About Treenware

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Treenware History

The Early Years

I lived in Madison, Wisconsin from 1977 until 1983, during which time I received my masters degree in nutritional science, worked for two years as a research specialist, started work on my Ph.D, and finally quit school to carve wooden spoons for a living.

Shortly after I arrived in Madison, I was uncertain about my career choice and revived some old hobbies, perhaps to offset the dissatisfaction I was experiencing with my graduate work. I began sketching again, a hobby from high school, and eventually started carving again, a hobby from a decade earlier when I was a boy scout. In fact, the first merit badge I recieved as a boy scout was Woodcarving. On a trip home to Pennslvania to visit my family, I retrieved my boy scout carving knives and took them back to Madison with me.

Over the next few years, I carved a wide variety of items in a wide variety of styles: duck decoys, relief carvings, and wooden kitchenware. I had seen a picture of two walnut spoons in a book about treenware. That book defined 'treenware' as any functional wooden household object. Typically the object is small and made from one piece of wood. These days, 'treenware' seems to be most often used to refer to wooden kitchenware. I tend to think of it as the wood counterpart to the word 'earthenware'. Earthenware is made of earth, and treenware is made of tree.

The first two of such pieces were made in 1978 and are pictured to the right. The spoon was worked on over a period of many weeks, and when I eventually gave it to my mother, she asked me if I would make a fork to match. As you might imagine, my mother has accumulated quite a treenware collection over the decades. Recently she has given me some pieces back including this first salad set, which are now part of the archives.

While I continued to experiment with a variety of projects, over the next few years, kitchen utensils and especially wooden spoons, became my signature item.

The Business Begins

In 1981, I wanted to become a member of an arts and craft cooperative in Madison, and I was required to submit samples of my work to be judged. At the time, I was returning to graduate school and there had been a paperwork mistake so that my funding was delayed for a month. I took the opportunity to make some wooden utensils so that I could apply for membership in the cooperative. I chose to submit treenware items from my repertoire because could carve them faster than anything else.

I was accepted and three weeks later, the first spoon sold. The fact that somebody would actually buy something I had made, changed everything, and the idea entered my head that I might be able to make a living as a woodcarver. I continued to work toward my PhD for another year, trying to live a double life as a woodcarver and graduate student. But anyone who has done either knows that being a graduate student or a woodcarver is each a full time job and more.

One day in April of 1982, I left graduate school to pursue the life of a craftsman, eventually moving back east to my native Pennsylvania.

During the first year, I worked on each treenware piece as a piece of art. Consequently, I spent a great amount of time on them and made very little money. As the years went by and I experienced the reality of making a living at such an enterprise, I became more organized and production oriented.

However, I did occaisionally do a special piece that was just for the sake of the art, not worrying about how many hours it took or how much it would sell for. These pieces I often gave away to friends and family and for this reason many of them are still accessible to me.

The cherry spoon to the left is one such piece. It also became part of my mother's collection and now is in the archives. This was done entirely by hand and took countless hours.

A decade later I had moved to power tools and was carving a variety of pieces, but I retained the pattern of separating the business from the art. For nearly all of the thirty years that I have been carving for a living, the cornerstone of the business has been treenware.

Treenware Today

My style has changed considerably over the years, acquiring a more contemporary design. I trimmed down my repertoire somewhat, to simplify my business and to focus on improving pieces that have proven to be the most popular over the years. My three basic categories of treenware are: kitchen utensils (which consists of spoons, slotted spoons, spatulas, ladles, and salad sets), crocks, and bowls.

In the last decade, I have improved on my bowl sculpting skills so that my bowls are thinner and of unusual designs. I also can carve much larger bowls. The crocks are my own invention, coming along about eight years ago in response to requests for a containor to hold kitchen utensils. They have since taken on a life of their own, and are often purchased to be displayed as an individual piece.

I have only recently begun to offer treenware on this website, but both the range and quantity will be expanding in a short time. Until now, I have sold my work through other outlets and attended a number of art fairs, so I was never able to keep ahead of the demand. Now I no longer attend art fairs and limit other outlets, so that I can put the emphasis on my gallery.

Unfortunately, because of time constraints, I'm unable to provide a comprehensive showing of what I have, but the treenware pieces I do choose to display here are those I consider the most unique. However, that is just my opinion. At the gallery there is much more to see, in a variety of woods and styles, so if you are in the area, please come see.

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