Having British grandparents meant having early exposure to a wide range of English traditions and collectibles growing up. One of my most treasured collections today is my little set of Bunnykins dishes that my grandmother gave to me on my first birthday. My mother kept the set safe for me - and she still has it at home today, stored carefully in her china cabinet. As a child, I do remember studying the plates and their whimsical drawings of happy-go-lucky bunnies leading charming lives in the English countryside. I may have had a bowl of Cheerios or two out of the cereal bowl! I remember my mom allowing me to use the set on special occasions.
Bunnykins china was introduced by Royal Doulton in 1934. It was designed primarily for children and it became a popular gift at Christenings and baby showers in middle-class English homes. The artwork is by Mary Barbara Bailey who was the daughter of Cuthbert Bailey, the general manager of Royal Doulton ceramics during the 1930s. Unbeknownst to the public, Mary was not a professional illustrator. She was a nun in the Augustinian Canonesses of the Lateran who developed her own artistic talent. Bunnykins tableware depicted Mr. and Mrs. Bunnykins and other rabbit friends dressed in human clothing in colourful, rural English settings. Picnics, doing laundry, apple-picking and reading stories by the fire were popular scenes portrayed on the Bunnykins dinnerware. When newsreels showed the china being used by Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret at Buckingham Palace it became wildly popular with the masses.
The Bunnykins pattern is still manufactured by Royal Doulton today and many china stores carry the line. Figurines are also available and any original examples of Bunnykins from the 1930s are highly valuable and rare.
If I had the proper space for it, I would have my Bunnykins set with me. Below are examples of the set I have. I thought they would be fun to share at Easter. (Incidentally, Martha Stewart used Bunnykins in one of her tablesettings in Entertaining... page 19.) Happy Easter, everyone!