A ‘festive garbage clam’: the problem with Ivanka Trump’s Thanksgiving centrepiece

‘Have no idea how to decorate your Thanksgiving table? Problem solved,” read the tweet from Ivanka Trump HQ. But the link to what her website described as a “bold and unexpected Thanksgiving tablescape” looked more like a problem created: a giant clamshell filled with little grey pumpkins, moss, pine cones and driftwood. Welcome to the weird and twisted world of the Thanksgiving centrepiece.

At this time of year, US magazines and newspapers are full of articles explaining how to make an annual holiday way more stressful than it needs to be. Included will be lots of tips and instructions for producing a striking and wholly unnecessary table decoration designed to take up space that might be more profitably occupied by food.

Thanksgiving centrepieces vary widely in execution, but they’re meant to have an autumn-harvest vibe and they generally contain some combination of flowers, gourds, leaves and pine cones, as if you were recreating a patch of ground and dumping it on a table where people are trying to eat. The centrepiece promoted by Ivanka Trump’s Twitter account (“views expressed are the brand’s own”) was created by the interior designer Allison Domonoske, and was widely and roundly mocked on social media.

The shell, brimming over with an artful assemblage of exotic produce, balloon-plant milkweed, green moss, “driftwood that I found at the beach” and what looks like a few handfuls of generic undergrowth, was labelled a “festive garbage clam” by one tweeter. It’s an extreme, but by no means exceptional, example of the form, which always treads a fine line between primary school project and madness.

The US obsession with festive decoration is at its height in the long stretch between Halloween and Christmas, and there are plenty of websites dedicated to the idea that if you haven’t spray-painted a dozen pears gold today, you’re just not trying. But if you’re worried about where you’re going to find a giant clam this time of year, fear not: according to Ivanka’s website, “they’re everywhere right now in home decor”.

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