Thrift Store Transformations: White Ceramic Turkeys


Like my fall mantel the inspiration for this thrift store transformation came from the October 2012 Pottery Barn catalog – specifically this guy caught my eye:

PB ceramic turkey

He’s listed as a rustic ceramic turkey and he’s big – 15″ high – and comes with a big price: $159.00.

Ouch. Surprisingly, he’s not available anymore and it’s only mid-october. Guess you can never tell how many people are ready to plunk 150 buckaroos down for a fifteen-inch turkey.

Me? Not so much.

But I am always looking for classic Thanksgiving decorations and I liked the idea of a white painted turkey.

Have any of you noticed how hard it is to find Thanksgiving decorations- especially items that aren’t the cute-and-loudly-colored variety? There’s a ton of Halloween and then – boom! – right into Christmas.

Anyway, the search was on for ceramic turkeys. Most thrift stores have seasonal aisles where they pile all the holiday items and this is where I go looking for pumpkins, turkeys, and Christmas items to transform.


And that’s where I found these two painted, ceramic turkey holders for .99 each.

They are, um, certainly colorful.

And I just want to say – never judge people at thrift stores by what they’re buying ’cause you never know what they will do with them, okay?

sand and paint turkeys

The first step in their transformation was to fill the holes, as I was going for a classic look and not a kitschy-turkey-candleholder look. Since they were good sized holes, I filled with wood-fill that I could easily sand when it dried.

This large amount of fill took a full 24 hours to dry completely. A good sanding with a sanding block helped blend the filled holes.

Note: You can still see some outline of the filled holes even after painting – sanding wouldn’t make it go away alltogether. It doesn’t bother me…remember our tag-line: embracing imperfection. I’m after a look. And of course saving $157.

You can paint ceramic with spray paint for a brush-stroke-free finish, which is what I started with. But you can also brush on acrylic – or even enamel. Basically whatever you’ve got on hand will work.

So when my white spray paint ran out (I’ve, uh, been doing a bit of painting recently…), I finished up with a good coating of the same semi-gloss enamel that I use for the molding and cabinets in our house. Because that’s what I had.

glazing turkeys

After the paint dried I used the sanding block again to replicate the PB turkey’s rustic look, but not much came off. I didn’t know if glazing would help towards that end, so I tried adding a brown glaze and then wiping it off.

And no, I’m not 100 years old. It’s just my hand that looks that way. Hopefully just in these photos.

White Painted Turkeys

I didn’t care much for it, though, as I felt it muddied down the white factor. I used water to wipe off as much as I could off of the one turkey I had glazed, though some still stayed on. You can sort of see the difference in the photo above.

A couple swipes with a larger grit sanding paper, though, roughed them up a bit more and gave me the look I was after.

So, in the end it was:

Fill holes + sand with fine paper + paint + sand with rougher paper = PB-like rustic white turkey.

White Ceramic Turkey Centerpiece

I created a quick centerpiece so I could see how the turkeys would look in a Thanksgiving tablescape. They blended beautifully with the pumpkins, pee-gee hydrangea, Virginia creeper leaves, tarnished silver and pewter.

You know, when I started this thrift store transformation series, I thought I might not keep all the items I transformed. I mean, there’s only so much room in a person’s house, isn’t there?

But I’m keeping these. Oh yes, I am.

Have you taken any other thrift store ceramic pieces and revived them with paint?

31-days of Thrift Store TransformationsThis is day 11 in our series (you can click on the button to see all the posts in the category). If you’re wondering what’s up, you can read the introduction to 31 Days of Thrift Store Transformations here. I’m taking a little liberty and using the term “thrift store” to stand for anything you buy used (and cheap!), be it from a store, garage/estate sale, flea market…whatever.

I’m sharing this at:  Funky Junk Interiors and N-S-E-W Thanksgiving Traditions Party


  1. says

    ah, white paint never gets old (says the lady with a white spray paint affliction). i’ve done exactly that with quite a few pieces around the house. your turkeys looks great!

  2. says

    White paint is a miracle worker. I had a friend that I would go with to antique auctions back in the late ’80’s. Before she became a social worker, she would buy for an antique booth. Her comment for just about anything was “spray paint it white and set a fern on it/by it and you have a seller”. She would definitely approve of your turkeys.

  3. Stephanie says

    What a great idea! I never know what to do with those tacky holiday things there! I’m going to keep my eyes peeled now!

  4. says

    I also loved that white turkey at PB but wasn’t going to pay the price. I found a very nice grayish silver turkey at Marshalls for $15…not quite the $1 you got away with! My plan all along has been to paint that baby white, with less than a week left to do it I’m happy for your inspiration post here.
    Thanks so much!

  5. says

    Gorgeous! I was doing a google search for that BIG white pottery barn turkey when I stumbled upon this. We have a turkey farm and our turkeys are white, so I have quite the collection of white ceramic turkeys. And I’ve spray painted a few, too. :) You’re right -classy thanksgiving decorations are hard to come by!

    • Jami says

      I actually didn’t know there were white turkeys, Katie! That’s great to know – I can tell everyone my turkeys are actually realistic now. :)

      • says

        Yep, most turkeys raised for meat are “broad breasted white”. When you pluck a dark colored turkey, it leaves dark spots on the breast meat, and years and years ago, people thought that looked icky. And, there’s great demand for lean turkey breast, so this breed is nearly perfect for what we need! Check out my blog to see our barns and how we raise turkeys!

  6. Camille Walker@mymommystyle says

    What a fun idea! I love transforming items into new, beautiful things and these are beautiful! I had to laugh at your hand comment…you are hilarious!


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