Celebrating 75 Years
Updated: May 3
Looking back over the past 75 years marks changes to both our business name, location within the Toowoomba CBD, a few changes of ownership, framers and staff, and many challenges from fire, to flood and remaining open through a global pandemic.
Following his return from WWII, Bill Robinson began “Robinson’s Framing” in Bell St (where the Toowoomba Transit Centre now stands). The business was staffed by Bill and his wife, affectionately known as Mrs Robby.
Ron and Jim Murray worked for and were trained by Bill Robinson as Picture Framers.
Two styles of frame stickers placed on the back of custom picture frames during this time.
Brothers Ron & Jim Murray purchased the business and changed its name to “R. & J. Murray’s Framing” and moved premises to 341 Ruthven Street.
Ron’s interest in art led to the introduction of a basic art supplies range. Sean Hiscox was an apprentice and Yvonne Winstanley worked in the workshop.
1963 – Ron in the picture framing workshop
Jim retired to a farm at Goomeri. Ron continued to operate the framing workshop, while Mrs. Robby operated the shopfront.
Harry Woolf started his apprenticeship at 17 years of age and was trained by Sean Hiscox with Bill Robinson rounding out the training. Harry Woolf was employed as a framer for over 40 years.
Ron Murray passed away suddenly in February. Bill Robinson returned as caretaker of the business.
Brian Butterworth & Peter Winter with their wives purchased the business. Harry Woolf and his apprentice Bradley Tedford continued to work as the qualified framers and at one point could boast over 70 years of combined framing experience. Brian’s wife Joan and Peter’s first wife, Prue worked in the shop.
Bradley Tedford was employed an as apprentice and stayed with Murray’s around 16 years.
Mrs Robby retired after 32 years of service. Brian Butterworth also retired, leaving the continuation of the business to Peter and Prue Winter. Prue passed away this year.
Louise Hart was employed to work in the shop and Peter’s second wife Audrey came to work at the shop as well.
A devastating fire at 341 Ruthven street completely destroyed the framing workshop and infiltrated the front rooms tainting materials and equipment and leaving a greasy film on surfaces. Peter was forced to move the workshop to Wylie Street (near where the ambulance station is today). Although severely smoke-damaged by the fire, the front shop was quickly restored and Murray’s continued to trade from 341 Ruthven Street.
"The fire started in the early hours of the morning, either in an old fridge in the workshop, or in the industrial waste bin at the back. Perhaps someone started a fire in the bin. The fire spread to the workshop where there was paints, thinners, glue and wood frames. The entire workshop was destroyed. Very unhappily, private items at various stages of framing and restoration were lost. These were of course irreplaceable. Old and antique treasured frames were lost, never to be replaced. My Dad found the insurance company was terrific. He said that, but for the insurance company, the business would have been ended. It provided income for the time it took to get the business going again, replaced stock which was destroyed by fire, and the stock in the shop that had been destroyed by smoke. I remember how the smoke had stuck to and infiltrated the expensive hair paint brushes and papers. In some places it had deposited a greasy, toxic film on things. After the cleaning and stock taking, a new workshop had to be found and equipped. Before the fire, Dad had bought and installed a very fine. precision, German machine for a step up in picture framing. He was very proud of it. Well, he had to get a new one. The new workshop allowed Dad, happily, to establish a very efficient and modern work area. But the actual raw frames were only contemporary. So, the shop and the workshop were separated by quite a few blocks."
Angela Stevenson (Peter’s Daughter)
"After the fire we were forced to move the framing workshop to Wylie Street. That happened fairly quickly. As soon as the insurance people came in, we got hold of the machinery and resurrected whatever we could, cleaned it up and painted it to get it rolling. The fun part of it all was that I was told to get myself down quick as you can to start an account with one of the hardware store and just go buy whatever we needed. So in the next probably three weeks, I spent over $30,000 at BMS. At Wylie street I planted a garden outside and the two court yellow jacarandas are still there."
Harry Woolf (Framer)
As best as we can see, for an approximate 18 years, items to be framed were received at 341 Ruthven Street and then transported to Wylie Street, framed and then returned to Ruthven Street for storage and collection!
Phoenix Rising – 1980s to 2000s
The business sold in September to Lindsay Smith and the business name was changed yet again, to Murray’s Art & Framing.
Gail Smith designed a new logo, choosing new colours and making the most of modern graphics and printing abilities.
Previous Murray’s Frame stickers. Notice the extra numbers being added to the phone number over the years.
New Logo Design by Gail Smith
The shop was renovated and merged with several vacant offices to increase the size of the store.
The business was expanded again to include a small art gallery when an adjoining shop (339) became vacant. This was run by Fay Honey with the help of a young Evan Hollis. This also provided the necessary space for the framing workshop to be brought back to the Ruthven Street site.
April 1999 – Art Exhibition opening. A barber shop group sang at the opening. Photo credit Maryika Welter.
A New Millennium – 2000s
The business moved to a much larger premises at 326 Ruthven St, and the Myart Gallery was positioned upstairs, above the store. The MyArt loyalty program was introduced to encourage customers to shop locally and a swish new computer system was set up to help with streamlining the retail process. Lindsay started art classes and art competitions to stimulate local participation in the arts and to get both artists and buyers through the doors. The increase in business meant that shop assistants were employed to handle front of shop sales and quoting for the framers.
