Enamel tin paintbrush holder

My enjoyment and appreciation of all things watercolour extends to the bewildering array of available paraphernalia. Much as I try to restrict myself from adding to my collection of materials and equipment – which I do mainly by reciting various mantras along the lines of: ‘it’s practice that’ll make you a better painter, not another palette / colour / paintbox / brush / water container / easel / sponge / spray…’ or whatever other item I’ve got my eye on at the time, sometimes I just can’t resist my urge to collect.

That said, I like to consider myself a judicious buyer and, where equipement is concerned, I usually favour vintage goods. I think this is partly because I feel like I’m buying into the rich heritage and tradition of watercolour painting, and also because the basic needs of the watercolour painter haven’t changed for a few hundred of years so I rarely see what modern equipement offers over the old. I also only buy equipment or materials that I intend to use, I’m not a collector purely for the sake of collecting.

It seems appropriate then, with a blog called Brushes with Watercolour, that the first item of equipment I’m going introduce is an old enamelled tin paintbrush holder. I picked this up a couple of years ago at a local antique market and remember being pleased because it’s the type of place that normally charges an arm and a leg – often for real tat – and I think this was only about £7.00. I’d also never seen anything like it before, or indeed since buying it, so I remain very happy with my purchase. (And I’m sure my painting has improved since I bought it!)

It’s 215mm long and oval in profile, 50mm at the widest and 28mm across. I hope you can also see from the photographs below that there’s a rather dainty handle that opens out out on one side (though I confess I’ve yet to try wandering around carrying this brush container by its handle). The lid is 42mm deep and slides on and off and, on the inside, there’s a flat copper plate with four folded over notches for ties or elastic bands to secure the brushes.

I think that it’s delightful object in its own right and one that I continue to enjoy using – eminently simple and very practical. If I was to find any fault, it would be that it’s a little too short for some of my longer handled brushes so I don’t use it all the time. There was also an occasion when I left some damp brushes in this container after a painting expedition and when I next opened it there was some mould on the bristles of the brushes so I’m now more careful about ensuring my brushes are dry before packing them away.

I hope that these photographs give a good sense of the object. I’ve no idea how old this might be and there’s no maker’s mark or symbol on it that I can see, so it would be great if anyone knows more about this type of brush holder or ones like it.

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