An astonishing range of small turned or carved wooden items fall into the category called Treen or Woodenware.
In the days before mass production of ceramics, poor homes were equipped with handmade wooden utensils, which are now eagerly sought after by treen or woodenware enthusiasts. Most treen or woodenware available today dates from the 1800´s. Much older pieces including wares from as early as the 1500´s are in the Birmingham City Museum’s treen collection of over 7000 items.
In the past treen or woodenware was considered by many to be a poor relation to furniture and works of art. Although this is no longer true and prices have risen dramatically over the past 30 years, many 1800´s pieces can still be bought at affordable prices. Treen or woodenware from the !600´s and 1700´s fetch higher prices as it has more elaborate carving.
The Welsh love spoons, which are often intricately carved, but the finest carving appears on items such as 1600´s ivory inlaid wassail bowls in turned lignum vitae an exceptionally hard wood. Few of these remain in private hands and if one come up for sale at auction it is likely to fetch a very high price.
Fruitwood tea caddies are also highly collectable, especially those carved in the shape of an apple, melon or pear. Small items that are far more affordable include turned fruitwood holders for perfume bottles or oil.
The most valuable collecting area is usually that of 1600´s and 1700´s drinking cups or goblets. Old patination, which gives a piece an attractive colour, is a priority for collectors, and obviously, condition is important. Look for examples made from native woods such as sycamore, oak, elm, apple and fruitwoods, or else the prized imported lignum vitae. Collectors today largely shun treen or woodenware made from Indian or African hardwoods indicating a tribal origin.