lovely spray painted pink and hung in the bath... March 27th, 2008 at 5:37 PM

Teleny Parrish Hey, making "trees" of everything from hairbows to dolls to Easter eggs was a well-loved craft of my childhood. What you did with your dead branch was spray paint it to give it a "fantasy" look, then start hanging whatever you wanted to showcase. Kids loved them in classrooms, where they'd make trees with their names on the ornaments, and change them every month. And I've never had a paper ornament (and I've made plenty) catch fire with electricity. You just have to know how to hang them! I never had a Toy Town, but I"m sure Mom would have made one. I would have been about five when this article came out. March 31st, 2008 at 11:06 PM

jeff stimmel I am a documentary filmmaker who is doing a film on American Kitsch. Can someone tell me where to go to find kitsch items on display? Conventions, stores, permanent collections, warehouses, markets, clubs etc...Such as the items displayed here - things that people put in their home. I would really appreciate it. October 10th, 2008 at 7:49 PM

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