I have had the privilege of meeting a number of Pearly Kings and Queens recently, or 'The Pearlies' as they are affectionately known because of their outfits which are beautifully decorated with different symbols and patterns made up of hand sewn pearl buttons.
They have been around for over 1000 years and originate from London's 'street traders'. There is a lovely website set up by the guild, please have a look. These days The Pearlies roam events and festivals raising money for good causes and keeping their heritage alive.
The Pearly Princess of Homerton was taught to sew by her nan. Each Pearly decorates their own outfit. Apparently lots of historical pieces went on display at The Craft + Stitch show (I think I've got the name right!) at excel last year. Tatty Devine were also inspired by their costumes and worked with them to create an exhibition of photography and jewellery pieces. Wee Birdy wrote about it at the time here.
In time outfits become more and more laden with buttons and also lucky charms which are usually placed on the lapels or hats. Here is the Pearly King of Wapping threading a needle accompanied by the Pearly Queen of Highgate - he's spotted something on my workshop table at the Hatton Garden Festival recently!
Yes! He's spotted some unusual pearl beads, which he sewed onto his hat. A small piece of Fabrications added! Apparently he tries to sew on something new wherever he goes!
So the Pearlies outfits are not only exquisite mobile artworks but also an archive of history, meetings and memories gathered from the streets of London.