back home & another antique watercolor box

by | Apr 5, 2021 | Antiques, art supplies, Cleaning & care, Favorite Finds, Favorite Things, Watercolors | 56 comments

Despite a trip to the ER after a day in the car (my youngest son has a stomach bug or severe car sickness and needed fluids), we had a wonderful trip out east to visit our family.  We made our first stop in North Carolina to visit Jeff’s parents and his sister’s family before we drive up to Pennsylvania to visit my parents.  We spent a ton of time in the car, but it was all worth it so we could see family.  We hadn’t seen Jeff’s parents since December 2019 and my parents since last summer.

I took a break from writing here on the blog, but I did sneak some painting in.  Painting outdoors from life (known as plein air painting) is such a challenge for me compared to painting in the studio.  I struggled through this one and didn’t love the end result, but it was a fun experience and I know I just need more practice.

plein air oil painting | miss mustard seed

And my mom and I visited a couple of my old favorite antique stores.  Oh, it was so nice to hang out with my mom and look for treasures.  We always have such a good time together.  I’ll share more about my finds in another post, but here is a little preview…

antique finds from pennsylvania | miss mustard seed

I spent most of Saturday cleaning and washing everything and, since we’re talking about deep cleaning this month, I’ll share some of my go-to products for cleaning, washing, and polishing antique pieces in a post later this week.

Today, though, I thought I would share something I bought for myself for my birthday.  (It was on Easter this year!)  So, remember all of those art supplies I sold when I was cleaning out my studio?  Well, I feel like I need to confess that I ended up spending the money I made on more art supplies!  Oh, I know…I’m a lost cause.  The good news is that I spent the money on just two very cool and special things and I consider it a good trade – selling supplies I never use in favor of two beautiful antique pieces that will sit out on my desk and be used (and admired) often.  And I did wait a couple of days before making each purchase to really think them through.

The big purchase was a Voctorian Reeves watercolor box.  I know I just shared one I bought back in December, but this one is absolutely perfect and it was at a fantastic price… less than half of what I typically see for boxes of this quality and condition.

antique reeves watercolor box | miss mustard seed

One of my Instagram acquaintances who buys and sells antique art supplies (@thearqivist), sent me this listing from an 1895 catalog and it looks almost exactly like my box.  (I suppose that makes this one Edwardian or Georgian, not Victorian.) The interior configuration is a little different, but it gives me a nice idea of the era of my box.  It originally sold for 22 shillings!

antique reeves watercolor box | miss mustard seed

antique reeves watercolor box | miss mustard seed

First of all, the patina of the box is beautiful.  There is some water damage on one side, but I’ll be able to fix that.  I also needed to glue up a few loose joints and Jeff helped me do that yesterday.  Now it’s sturdy and very useable.  The thing that made me giddy about this box, though, was how many original pieces came with it.  It has all of the dividers and trays, and several ceramic full and half pans, a ceramic mixing palette, three ceramic mixing dishes, and a small bottle with a cork.

antique reeves watercolor box | miss mustard seed

It even came with the original key and drawer lock, both of which are missing on my other box.  I also love that the top of the box fits 3 full pans and 3 half pans since I use a limited palette.  I don’t need room for a ton of pans, so this configuration is very practical for me.

antique reeves watercolor box | miss mustard seed

I am just over the moon about this box and I can’t help but feel the romantic notion that someone like Beatrix Potter probably worked from a similar set-up.  I wish I knew who used this box over the 120+ years since it was first made.

antique reeves watercolor box | miss mustard seed

I do know that whoever used it before me was using it for tinting photographs because it was filled with a bunch of tiny bottles filled with pigments for tinting photographs.  They were not original to the box or as old, though, so I removed them.

For the ceramic pieces that were stained, I tried a new-to-me cleaning method I read about last week…

antique reeves watercolor pans and palettes | miss mustard seed

…and I soaked them in denture tablets!

cleaning antique ceramic | miss mustard seed

It didn’t get every stain out, but it did clean them up a bit and made them smell minty fresh!  Who doesn’t want minty-fresh watercolor pans and palettes?

cleaning antique ceramic | miss mustard seed

I’m going to fill the pans today with my go-to colors and start putting this box to use.  I’m going to keep my other box, too, but I’m not sure how I’m going to use it, yet.  Because that one doesn’t have dividers, there are lots of options.  I can use it for graphite, charcoal, pastels, frequently-used oil paints, etc.

antique reeves watercolor box | miss mustard seed

Since I have a few really lovely watercolor boxes now, I’ve decided to give one away here on the blog.  I don’t think I’ve shared it before, but I’ll show pictures and give details when I have the giveaway.  It’s a sweet French watercolor box that’s the prettiest blue and I even had ceramic palettes custom-made to fit it.  I think I’ll always use my two Reeves boxes and the small French travel box Maria from Dreamy Whites sent me, so I’d rather give that extra box away to someone who will use and love it.

