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Chelsea Business Draws International Clowns

By Serena Solomon | November 9, 2009 7:01am | Updated on November 9, 2009 10:20am

By Serena Solomon

DNAinfo Reporter / Producer

CHELSEA — Stanley Allan Sherman specializes in making the smallest masks of all — the clown nose.

These aren't the cheap foam noses you can find in any novelty store across the city. They're custom made: painstakingly cut from leather, molded around a golf ball, and mostly painted the famous red that we've come to expect from a clown's nose.

And Sherman's been making them for clowns across the world in his 14th Street apartment and workshop for more than 30 years.

"Each nose has its own energy," said Sherman, a leather artist and clown, when DNAinfo visited him recently. "It is very individually made for that individual clown. The nose and the clown become one."

"The fit is perfect and it remains completely comfortable even when worn for longer periods," said Guy Heathcote from England about his new nose.
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In fact, some clowns have chosen to be such individuals that they've broken convention and had their leather nose painted blue, he said.

Sherman said the process begins by clowns sending in a mold of their nose.

“They make a mold of their nose," Sherman said. "They send it to me along with photos of themselves. Then I mold the leather to their nose. But it is easier to do in person."

After he gets the mold, Sherman begins cutting the leather, before it is softened by being dunked in water and then around a golf ball to give it shape. Two days later, when the leather is dry, it can be painted and  the string that holds it to the clown's head can be attached.

In addition to the noses, Sherman has also made larger masks, including a leather model for World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler Mankind, as well as a leather doctor's mask for the movie "Patch Adams." Noses run $75 for an in-house fitting, or $95 for international orders.

He also teaches classes on nose making with up to five students. On a recent evening, two apprentices were learning the trade.

"This one nose that I have been using, I have been having all kinds of problems with it, like my nose starts running," said Jonathan Katlan, a 29-year-old graphic designer and part-time clown. "I want something that I can breathe in."

"I like that I am putting my heart and soul into this thing,” Katlan said, holding up his leather ball. "I put my heart and soul into performing, too."

The other student was Michael Getlan, 53, who volunteers as a hospital clown. He laughed a clown laugh when asked why he came to the class, then added, "Well, it's the only one there is."

Stanley Sherman in one of his handmade leather masks.
Stanley Sherman in one of his handmade leather masks.
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Sherman has been a performer since the 1970s when he attended Jacques Lecoq's theater school in Paris.

"I started performing on the streets of Paris so I could eat," he said. After Paris, he was off to Seattle.

"I did hospital clowning before there was hospital clowning," Sherman said. He also used juggling to help teach children to read. On a trip to visit his brother in New York City in the mid-1970s, Sherman said he planned to stay only two days.

He never left.

When a recent class ended, Sherman puts on his 20-year-old clown nose. The energy in the room immediately changed.

The other two clowns applauded.

"Did you see how he became a completely different person," Getlan said, about the power of the nose. "He became his clown-self."