The difficulty with spotting kitsch is that one man's kitsch is another man's objet d'art.
I mean, I'm sure that when my late mother-in-law bought me that china spoon rest in the shape of a pig, the one with the 'comic' verse painted on its tummy, she didn't mean to send every nerve in my body screaming with appalled gut-clenching horror. No, she was being generous and kind. (As a matter of fact I dropped it almost immediately, and completely by accident.)
It's much the same with my husband's fondness for Wade pottery
and the wooden rhino. Still, now we (a daughter and I) have explained carefully and kindly to the poor man that he has absolutely no taste at all, we manage very well.
But how to define kitsch? The Collins dictionary says tawdry, vulgarised or pretentious, and later it uses the word sentimental. I'm not sure about pretentious because so many pretentious things (modern art provides many examples) aren't kitsch at all.
Kitsch, too, needn't be tawdry: some of it can be hugely well-crafted. I mean, all those shocking pink flamingo lamps don't manage to stand up by accident, you know.
Sentimental gets closer. Kitsch does invite affection (isn't that puppy vase sweet?).
But essentially kitsch is the stuff that's disharmonious. The stuff that fights everything else around it for noisy attention. The stuff with sharp elbows and a grin which might be either cheeky or leering.
You won't find any trouble spotting kitsch.
The mystery is that a professional artist and a professional craftsman brought themselves to bring the thing into existence.
Ah well. I suppose that explains the underlying viciousness of the stuff, doesn't it.
Spot the Frippet: kitsch. This word is German, and started off in the 1860s describing cheap and popular sketches sold in art markets.
Yes, no illustrations. It seemed kindest.