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Treen, wood crafted to serve and that delights the senses; COLLECTABLES: Utilitarian wooden objects have a keen following.


WHAT is treen? For the uninitiated it is any small object made of wood, or as my dictionary states, ``Derived from an old word for wooden, the term refers to small domestic articles made of turned or carved wood, such as bowls, platters or spoons.''

It is not generally used to describe carved figures etc, but is mainly confined to utilitarian objects.

Treen existed in ancient times, when man started to shape handles for knives or spears. Treen was made by the average working individual to produce food bowls and dishes, spoons from which to eat and pipes from which to smoke.

When compared to the modern way of life, in the 16th and 17th Centuries one could not just pop along to the local shop and purchase, knives, forks, bowls or plates but would have to fashion them from available objects, or seek assistance from the village turner or potter.

As an example of carved treen love tokens, we need look no further than the Welsh love spoon, often carved by the lovesick swain or lonely sailor as a display of his affection. The love spoon in Wales gained popularity from the reign of Henry VIII, the spoon was given as an invitation to begin courtship and was accepted or rejected as to whether one would start spooning or not.

The love spoon is carved, using symbolic imagery with knots and balls for love and children etc. 19th-century love spoons are sought after at auction, fetching hundreds of pounds, depending on size, condition, intricacy and quality.

Treen is now eagerly sought at auction, standing on its own in the collecting field. Pieces of treen can be bought for as little as pounds 20-30 or in excess of pounds 10,000 for a 17th-century lignum vitae wassail bowl. Fruitwood tea caddies are also highly collectable, especially those carved in the shape of apples, pears, melons etc. Good examples can fetch more than pounds 3,000.

The appeal of treen is many faceted. As a natural material the grain of the wood can be appreciated, its simplicity of design and functionality can be adored, and the natural patination that time bestows contributes to its overall desirability.

Solid timber is rarely used today, whether for furniture, panelling or utility objects. But can you see a collector raving about Tupperware and stainless steel in years to come, as they do about the medium treen, an organic natural material with a versatility not fully appreciated in today's throw-away society?

The miniature vargueno pictured, a simple Spanish writing desk, which was produced as a sample or apprentice piece, using marquetry and inlay techniques, illustrates the skills and techniques of which many craftsmen are capable. It stands about six inches high and will be offered at Anthemion Auctions on Wednesday, July 24 with an estimate of pounds 200-300.


Contact Ryan Beach at Anthemion Auctions on 029 2071 2608


SPANISH STYLE: This miniature vargueno - a writing desk - was a sample or apprentice piece, displaying fine marquetry and inlay techniques
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 8, 2002
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