Keep an eye out for that giveaway coming soon!

56 Comments

  1. Joelle

    Lovely find. It IS Victorian, as Queen Victoria’s reign ended with her death in 1901.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Well, I had my history wrong then!

      Reply
  2. Susan

    Oh Marian,
    what a find! I’m not an artist (wish I were) but that box and it’ s contents speaks to me! Wow that painting is gorgeous ! To have such a wonderful artistic spirit ….. So sorry your youngest son didn’t feel good. That had to be stressful. Your tip is interesting about denture tablets, never heard of that one.
    Happy Easter Birthday, (mine is the 10th) and glad you got to see and re-connect with both your families.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Thank you and happy birthday to you, too!

      I agree that this box is beautiful as an antique, not just an art supply. I think that’s one reason why I love it so much.

      Reply
  3. MaryLisa

    Very lovely. I’ve never seen these paint boxes at flea markets so I will have to pay more attention to find one in person!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      I haven’t seen them at markets, but I’ve picked mine up online. I have learned that antique art supplies tend to be more of a specialty, so aren’t as common.

      Reply
  4. Renee Bayes

    An absolutely beautiful box— what a lucky find for you. I’m glad that you got to visit your family.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      I’m glad, too! It was a long time ovedue.

      Reply
    • Beckie Hudson

      I just sigh whenever I read your posts… it’s nice to see another antique treasure hunter find something that speaks to her! Some people (like my darling husband) just don’t understand the thrill of the hunt. Just got my 12 year old started to get interested in antiquing because she decided to collect coins!

      Reply
    • Kimberly

      Ii love wood boxes, and have a similar writing box!! also use denture tablets to clean porcelain. Also, salon grade peroxide.

      Reply
  5. Kim

    Terrific find! Thought of you the other day. Found an older paint box. It sat unnoticed like a wallflower until I placed it on the “hold” table. Then it became the bell of the ball and the curious wanted to examine the contents. Appears to be handmade and came with a variety of oil paints and brushes. Some of the paints were rock solid, but still excited over all that was included. Now I just need to take one of your classes and start painting!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      It’s so funny how that happens! No one cares about something until it’s claimed!

      Reply
  6. Debby

    I don’t know if you’re aware of this book but if not I think you will love it. The name of it is The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden. Grew up in the village of Olson, Warwickshire, recording the countryside through the changing seasons. She includes her favorite poems, personal thoughts and observations on the wildlife and her love of nature. Beautiful illustrations.

    Reply
    • Dianne

      I have that book as well. I love it.

      Reply
    • Joan

      That makes three of us that have that book. So fun and creative…

      Reply
  7. Nancy LJohnson

    A bit of trivia: the company’s founder William Reeves, along with his brother Thomas, created the soluble watercolor cake sometime around 1780. Their company was known as Reeves and Sons from 1830 until 1890. William was Georgian, but the box is indeed Victorian. The building in Cheapside was sadly destroyed by a bomb in World War II. It was located between St. Paul’s and St. Mary-le-Bow, the church of Cockney fame. Wonderful find!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, what wonderful information. Thank you so much for taking the time to share it!

      Reply
  8. Sue

    Love that painting!

    Reply
  9. Mayanna

    The box is beautiful!!! The patina is to die for. I recently read that denture tablets are good for toilet rings, too. Talk about deep cleaning.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      I read that, too! I bought a box of them to use for cleaning ceramic, but I thought I’d try it in the toilet, too. It’s supposed to eliminate 99.something% of bacteria.

      Reply
      • Jennie

        Many of my friends have shared that they clean their jewelry with denture tablets. Haven’t tried it but, thinking I should!

        Reply
  10. Anita

    It makes my heart smile to see that in spite of the E.R. visit, you had such a good time away. The time you found to do some plein aire painting was a real gift to yourself, and finding and buying the painting box, really gives you an on-going memory to savor as time goes by. The money you spent for the box (and it is only money) was earned by you for all the work you put into that sale, and all you share with your friends out here via your blog. You truly earn, and deserve the “gifts” life brings to you. Welcome Home!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      This is such a lovely comment, Anita. Thank you!

      Reply
  11. Carol

    What a lovely find!

    Reply
  12. Judy

    What a treasure and such a divine happy birthday gift for yourself! I recently purchased an old wooden painting box with the original palette (used and gorgeous!) and the empty bottles of turpentine and linseed oil and was so excited about getting it — I can only imagine the joy you had when this one arrived. Thanks for sharing the story and so many photos — I’m drooling over here!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, it sounds like a wonderful treasure! I just love old art boxes. They just don’t make things like they used to!

