The tradition began in the U.K. around 1946 at what was then the International Circus Clowns Club but is now called Clowns International.
A member named Stan Bult started recording clown images on chicken eggs with the insides blown out. It started as a hobby, and, like many hobbies, it just grew. Mr. Bult kept his collection at home, occasionally loaning it out for show, such as at the 1951 Centenary Exhibition of the Crystal Palace.
The collection continued to be lent out after Mr. Bult's death but sadly most of the eggs were destroyed in an accident at one such exhibit around 1965.
Clown Bluey became chairman of Clowns International in 1984 and resurrected Mr. Bult's practice of recording clown members' faces on eggs. This time a professional artist was used and the faces were painted on china-pot eggs instead of chicken eggs. Over the years, many of the lost older eggs have been reproduced, and new eggs are added frequently.
According to Clowns International, "The eggs are not just a record of the clown's facial makeup, but an actual portraiture in miniature." In addition to paint, the artist uses samples of the clown's costume material and wig-hair to produce an eggs-act match. A photo of the egg collection may be seen at the Clowns International website.
About twenty-five years ago, Leon "Buttons" McBryde heard about the British practice of registering clown makeup using eggs. He and his wife Linda eventually met the caretaker of the British clown egg registry, and around 1979 started a similar registry for clowns in the U.S. This collection now includes over 700 eggs, covering clowns of all types from around the world. Linda McBryde is the artist and co-creator of the registry.
In the U.S. collection, the faces are hand-painted on goose eggs (more durable than chicken eggs), and decorated with various materials (such as clay, wire, felt, tiny flowers, glitter, etc.) to obtain as accurate a representation of the clown face and costume as possible.
Though not an official registry, the collection is meant to preserve the uniqueness of each clown's face makeup. Quoting from the Department of Clown Registry information sheet: "It is an unwritten law among clowns that one must never copy the face of another." Linda McBryde told us, "Although this is not a legal institution, the collection is a record of the person's name, the makeup design, and the date it was submitted. In one case that I know of, a person used the registry in a court case in which someone was infringing on his makeup design."
The U.S. egg collection is currently in storage, Pictures of the collection, however, can be seen at the International Clown Hall of Fame. or on the Flikr website in a slide show at this url The Clown Egg Register
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