Meet the owners
Primavera presents you with a choice from around 14,000 pieces of art at the Cambridge gallery and its Haddenham home studio. Its Director Jeremy Waller talks to Louise Cummings about his passion for supporting fellow designers
When did the Primavera story begin?
Primavera launched in 1945 in London and in Cambridge in the mid 1950s; we’re the oldest store in the city centre. I am the third owner and I’ve been doing the job for 23 years now. Before that, I lived in many countries; first in Beirut in the Lebanon, then France, and then Eastern Central Africa and upon my return, I wanted to do what I’ve always done in my life which is to get involved in the arts and support the makers so therefore I took over Primavera.
You’re an artist yourself, aren’t you?
Yes, I’m a designer maker and a trained engineer. I used to work for companies like Babcock & Wilcox who made great big turbines and engines for submarines, and United Technologies, which amongst many things make helicopters. I also worked for a business which made cameras and that’s when I worked with the photographer David Bailey. One of my recent artworks involved erecting 3,000 to 5,000-year-old bog oak pillars (collected over many years from the fens through my contacts in the Haddenham Steam Rally, which we co-host) behind a pond I dug, specifically in the direction of a setting sun or waning moon, to focus their light and the reflection of the pillars onto water in order to create for example the photograph you see above.
Can you describe your offering at Primavera in Cambridge?
We are on three floors; you will find a myriad of 300 different contemporary artists’ work. We have jewellery, studio glass, furniture, studio ceramics, paintings, sculpture, carpets, all at different prices – to offer any visitor an affordable choice – everything at artist prices NOT gallery prices, starting at £10 for something handmade and British and going up to thousands of pounds. So, it’s quite an unusual and out of the ordinary gallery.
You have a phenomenal number of art items, don’t you?
We have 14,000 items, ranging from a beautiful scent bottle by Peter Layton, who worked with David Hockney, to a cruciform combrooch from around 700AD, of which there are only three in the world. We have art from Prehistoric, Celtic, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon times right through to current day. I think it’s interesting to compare old and new, so on our ground floor you’ll find an original from the studio of Caravaggio (Judith Beheading Holofernes), next door to a painting of Madagascar by a contemporary artist Josh Hollingshead.
Can you tell us a little about your impressive jewellery collection?
We have a large collection of British handmade jewellery from many different artists including some from Cambridge and Open Studios – across all ranges of prices. So, whilst Selfridges and Harrods have huge collections of jewellery, few are handmade and most are not British.
College Farm is your home gallery in Haddenham; when do you open to the public?
We open every year through the National Garden Scheme or Haddenham Steam Rally when people can view the gardens and our art – or people can ring up to arrange a viewing. We have sculpture, glass, ceramics and some big pieces, including my own work.
What do you think makes Primavera unique?
I’ve lived all around the world, visited Hong Kong, been to America and I don’t know any gallery that is quite the same as Primavera. One, because of its location on King’s Parade directly opposite the entrance to King’s College, and its wonderful Chapel, currently part covered by scaffolding like Primavera! Two, because it’s historic. Charles Lamb lived on the first floor so you can see his bedroom – and its beautiful fireplace – exactly as it was in the early 19th century – and discover his commemorative plaque on the outside wall and his boot scraper below! Downstairs is where famous potters Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie both used to work, and we have a garden with plants at the back. We also have a ghost that lives downstairs; we think it’s a woman, and she goes through the sink into the restaurant next door! Three, most important of all we have a cheerful and knowledgeable team that are ready to serve visitors and look after the wonderful artists we represent, and I am assisted by my wife, Sheila, without whose support none of this would be possible.
Why should we visit Primavera this Christmas?
Not only will people find unique gifts, especially as we bring in a lot more ceramics and jewellery before Christmas, but also because they know they are supporting British artists and makers. And in these coronavirus times, it is really important to show that support. If you do come in and buy through us you are making a real difference! We offer staggered payments when investing in expensive items.
Primavera is at 10 King’s Parade, Cambridge. Visit primaveragallery.co.uk
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