Clowns Copyright Their Signature Looks With Painted Eggs

Luke Stephenson
Luke Stephenson / Luke Stephenson
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Clown makeup might seem consistent—triangles by the eyes, outlined smiles, red noses—but each design is as unique as a snowflake. A clown's face is a part of the character's identity, so many clowns have taken steps to record their painted mugs to prevent copycats. Instead of more conventional methods, professional clowns have stayed true to form and found the most whimsical way to document their makeup and outfits. The Clown Egg Register is a collection of painted eggs that record the looks of various professional clowns. A good chunk of them have been photographed by Luke Stephenson, and can now be found in his wonderful book, The Clown Egg Register.

Stephenson traveled to the English town of Somerset to visit its clown museum, which houses the bulk of the Clown Egg Register's collection—more than 250 painted ceramic eggs. He photographed 169 different entities all in front of a soothing pink background. Each clown comes with a name and short biography.

The unusual registry was started in the 1940s by London-based clown Stan Bult, who began the project as a hobby; Bult often painted his colleagues on hollowed out egg shells for fun. The project soon took on a more practical use, as it allowed clowns of the International Circus Clowns Club to essentially copyright their looks.

Today the organization is called Clowns International, and they're still adding to the collection of painted eggs. Instead of hollowed out egg shells, they now use sturdier ceramic eggs (only 24 of Bult's original clown models still exist). While the tradition started with just faces, it has now expanded to include fun hats and tiny cloth outfits. All the eggs photographed were painted by Kate Stone, but the current resident artist is Debbie Smith.

You can pick up a copy of this quirky book on Amazon.




Emmett Kelly

Frankie Saluto


Lulu Adams


Uncle Fred

All photos courtesy of Luke Stephenson.