2000 – New shop location
In November, Peter and Jan Granfield purchased the business from Lindsay. Linsday retired to New Zealand.
The staffing changed and now professional artists are managing the shopfront.
After training Peter into the fundamentals of framing, Harry left to join another firm and later framed from home until retiring in late 2020.
Tom Kirwin assisted Peter in the framing workshop.
Our current picture framer Allan Scurr was employed as the framer, quickly learning the ropes.
Murray’s saw yet another major disaster for the business when Toowoomba was flooded. With chest high waters, most of the art supplies were lost and the framing workshop was turned into a chaos, losing framing materials and machinery. It came so quickly the priority was saving artworks and the staff! In the days that followed, the staff worked quickly to save the treasured possessions they had in the queue to be framed and were able to repair and restore almost everything.
2011 – The view of shop entrance from stairs during the flood
2011 – The picture framing workshop after the flood
A rare opportunity to reconsider the products of an entire shop was at hand. One of the major decisions made was to change the canvas range over to our current Australian brand named CreateART.
After operating from temporary premises and a mammoth effort by owners Peter and Jan Granfield and their loyal staff, Murray’s moved again and clawed its way back. Now at 485 Ruthven Street.
2011 – New shop location (where we still remain today)
2011 – New picture framing workshop
Rebuilding Again – 2012 to 2015
Allan received the international certification for picture framing (CPF).
A new Logo was designed
Daniel Smith Watercolours was introduced. This brand has become one of our most popular watercolour brands.
Langridge Artist Colours oil paints was introduced.
Peter and Jan retired and new owners Sue and Graham McMaster bought the business.
The first thing Sue did as new owner was stock her favourite Acrylic Paint – Golden Acrylics
The Google Maps Walk through was filmed. This can still be viewed today, although a little out of date!
The framing wall was renovated to display the ever growing range of frames.
The Coloured Pencil Craze 2015
Craze? More like fiasco! What happens when a pencil factory that operates at 90% capacity has its demand sky rocket seemingly overnight?
"At first we were unsure if artist quality colour pencils would really take off, I mean colouring in for adults? Really? So we waited and when the wave began to crest we paddled, we paddled hard. The problem was you would place an order with a supplier and they would assure you stock was coming and then it wouldn’t so you placed another order with a different supplier and that didn’t come either. Next thing you know Christmas is looming, the fad is raging and you have no stock. We made the decision to buy what we could get not realising that we had chosen the exact same thing Target had chosen. Big Box, Big Discounts … say no more.
After Christmas, after everyone bought heavily discounted stock from the big box buyers, we were left with stacks of tinned sets of pencils and piles of colouring in books. Then the back orders arrived!
I think it took 4 years to clear that stock, In fact I still have a few books in the donations box.
We can laugh about it now!"
Sue McMaster – Manager
The Myart Studio had new signage installed at the Duggan street classroom entrance and the exterior facing was painted teal.
Sharon Roberts completed her training by Allan Scurr as a fully certified picture framer.
Allan Scurr and Sue McMaster presenting Sharon Roberts with her picture framer certification.
Art workshop bookings went online through the adoption of Eventbrite. Workshops continued to run in store but were able to reach a greater audience through advertising and selling tickets on a dedicated site. View upcoming workshops and book your tickets here.
The Pandemic 2020
Covid19 hit. These were uncertain times. Stress was through the roof as an invisible force was looming, ever present. Medical concerns had some staff working from home and a downturn in sales had contingency plans in place. While Murray’s was able to remain open during the first lock down, there was a dramatic reduction in customers. Thankfully the government’s jobkeeper kicked in and got the business through some trying months.
Out of necessity an online store was trialed through the lockdown period. After great consideration it was shut down to be investigated again later when the business was ready to take on an online clientele. The option to have orders home delivered locally was quite popular and has remained.
Art workshops were not able to run and we took this opportunity to to give the studio a bit of a facelift. The dark bricks were painted white and new desks were custom built allowing students to remain socially distancing once classes could resume.
Turning 75 – 2021
Like with many businesses, there isn’t an exact known date that RW Robinson’s framing; now Murray’s Art and Framing was first conceived, or a date where the business was tangible. But, 2021 is the 75th year of business. We picked the month of September to celebrate, it gave us several months to organise and fell in line with the local celebration, Carnival of Flowers.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, we have given our logo a little bit of a facelift. You will start to see this new look in all our digital media straight away. Our printed media will take a little longer to change over as we don’t like to waste unnecessarily.
We will be updating this section at the end of the month to showcase how we celebrated.
No one knows what the future holds and we aren’t ones to tempt it by announcing our plans.
Perhaps we will frame a Picasso, oops, we’ve already done that!
Picasso original framed at Murray’s Art and Framing (2019)
We would like to give thanks to all those who have contributed to this timeline. Special thanks Harry Woolf, Audrey Winter, Angela Stevenson for your stories and photos.
"From fire, to flood, to a pandemic, Murray’s continues to grow and support the local arts community"