Treen is literally “of the tree”, objects made of wood. In the days before plastic, wood was the commonest and most inexpensive material for all the small household items we take for granted – bowls, spoons, boxes etc. Also wooden-handled tools and implements. Collectively, these came to be known as “treen”. In these days of mass production, there isn’t much reason to spend time carving these items except for the pleasure of working wood and the creative satisfaction of making something. Nevertheless, it is an increasingly popular craft and beautiful treen items are often for sale at craft and wood fairs.
Close-grained woods such as sycamore, box or birch are the most often used, being the easiest to carve and less prone to splitting and great care is given to making the most out of the grain of the wood. The best bowls are finished gradually using finer and finer tools, without sandpaper, so that the wood retains some of the marks of the tools that made it. These items are unique, like a piece of hand thrown pottery or blown glass. The wood is oiled and can be washed in warm, soapy water.
The wood is worked “green”, cut from freshly felled timber. Green wood is softer and easier to work, but the carver needs to allow for shrinkage and warping as the wood dries. This requires a degree of skill and experience.
Spoon carving is an art in itself, but you need very little in the way of special equipment - a sharp knife and a hooked knife for gouging out the bowl - so it is a more "portable" form of woodcarving than some others. There are plenty of courses available for those who fancy having a go themselves. See also the Woodlands blog on spoon carving.