Send In the Clowns

This is my 600th post since I began this blog, and this week I reached (and surpassed) the total number of views I had for last year. In recognition of those milestones, it’s time for another giveaway. Since many of my readers live in countries with immanent elections, I thought some clowns might be suitable.

If you live in Canada, you will recognize the faces on the three thaumatropes above as the leaders of the three major political parties. The thaumatropes are stick-mounted which makes them a little easier to operate than the string type.

If you wish to make a Canadian clown, first print out clowns 2019 on some card stock. You will also need one (or more) straight bamboo skewers and some adhesive. I used glue stick for mine, but starch paste or white glue would be fine. Use something that does not set too quickly as it may take a moment or two to position the stick accurately.

Assembly of your clown takes a few simple steps. Cut out your clown, removing the black outline and keeping the two circles connected. Next, apply your adhesive to the backs of both circles and to the end of your skewer where it will sit inside the finished thaumatrope. Position your skewer in the middle of the clown nose side. There are little red dots at the top and bottom to assist in this. Fold the circles together, matching the edges as closely as possible.

Test your thaumatrope by holding the skewer between flat palms and rubbing your hands back and forth to spin it. You may need to adjust the position of the skewer slightly to make the clown nose appear in the correct position. I have found that the thaumatrope’s blended image ‘reads’ most clearly when you have bright light on the thaumatrope but are viewing it against a dark background.

If you do not live in Canada and would like to make a more locally appropriate clown, here are the steps to make your own image.

Start with an image that shows the subject as full face as possible.

Change the image to grey scale.

Increase the contrast.

You may want to fade out the nose area to make the clown nose show more clearly. You will also need to remove the background behind the figure.

(I used the Photoshop Cutout filter on my Canadian clowns to simplify the image further.)

Download a jpeg of three blank thaumatropes here, and a clown nose here.

Place your image on the left hand circle. You may need to re-size it. Try to keep the tip of the nose as close to the centre of the circle as possible. Erase any parts of the image that lie outside the circle.

Place the clown nose in the same position on the right-hand circle as the tip of the nose on the left-hand circle. You may need to flip the nose horizontally so that the highlight matches the light direction in your photograph.

There are spaces for two other clowns if you wish to make more than one. Print, cut out, assemble, and spin.

In other book arts news:

There are a number of events on or coming soon related to Kitty Maryatt’s re-creation of La Prose du Transsibérien.

You can read more about Kitty Maryatt and the project here or find out more about future exhibition venues here.


If you are interested in woodblock prints or fairy tales, a recent article from The Public Domain Review features both.

Lavishly illustrated, Woodblocks in Wonderland: The Japanese Fairy Tale Series  by Christopher DeCou traces the history of a publishing venture that brought Japanese stories and prints to the rest of the world. You can find the full article here.

About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004.
This entry was posted in animation, artist's books, book arts, DIY, free printable, instructions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Send In the Clowns

  1. Well, that was rather more BoJo than I can handle before breakfast, buthe IS a bit of a clown…
    I would love to see the “La Prose” book.I read about it and was intrigued.


    • Byopia Press says:

      I thought about using The Donald instead, but thought that might be even more off-putting. (Besides, I had done him a couple of times in the first go round of paper toys last year.)
      ; ]


  2. Congratulations on reaching such a number. The Boris clown face is horribly well suited. Somehow we all slipped from a perfectly understandable dimension (still with its scary peaks) into one that is the kind of dystopia we used to read in some of the best graphic (and otherwise) novels. We need such art as yours.

    -Esme Cloud


  3. wendyfe says:

    These three are great for starters, Cathryn…endless supply available…


  4. At least two strong candidates would require some yellow straw atop those lollipops.


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