Cheryl Bryan believes she was destined to love bunnies.
After all, she was born just a few days after Easter, her childhood pets were rabbits, and all of her birthday cards were emblazoned with bunnies.
“As I got older, I asked everybody to take me to Build-A-Bear for my birthday,” said Bryan, who proudly displays the bunnies she created at the retailer’s DIY workshops. “They’re just such friendly, cute animals.”
Bryan, 58, never lost her enthusiasm for the furry critters, which explains the giant bunny collection at her home in Snohomish. The 300-plus pieces include stuffed bunnies as well as rabbit-themed ceramics, paintings, wine bottles, table cloths, candles, lamps and calendars.
Her latest addition — a gold-plated bunny encrusted with handmade crystals — was a present from her brother, John Bryan, who bought the gift in Thailand.
“He called me after he got into town and said, ‘I bought you a present,’” Bryan said. “I figured it had to be a rabbit — what else could it be? — but I had no clue it was that extravagant.”
The guest room is the crowning jewel of her bunny enterprise. More than 40 customized rabbits she made at Build-A-Bear Workshop — from punk-rock to Irish — are displayed on shelves, while other stuffed bunnies are spread out across the bed and sitting on top of wardrobes.
An entire basket is overflowing with stuffed versions of the Rabbit character from “Winnie-the-Pooh.” She has other recognizable cartoon characters from movies and TV shows, too, such as Thumper from “Bambi” and Bugs Bunny from Looney Tunes.
Curio cabinets stuffed with rabbit-themed snow globes and figurines line the walls in the living room downstairs. In a corner is a Christmas tree decorated with bunny ornaments. A bunny tablecloth covers the dining room table.
“Everybody knows I like rabbits, but a lot of people don’t know how much,” Bryan said. “That is until they get down here and they are like, ‘Whoa.’”
She started the collection when she was a little girl growing up in Edmonds. She kept expanding her bunny bonanza in adulthood, even as she moved from house to house over the years. Her biggest haul comes every year on her birthday/Easter.
“My birthday and Easter are one and the same to me,” she said.
Her favorite bunny gold mines are arts and crafts festivals. She’s also found memorabilia at antique stores in Snohomish and motorcycle and car shows as far away as Sturgis, South Dakota.
If it’s a bunny or rabbit-themed, she’s probably going to buy it.
“Some people call me the ‘crazy bunny lady,’ but I don’t have live ones so we’re OK,” Bryan said. “I had to the draw the line at some point — even though it doesn’t sound like it.”
Some of her favorites from the collection are vintage and from her late parents, Violette and William Gromko.
One is a calendar in mint condition from April 1965 she found while helping her mother move into a nursing home; it shows two bunnies wearing Victorian-era clothing under an umbrella. Another is a miniature bed made by her father, who also crafted some of the cabinets where she stores the figurines, with a stuffed bunny tucked beneath the covers.
“It’s really special to me,” Bryan said. “I’ll probably give it to my granddaughter.”
She’s also enamored with a pair of paintings called “Holly” and “Hefner” that she bought from Paws With Cause, an outreach group that displays paintings of homeless pets made by seniors.
Just about every single piece of her collection has meaning to her, but that doesn’t mean she’s not willing to part ways with them; she recently donated 24 of her Build-A-Bear bunnies to Seattle Children’s Hospital in time for Easter. It’s the third time she’s donated stuffed bunnies to sick children.
“They need a purpose and it’s just the perfect time,” Bryan said. “It’s something they deserve. Some people don’t have anything, so you want to make people feel good.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.