Bunny lovers, it's that time of year to put out your bunnies — not just for Easter, but for spring.
My favorites are folk-art chalkware bunnies, once found as carnival art, and papier-mache bunnies. This is probably the best time of the year, along with Halloween, to find folk art from the past and present on display, and some handmade from chocolate candy molds.
Chalkware bunnies are poured with plaster of Paris out of candy molds, but Cindy Habemann, of Rochester, makes hers using papier-mache. And with their soft pastel colors and glass glitter, you can see she just adores making them. She signs and numbers the bottoms of some pieces to let people know they're handmade.
“As far as Easter things I’ve made, I do have some pieces, mostly rabbits made from old metal chocolate molds. Also, I have many paper-pulp rabbits I’ve collected over the years that are from the late 1940s and '50s, along with my old splint baskets and chenille chicks. My rabbits made from old metal chocolate molds take the most time of probably anything I make," she said.
"First, you have to prepare the mold so it will release the wet papier-mache when it is partially dry. I carefully take out the material, then glue the two sides together. As it dries completely, it will change shape, so you have to work with it to get it to stand properly," she explained. "Once thoroughly dry, I seal them with watered-down glue and Gesso, which is very similar to white acrylic paint, only thinner. It dries hard, making the surface more stiff. On to painting in the colors I like, antiquing, then adding some vintage glass glitter. Once finished, they are very durable."
Even if you're not a collector, chocolate molds could act as an accent piece in your home décor. Like any antique piece, price depends on age, condition, rarity and manufacturer. Stamped marks can help to identify makers and date molds. Prices can be as low as $50-$100 for a seated bunny mold or around $200 for a standing bunny mold, but the larger, rarer molds can cost up to thousands of dollars with all their great detailing and condition.
Chocolate bunny molds can be found on eBay, and at flea markets, antique stores and sometimes garage sales.
“My Easter bunny molds come in many different shapes and sizes, in prices around $50, depending on how old they are and how rare. The more rare are priced in the $90 price range," said Sarah Kieffer, of Sarah's Uniques and Jim's “Man”tiques in St. Charles.
"They are fun just to sit out and collect, as they add a great decoration to your centerpiece on your table, and of course can be used to hold special treats for Easter. My customers love to collect, display and use them for spring, not just for Easter!”
Antique bunny molds should be cleaned with soap and water to remove any dirt, dust or food residue. To prevent rusting, dry the mold thoroughly, rub the mold with mineral oil, and store it in a dry place. Some antique molds should no longer be used for food, because they may contain lead, but they're great for making chalkware or papier-mache bunnies.
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at firstname.lastname@example.org.