      Reply
  13. Nan, Odessa, DE

    I don’ t paint, will never.paint but am very interested in the lovely wooden boxes.
    I have a cherry silver box which I treasure and would add any wooden boxes that are lovely.
    Please tell me what I should be shopping for besides paint boxes that are lovely to use as riders, treasure boxes. It is appreciated!!!

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I just love the boxes, too. You can find all sorts of beautiful boxes on Etsy or eBay. Search for tea chests, folding writing desks/writing boxes, artist paint boxes, and drafting supply boxes. You can find all sorts of beautiful pieces, most of them with locks and pretty handles.

      Reply
  14. Margaret

    I love that box–it’s hard to express how much. So glad you found it.
    My knitting bag was given to me by an English friend who was divesting herself of most of her possessions. It had belonged to her great aunt. It’s probably not as old as your box, but I love using something that has been used to make things for probably a hundred years or so. I’m sentimental enough to hope its past owners are glad it’s still in use.

    Reply
  15. JC

    What a charming water color box! I can’t wait to see your other box give away! Your trip sounds absolutely delightful despite the car sickness. That is such a long time to not see your parents. So many of us have been in that same situation this year. We finally got to see our daughter and her husband at Christmas after a year apart. It has been about 12 weeks since we have seen them last and it feels like a year! Some day maybe the distance won’t be as far. Thankful for the closeness in heart and all the ways to stay in touch. Enjoy your new finds! Looking forward to seeing the rest of the found treasures!

    Reply
  16. Linda

    I love your antique watercolor boxes. I’m an artist also. I’d love to find a”treasure” like that🙂

    Reply
  17. Julie Muller

    You commented there were small bottles containing pigments for tinting photographs. Do you think as used by the colorists for photographs like Wallace Nutting produced? Just curious. I understand wishing you could find out the history. When I sit in an old rocker or at one of my desks I wish the same thing. The ink spots inside the drop leaf – from writing letters or paying bills or writing in a journal? Whoever owned your box would be so pleased knowing it is being cared for and treasured by another artist.

    Reply
  18. Bonnie C.

    Beautiful treasure !! It would be wonderful to know the history of the boxes! Where they have been, who they belonged to. My maternal grandmother’s family owned a stationary store in San Francisco during the early 1900’s. I have paint brushes and dipping pens, pencils and rulers that I am sure came from the store. There is a love and an appreciation I carry for these items. I would have loved to have seen the shop and all the treasures that it held. I am sure they must have carried these watercolor boxes.

    Reply
  19. LuAnn

    The watercolor box is awesome! So is your plein air painting—you nailed it—no need to deny!

    Reply
  20. Cheri Dietzman

    Welcome home! You must have brought beautiful weather with you 🙂
    That watercolor box, though! WOW. I’m so happy you found it, happy you got to finally see family too. I’m sure they were so happy to have you “home.” Can hardly wait for that giveaway!

    Also, I think antique shopping is going to happen this year!

    Reply
  21. Cynthia Johnson

    Happy Easter everyone~

    What a gorgeous find! How could you have seen it and passed it up? And beautiful that you will pass one along~ Welcome home, safe and sound (so glad your son is well) to beautiful Minnesota 🙂

    Cynthia

    Reply
  22. Irene Kelly

    So happy that you got to see your family. And just love your art box. I have a birthday coming up on the 10th. No plans yet not going to any restaurants to meet with friends still do ot feel safe. But did buy lots of potted tulips to place in my urns.

    Reply
  23. Celia

    I love seeing your art treasures. My daughter is an artist and enjoys the antique pieces as well. She likes working from something with some history! You always find the best things! Thank you for sharing your treasures!

    Reply
  24. Rita

    This indeed is a beautiful find. I have a few old wood boxes for storage because they are pretty and useful. Always keeping my eye out. I’m anxious to see more details on your clock and where you are going to put it. Glad you had a wonderful visit.

    Reply
  25. Mary Ann Deubel

    What a wonderful find! I have my father’s oil paint box from the 1920’s and I cherish it. He was the oldest of 15 children and during art school was given a scholarship to study oil painting abroad but had to earn the money to get there, so he started working as a busboy. Instead, he ended up the general manager of a large food corporation and never got to Europe, but painted in his spare time. When I was 5, he painted my portrait, which I vividly remember having to sit for, and it is hanging in my living room to this day! I hope you enjoy your paint boxes for many years and pass them down to your children some day!

    Reply
  26. Michele M.

