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The Curious Tradition of Clown Egg Registry: A Peculiar Intersection of Art and Intellectual Property


The world of clowns is one of whimsical artistry, boundless humour, and a touch of the surreal. Yet, nestled within this vibrant tapestry is a curious tradition that intersects the realms of art and intellectual property in a uniquely tangible way: the practice of copyrighting clown make-up designs by painting them on eggs. This unusual custom, which began in the mid-20th century, offers not only a practical solution for preserving and protecting the distinct personas of clowns but also serves as a fascinating cultural artefact in its own right.


The Genesis of the Clown Egg Registry

The origin of the clown egg tradition can be traced back to 1946, when Stan Bult, a member of what was then known as the International Circus Clowns Club (now Clowns International), embarked on an unconventional hobby. Bult, with an eye for detail and a passion for clowning, began painting the distinctive make-up designs of his fellow clowns onto emptied-out chicken eggs. Initially, this endeavour was purely recreational, a pastime that allowed Bult to celebrate the unique visages of his peers.

Stan Bult at work

Bult's hobby, however, soon evolved into something much more significant. As he meticulously recreated the make-up designs on these fragile canvases, it became apparent that these painted eggs served as an invaluable record. Each egg encapsulated the individuality and creativity of a specific clown, preserving their unique make-up for posterity. This was not merely a collection of artistic representations; it was a memorial to the clowns of yore, ensuring that their iconic faces would not be lost to time.



The Practicality of Preserving Persona

The tradition initiated by Bult quickly gained traction within the clowning community. It addressed a very real concern: the need to protect the intellectual property of a clown's persona. In the world of performance, a clown's make-up is akin to their signature, a visual trademark that distinguishes them from their peers. By painting these designs onto eggs, clowns could effectively copyright their make-up, providing a physical and verifiable record of their artistic identity.

This practice offered several advantages. Firstly, it ensured that the unique make-up designs could be authenticated and preserved. Secondly, it provided a historical archive, a way to document the evolution of clown artistry over the decades. Finally, it fostered a sense of community and continuity among clowns, linking the past with the present through these delicate yet enduring symbols.


A Fragile Legacy

Stan Bult's initial collection comprised around 200 eggs, each meticulously painted to capture the essence of the clown it represented. However, the inherent fragility of the medium meant that many of these eggs were lost or broken over the years. Despite this, a remarkable number of these original eggs have survived, serving as a testament to Bult's vision and the enduring appeal of this tradition.



The Modern Home of the Clown Egg Collection

Today, 26 of Bult's original eggs are housed in the Holy Trinity Church in Dalston, London, where they are preserved as part of a larger collection. This church, with its serene ambiance, provides a fitting sanctuary for these delicate works of art. The display is not just a historical archive but a living tribute to the artistry and individuality of clowns from around the world.

In addition to the 26 originals, there are another 46 clown eggs on permanent display, representing a broader spectrum of clowning history and artistry. This collection is curated and maintained by Clowns International, ensuring that the legacy of these performers continues to be honoured and remembered.

 


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