Thanksgiving 2023 Combines Art /Craft History and Czechoslovakian Pottery for Inspiration - Six tips for your table.
My Thanksgiving 2023 table setting was inspired by 100 year old Czechoslovakian plates.
This plate was the inspiration for this year's table.
Over 40 years ago, I bought five plates for a few dollars at a flea market. Since then.....I've searched to find more plates, hoping to find enough to set an entire table -- and recently purchased nine more plates on e-bay! The plates are over 100 years old.
Here is the quick history of this extraordinary abstract pattern.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the porcelain factories (that had been making porcelain plates for the aristocracy) attempted to reinvent their industry by painting blank porcelain plates with abstract images and political messages supporting the new revolutionary political ideology.
Artists at that time, like Lissitsky and Kandinsky (as two examples), thought their art or craft should be as revolutionary as the politics. Constructivist, Supremacist, and abstraction were considered revolutionary ideas. Constructivism focused on experimentation with modern industrial materials to reflect admiration for machines, technology, and functionalism. Supremacism emphasized expression of artist feeling rather than visual representation of objects.
My plates are marked Czechoslovakian and were part of an effort between 1918-1938 to create an export industry in porcelain and glass factories.
These plates and this water pitcher were the beginning of my theme for Thanksgiving 2023.
The pitcher looked fantastic next to a framed metal collage I did for my CD catalog cover from 2004. They both have a fragmented pattern.
Here is a closer image of my CD catalog cover image from 2004.
Now, back to Creating the Thanksgiving Table -- step by step.
The table started with plain paper.
After the paper is taped on, I place the plates. This year I am using under servers for a touch of gold.
Tip 1: I have learned to place the plates early in the process so that I don't paint under the plate and waste my time. This year I only had a few hours to paint the table cover. There was still a lot of cooking to do.
Tip 2: Place the flower arrangement early. No sense spending a lot of time painting under the flowers that will not be moved.
Tip 3: Always, always, always do your own flowers. Flowers from the grocery store are pretty, but average, lacking personality. Going to all this effort for a one-day table covering, you can easily imagine that "average" is not good enough. You don't have to buy expensive flowers, and foliage can go a long way. Notice how I used ivy from my garden. Ivy is free. Foliage from your yard is free. Many times foliage can be more interesting than standard pretty flowers.
Tip 4 Mix your own paint colors. Sorry, but paint colors directly out of the tube are average by definition. I mixed my paint to match the colors on the plates. The patterns on the plates inspired my painted shapes. Painting the table is a great way to enlist the participation of your family or friends, but this year I was painting solo. Amazingly, as I studied the plates to paint the table covering, I began seeing more detailed shapes in the plates that I had not noticed before. Inspiration and spontaneous decisions allowed me to choose to replicate or modify or deviate from the shapes and patterns on the plate.
Tip 5: Details are everything. Gold markers that I bought online were used to outline the painted shapes quickly with gold edges. This whole table was painted in about three hours -- but it was such a creative joy that I would have loved to spend two or three more days painting. Putting down the colored dinner plates and Czechoslovakian plates at every place setting continued to generate inspiration all the way around the table.
No time to stop. Add candlesticks to the composition.
Add details to the composition and placement of the table objects.
Vintage 1950's black and gold water glasses provided additional pointy geometric shapes.
Gotta keep moving fast . . . . !
A gold marker pen for outlining the patterns added gold outlines -- like on the plates. There was no time to be careful. Did you look closely at the plates? No two are exactly the same. They were all hand painted. Although they follow a similar layout, each plate shows a bit of individuality.
Add wine glasses and vintage gold flatware. These all have to be hand washed only. You can find the gold flatware on e-bay. No one wants it except crazy people like me.....hand wash, hand wash, hand wash.
Creating this one-of-a-kind table covering to establish our theme for Thanksgiving 2023 makes the evening special. My guests always talk about previous table themes.
Tip 6: Create a seating plan for better conversation. Pressed for time, Bill, my husband, made a seating plan. Then I wrote the names on the table covering above the forks.
Photo credit for images: Philip Cohen, Bill Shelander, Alpa Sheth, and Harriete Estel Berman
Check out my Instagram reels, posts and stories for more images.
A few Thanksgiving Tables from Past Years:
Thanksgiving 2017 in Black and White
Thanksgiving Visual Feast Giving Thanks 2012 with a Mondrian Theme for the table and food.