    What a GREAT find!!!! I see the addy for Reeves and Sons is Cheapside, London – the area that Lizzie Bennett’s aunt and uncle (the solicitor) lived from Pride and Prejudice! : – )

    Happy belated birthday. Many happy returns, Marian.

    Reply
  27. PJ

    What a treasure you have found, and how wonderful that it came into such caring hands! I don’t collect many things, but I do have a soft spot for wooden boxes, and this one is exceptional. Happy Belated Birthday to you! I was born on Easter Sunday, but have never had an Easter birthday since and will not until I reach 100. Now there is a goal!

    Reply
  28. Pennie Limming

    That box is sooo beautiful. You have got me googling antique art supplies!!!!!

    Reply
  29. Deborah June Valentini

    I am so excited for you. I am a watercolorist also and an antique hunter. In all the years of antiquing I have never found a watercolor kit. I have several oil paint boxes, but nary a watercolor box. Happy you got to be with family again. I think I have missed hugging family and friends the most in all this madness. Happy Spring and enjoy painting!

    Reply
  30. Esther

    What a lovely trip you had( is your son doing better now?) I haven’t seen my parents for a year either and hope to visit them when I finally get my vaccine- they have been vaccinated already 🙂 The antique paint box is wonderful! I have an antique writing box I bought when I was an Art student intending to turn it into a watercolor painting box ,It still had some of the artifacts in it. later when I lived in Amsterdam you could buy such boxes very cheap(only 30 Euro;s) at the Monday morning clothe & Antique market. I have lots of other antique wood boxes some gifted others found at flee-markets etc.I use them for storing Art tools- supplies etc.
    I miss being able to go to the thrift stores and markets in Holland…. especially King’s day end of April when the whole of Holland turns into one big flee-market 🙂

    Reply
  31. Ramona C Thompson

    Hope you had a Happy Birthday! My birthday is also April 4!

    Reply
  32. Regina

    A beautiful art box. I hope you feel some of its history while painting. Thank you for sharing. Regina

    Reply
  33. celestial

    I think the original owner of that watercolor box is looking down from heaven and is delighted that the box has found someone who will cherish it as much as she did. She wants you to enjoy the discoveries in painting that happen to each artist in their own time.

    I’m glad you jumped on the box when you did. Five years ago I saw a little hussif in a Paris flea market that I fell in love with but couldn’t justify buying for myself. I’ve thought of that thing off and on for years and so regret not getting it. A hussif is a little carrier for needlework supplies; this one was silver and had a wee scissors, needle pod, and other goodies. I hope it found a good home. I know your watercolor box did!

    Reply
  34. Ashley Allen

    I have a box just like this that was my great grandmothers. I just inherited it since my dad passed away. Its simply stunning.

    Reply
  35. Dana

    Happy (belated) birthday and Easter. It’s good to have a break, it’s been a difficult last year for everyone.
    I also love looking for treasures in old shops, though there are not many where I live, and Australia in general doesn’t have that many antiques.
    Such beautiful old boxes would really inspire you to paint a beautiful picture. Imagine the old owner sitting there and adding beautiful colours to portraits.
    I’ve been spending a lot of time painting furniture of late and need to get back to my watercolor.
    Thanks for sharing your finds.

    Reply
  36. Teresa

    So glad you got to visit with your and Jeff’s family in NC and PA. I know it was fun hitting up all your old haunts in PA with your Mom. Some sadly may no longer be in business as so many of my favorite vintage, antique and consignment stores have gone out of business over the past few years. PA has always been one of my favorite places to shop for antiques and it looks like you found some treasures. BTW….did you ride by your old house? Some people don’t like doing this because if there are changes (not for the good) it can be a little sad.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, we did drive by the old house. Both boys really wanted to. It looked just the same except they made some improvements to the deck in the backyard. I really don’t mind someone changing a house, even if it’s not what I would’ve done. I believe homes should be customized and reflect the people who live there. The house should look like theirs now, not ours. 🙂

      Reply
  37. Sandy

    Your box is so pretty. Enjoy!
    Have you seen the movie, Miss Potter on Amazon? If not, check it out. Very sweet.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I have! I love the opening when she’s washing the brushes, etc.

      Reply
  38. Matilda Joyce

    Your beautiful box is indeed Victorian! (She died in 1901.). And to the earlier commenter, I never see “Cheapside” without thinking of P&P!! Hope you had a wonderful birthday!

    Reply
  39. Jerry Stocks

    The denture cleaner tablets can also be used to clean antique pearl buttons. Love your blog. I don’t often comment, but I love reading about what you and your family are doing.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hello!

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…

facebookPinterestYouTubeinstagramfeedfacebookemail

Subscribe today

and receive a FREE e-version of my planning sheets!

Categories

Articles by Date

 

our sponsors


Bliss and Tell Branding Company