Sunday, February 1, 2009

Do you know what a tchotchke is? I didn't until just a few years ago when it was explained to me by my uncle's partner, who is a regular at tag sales and consignment shops. The word comes from the Yiddish word tshatshke (pronounced "chots-key") which is of Slavic origin, and means trinket. The word has become part of our popular vernacular when discussing home accessories and I now find myself regularly using the term, usually in a positive way, each time I see some little item that reeks of character and personality.

I'm sure many of you have tchotchkes around your house: those little trinkets or knick-knacks or collected items that sit on a display shelf serving absolutely no purpose whatsoever. (I know one of the regular readers here has a collection of Strawberry Shortcake merchandise on display in his bedroom, which is divine!)

The beautiful thing about them is that they are, by virtue of classification, worth very little. One would never call a priceless, antique Wedgwood vase, for example, a tchotchke. It's a collectible. A blue ceramic kitchen witch perched over the stove, however, is definitely tchotchke material.

I, too, have fallen into the tchotchke trap. I have a few knick-kacks around the apartment that I can't seem to part with, most of them quite attractive but some of them downright ugly. In light of recent discussions about impersonal environments, I thought I'd showcase some of the tchotckes I've encountered in the last few weeks - here at home and at the homes of others.
In my bedroom, on my dresser, I have a pair of Korean "love ducks" that were given to my partner and I as a gift from a friend who is currently working in South Korea. They're made of wood and symbolize the couple's mood; when they are facing each other, the couple is happy; if they're turned back to back, there is trouble in paradise. The one with the red twine around its beak is meant to symbolize the one who is most opinionated. The twine is meant to represent the willpower to avoid an argument. On a small tray on a shelf in my living room, next to a potted cyclamen, sit two handmade wood carvings. The gazelle was a birthday gift from my uncle and the little toadstool was made by a man we met when we went to Scotland a few years ago.
This is a 13-inch tall resin model of the alien queen creature from the film "Aliens" which I think is the best sci-fi film ever made. (I'm showing my geeky side now!) Only 3000 of these statues were made. Grotesquely tacky and ugly, it still managed to melt my heart. I have her on a shelf in my kitchen now: an extraterrestrial kitchen witch, keeping watch over my kingdom.
My cousin Rachelle has this rather large statue of an Indonesian deity in her living room sitting on a Chinese dresser. The morning light caught his serenity and I snapped his restful portrait here.

Well, Hello Kitty! My friend Christine in Toronto has a mild obsession with the Hello Kitty stuff. She ordered this rare toaster from Japan on eBay a few years ago and has loved it ever since.Also on her kitchen counter: a useless but pretty tea tin and a store-bought starfish.

I would love to hear about your tchotchkes, so please leave a comment if you'd care to share. Send me photos if you like, too!

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