Vintage or modern, a cornucopia of turkey wares in style for Thanksgiving

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Let’s talk turkey.

Not in the recipe swapping sort of way. There are plenty of sources for cooking The Bird.

Focus, instead, on the icon itself, celebrated in a variety of decorative interpretations, from plates to salt & pepper shakers, tablecloths, cocktail napkins and even pillows.

Seasonal decorating options have ramped up in recent years, with less kitsch and more elevated, sophisticated design.

Like so many elements of design today, many of the turkey images have been enhanced because of digital printing, which enables more colors and faithful renderings in bold graphics or painterly techniques . The artisanal touch — the feeling of something hand drawn or painted — is coveted and convincingly expressed. That’s true on dinner and serveware as well as textiles. This year’s gobblers come in pale or bright autumnal hues, even tone on tone in relief on earthenware.

Traditionally, some of the more beautiful turkey plates you’ll find are vintage, most of these a product of a technique called transferware. Some are Currier & Ives-ish, produced from engravings on copper plate that then are inked and transferred on tissue to the stoneware. Many are in earth tones, some further enhanced with hand panting or tinting that brings life and lends an accent color to draw from for tablecloths or accessories.

The turkey was the centerpiece of a circa 1930s transferware plate by Barker Brothers. Though predominantly chocolate, the scalloped plate was bordered with a hand-painted harvest of fruits and vegetables in orange, red, green and purple. Another well-known pattern of turkey front and center appeared in the 1950s pattern of Staffordshire china from the Johnstone Bros. Both of these patterns as well as others often turn up for sale on vintage websites like Etsy.

In the 1990s, Spode introduced its Woodland collection, an ode to English hunting motifs featuring intricately detailed game birds including turkeys, quail and pheasants in earthy hues, with a floral border inspired by British flowers dating to 1831. This über popular classic collection appears almost perennially in holiday tabletop magazine spreads.

Setting the table for Thanksgiving may be filled with family traditions, as at any special holiday dinner. Along with the typical fall fare of cornucopias, gourds, candy corn, leaves, fresh fruit and perhaps a figural turkey or two, there might be inherited dishes from your grandmother that evoke happy memories.

With the current tabletop trends for layering and mixing it up, here are some suggestions for adding to your own favorites — whether you favor modern and tailored or a vintage mashup.

• Consider one or a pair of figural turkeys on the table or sideboard. Wisteria’s autumn turkeys are colorful, lifelike, handmade of grass, branches and real leaves.

• If you’ve succumbed to design tryptophan when it comes to turkeys, an all-white pattern in relief might be a pleasant wakeup call, easily blending with the neutrals you may already own. One design at Crate and Barrel by illustrator Elvis Swift is a loopy turkey drawing of continuous lines, hand carved into molds that make a playful impression on earthenware.

• Purchase a set of salad plates or a platter imprinted with a turkey design; at Pottery Barn, some actually are inspired by fresco-like in-house paintings. Neither a huge investment nor too much of a good thing.

• Fancy frosted cookies in pumpkin or turkey shapes on a melamine plate for kids — what’s not to love? Have a little fun with a fancifully dapper turkey rocking on a cool pilgrim hat and sporting bright orange feathers; it’s a design on melamine by Jane Dixon at Crate and Barrel. The same pattern also is available on cocktail napkins.

• Add a smile to the face of your junior pumpkin pie baker with an apron that you’ll be thankful helps keep clothing clean. One with a bold felt appliqued turkey at Williams-Sonoma looks like something your child might have crafted out of construction paper cutouts.

• Elevate the serveware. One standout, a footed aluminum holder finished in antique bronze from Pottery Barn features a turkey nestling a porcelain bowl in its feathers, a perfect landing spot for that green bean casserole.

• Give your guests something more to cluck about: decorate a sofa or chair with an embroidered throw pillow from Pier I Imports that features one classy bird dressed with blingy sequins and beads.