Article by John Adams

M
ANY PEOPLE HAVE NEVER HEARD the word treen. It is derived from an old English word that simply translates as ‘made of wood.’ Treen consists as a category of mainly domestic objects such as plates, bowls, cups, goblets, pepper mills, boxes, and the like, most often turned and shaped on a lathe, occasionally jointed. Historically, it replaced for the common folk similar objects made of more expensive materials, such as metal. In our day, treen has become popular with some collectors attracted by both the qualities of the material†itself and the aesthetic of its familiar forms.

Former Canadian Society of Decorative Arts President Marian Bradshaw’s fascination with treen began with the purchase of a simple, small wooden bowl, which captivated her by its feel and warmth. As it turns out, the bowl was made from Lignum vitae-‘wood of life’-which is one of the densest woods in the world. Although extremely hard to work with, it produces a rich, deep patina that is unparalleled. This wood†escapes the normal definition of treen in that it is so durable and strong that it was also used as blocks for ships’ engine shafts.

Excerpted from Fall/Winter 2015 Ornamentum. Click here to subscribe.

John Adams is Marian Bradshaw’s son.


LEFT
A small, 18th-century Georgian mahogany cheese coaster, circa 1790.
12′ L; 6′ W; 5.7′ H
Photograph: Courtesy of Marian Bradshaw

RIGHT
A late 19th/early 20th-century ‘souvenir of Canada.’ When disassembled, this piece transforms into a pipe and a looking glass with a photo of a woman in a bathing costume.
5.75″ H; 1.11″ D
Photograph: Courtesy of Marian Bradshaw