Boxes of chocolates and flowers are standard Valentine’s Day gifts, but that might change this year after people see what artists have created on cigar boxes.

Throughout February and March, Jessel Gallery is presenting “Petite Creations, Cigar Box Art” by more than 40 professional artists as well as a few amateur artists who are enrolled in the gallery’s art classes.

The opening reception for the cigar box art show is from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb.1, at the Jessel Gallery, 1019 Atlas Peak Road.

“I wanted to design a show featuring affordable tiny treasures as the perfect ‘Box of Love’ that lasts as opposed to a box of chocolates. Each cigar box is unique,” said Jessel Gallery owner Jessel Miller.

The concept began years ago when Diane Pope, one of Miller’s featured artists at the gallery for many years, brought in cigar boxes with prints of her work on the top, Miller explained.

“I love boxes and this seemed like such a great idea,” Miller said.

The second credit goes to B.J. Thrailkill who inspired Miller when she visited her home during the Napa Valley Open Studios.

“B.J. had actually designed tiny oil paintings on cigar boxes. They were beautiful. The light bulb went off in my head when I saw what she had done,” Miller said. “Why not ask all the artists I know to paint and craft on, in or around a box? Voilà — the Cigar Art Box Show was born.”

Then Miller discovered that Napa Cigar And Wine, owned by Randy and Carrie Bowman, had boxes for sale. She bought 50 boxes at reasonable prices from these “wonderful shopkeepers.”

Next, she distributed them to her favorite artists and gave them the “mission of painting on or in a cigar box or creating something special including three-dimensional work.

“Everyone loved the idea of this show, of painting miniatures on the boxes,” Miller said. “Even Joe Miller, who owns Cheap Joe’s Art Supplies in North Carolina and Olaf Schneider in Canada, were excited about the idea of the show.”

The boxes in the show are “inventive, surprising, exquisite, hilarious and generally inspiring and unique,” she said.

Marvin Humphrey, Guy Buffet and other artists wove humor into their work.

“It’s always interesting for me to see what a group of people will do with the same format. Our boxes were different shapes and sizes, but they were all wood cigar boxes,” said participating artist Joy West.

Inside each box is a card that says, “This is a cigar box handmade with love.”

Next to some boxes is an “Open Me” message. Surprises are in store for those who follow the instructions.

“I love surprises and I have always loved boxes so the most interesting feature besides the wonderful artwork on the outside of the boxes is the fact that some artists added surprises on the inside,” Miller said.

There is a rich diversity in the appearance and subject matter in the boxes. Some are lined with rich fabric such as velvet and silk. Most are topped with miniature oil or acrylic paintings but there are exceptions. Larry Youdell’s boxes are decorated with inlaid wood. Sharon Crary’s boxes are topped with woven fabric art.

Throughout the enormous main exhibit room, the boxes have been arranged on specially installed shelving so that each professional artist’s cigar box creation is directly beneath one or more of their large paintings hanging on the wall.

“These are difficult financial times, and my thought was that so many people love art and yet feel they cannot afford an original work of art,” Miller said. “This show gives everyone the opportunity to purchase a one-of-a-kind design.”

The boxes range in price from $85 to $1,000.

“This is a show filled with beauty, humor and love,” Miller said.

For more information, call 707-257-2350 or go to jesselgallery.com.

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