antique watercolor palettes

by | Sep 21, 2021 | art supplies, Watercolors | 14 comments

Calls with my friend Julia in the UK have become a pretty regular weekly thing.  She’ll give me a call or text pictures of some of the latest treasures she found for me.  We’ll also just chat about life and family between talks about antique watercolor palettes and other fun art supplies.  We are definitely two peas in a pod when it comes to things we love and she’s gracious enough to sell me pieces she loves, too.  In one of our recent conversations, as I told her to add something else to my pile for the next box she sends across the pond, she said, “There can’t be much more that you need, right?”

I laughed, “First of all, I don’t need any of this!”

Art supplies and books have become my vice over the past couple of years and, honestly, there are worse vices to have.  I’m sure there will come a time when I feel like my collection is “complete”, but that hasn’t happened yet!

In my most recent Ponder & Purchase box, I got two antique watercolor palettes.  The first one is a small folding palette by Reeves.  It had been in Julia’s online shop for a while and I kept looking at it when I’d check out listings on Etsy.  It’s nothing particularly special or rare, but I kept coming back to it and imagining myself using it.  When I can picture something in my home or studio, and vividly imagine myself using it, I usually know I should buy it.

vintage reeves watercolor palette | miss mustard seed

I don’t use a ton of colors when I’m painting and I figured that most of these would be student grade (but I will test them all out to see), so I removed all of the paints.  I had almost enough antique Reeves ceramic half pans to put in the watercolor palette, so I decided to use those and fill them with my own paints.

vintage reeves watercolor palette | miss mustard seed

Using the ceramic half-pans (instead of plastic) just makes me happy!

vintage reeves watercolor ceramic half pans | miss mustard seed

So, I’ll fill them all up and let you know how it looks when it’s finished.  I decided not to clean the palette, though.  I think the patina of antique watercolor palettes created by decades of use is what adds to its charm.  The outside of the tin has been painting in blue (it would’ve been shiny black), so I might even do some custom painting on it!  We’ll see.

vintage reeves watercolor palette | miss mustard seed

The other antique watercolor palette is an absolute beauty.  I’ve never seen one like it, so I think it’s quite special.  It’s a very heavy ceramic palette in a metal case.  The metal lid closes to cover up the paints but leaves the mixing surface exposed.  I also believe the metal lid would be used as a small easel for a quick sketch.  It has a significant crack in it, but I’ve never been one to snub something old because it’s “damaged” or imperfect.  In fact, it makes me like it all the more.  If something breaks, we only keep it and fix it if we love it and it means something to us.  Someone loved this palette enough to not throw it away, even if it was broken.

antique ceramic watercolor palette | miss mustard seed

I decided to fill this antique watercolor palette with my new plant-based, natural watercolors

plant-based natural watercolors | miss mustard seed

It was so fun “moving into” this palette.  I just used the palette of eight colors and left the wells with the crack running through them empty for now.  I can add more colors later or use them for mixes.

antique ceramic watercolor palette | miss mustard seed

Isn’t it such a clever little antique watercolor palette?  I just love it!

antique ceramic watercolor palette | miss mustard seed

kaweco pencil | kaweco pencil klutch

antique ceramic watercolor palette | miss mustard seed

As with all antique pieces, I do wonder who owned them originally.  What art might’ve been created with these?  I feel privileged to own and use them now and be a part of their next chapter.

I got a bunch of other fun things from Julia that I’ll be sharing in future posts.



  1. Pamela White

    I makes Quilts all of the time for my hobby I am always looking for that perfect fabric. I am now working on a famous pattern maker from Australia named Susan Smith. I thought I had found the perfect blue and White fabric from France. When it came in the mail I was so excited! Tore open the package like a child at Christmas. It was perfect and very beautiful. Then one day when I was showing it to a friend and noticed that if I cut it length wise like I was suppose to it would cut the top of the heads of the people off in the fabric. No worries I would just have to look for a different piece of fabric. Perfect excuse to go shopping. The hunt is part of the fun right? My hobby can be very expensive, so I always say it is cheaper then smoking dope. Oh and by the way I have never smoked dope.
    I love your web site.

    • Marian Parsons

      That’s right! I also don’t spend money in other places like eating out of buying lots of clothes, shoes, and purses. This is where I like to splurge!

  2. Anita

    It’s always interesting and fun to read about things you find to add to your art tools, especially those from the past. Paint itself had evolved, I’m sure you know, that over the years, formulas have improved to make it less dangerous to the working artist. Cadmiums for instance, which are beautiful colors.

    I do have one question, what process do you use to discover if a paint is a student grade or not? I know that student grade often has less pigment in it, but some are quite good in the finer brands. I’ve never heard of a way to test paints, except for lightfastness, which takes quite a bit of time. Lightfastness is a biggie for me, if I’m painting something to be printed, like for notecards, it doesn’t matter so, but I don’t want to have something I’ve painted just for fun fade in short time either.

    • Marian Parsons

      I am going to see how saturated the color is as well as how it mixes. Artist-grade paints will create clean colors when mixed. If the paints aren’t a good quality, they will get muddy.

      • Elizabeth Nakayama

        I love your instagram account. That said, way too many ads and pop up ads on your blog. If you ever get rid of them I will subscribe. They are way too distracting, like the Jack in the box and. Really?

  3. Carolyn

    Hi Anita,
    always get “Artist grade” paint never student grade. Artist grade has more pigment and less filler. There is a website called “Handprint”
    This website goes very deeply into pigment and all things watercolor.

    • Jo

      Dear Carolyn, I found “Handprint” interesting and very informative. Thank you so much for sharing it.

      • Anita

        I only buy and use artist grade . I was referring to information I have read. There are some really good books on color and mixing. Michael Wilcox is a good reference.

        On mixing colors, if you want purple, mix red and blue—but if you mix a warm red with a cool blue, it will be muddy, no matter the grade. Mixing colors will not determine artist grade from student.

        • Anita

          P.S. same goes for greens and oranges, etc.

        • Marian Parsons

          True. I meant in general. Of course, which colors you mix and how many you mix will make things muddy even with the best pigments. After using professional paints, I can just tell when paints aren’t high quality.

  4. Julia - ponderandpurchase

    You have such a knack for finding beauty in the ordinary. Sometimes a damaged piece is worth saving especially in our throw away society. I love finding ceramics with old stapled repairs. Finding pieces for you is such fun I find myself asking “is this a Marian piece?” I think we’re only just scratching the surface, there is so much out there. Isn’t it great being involved just a little in each pieces history?
    Thank you Mr Kitchin your sketchbooks have been the perfect conduit, they were the hardest thing to let go of, but they are safely with the right person now and are being shared with a larger audience who appreciate you and your work.

    • sarah hardaker

      lovely words Julia and beautiful finds xxx

  5. jeanie

    When you said this: “Art supplies and books have become my vice over the past couple of years and, honestly, there are worse vices to have. I’m sure there will come a time when I feel like my collection is “complete”, but that hasn’t happened yet!”, I said “Kindred Spirit!”

    I adore this post — I love seeing things like this and also how chose to fill the palette. The ceramic half pans are wonderful. Big smiles.

  6. Vanessa Prohaska

    When you enter an antique store/state sales; do you ask for artists materials? Is this something that is hidden by a seller?
    I can’t wait to visit one and search for the jam crock jars, artist books and artist materials. Thank you for always blogging , things worth reading.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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