Q&A: Dr Murray Williams
Dr Murray Williams has an eye for turning trash into treasure. He has made artwork from disposed goods found at the tip for almost fifty years. I sat down with him to find out more.
Dean: What inspired you to go out to the tip and start making things?
Murray: There are two levels to it. What inspired me to go to the tip was to take rubbish out there, which was in Brisbane a long time ago. What I was finding was that every time I went out there I was bringing back something I didn’t take there. I took it because it looked interesting but I didn’t really know what to do with it. I shoved it under the house. Bits and pieces and broken furniture then accumulated and sat there for a long time. I couldn’t resist a nice looking bit of wood.
Dean: What age did you start doing this?
Murray: Well, that would have been fifty years ago.
Dean: When did you first think that you might start turning these goods from the tip into something more or something else?
Murray: I had a heart attack in 1972 and I was given three months off work to collect my wits, so I had time on my hands.
I started looking at this stuff accumulating under the house and I thought I might do something with this. I then started to sculpture this stuff into objects, which took up my three months. It wasn’t until I was almost retired in Canberra that I started to do something seriously about it.
Dean: So you had a break from it?
Murray: Yes, for a long time. It’s quite a silly thing to say now but when we came from Brisbane to Canberra we brought all our goods with us including all of this broken stuff which I still use.
It was from a time when people didn’t used to like cedar furniture so they threw it out when it was broken. I liked it and could restore it so I used to take it back and make it better.
Dean: What did you used to do with this stuff? Did you keep it?
Murray: I used to make it for presents for people. I used to keep some of it that I liked as well. Once I finished work I got involved with supporting a charity in Africa.
I then made works out of this stuff and offered them for sale. I was considerably surprised that they sold out and I was able to send a considerable amount of money to this school in Congo.
I had five exhibitions over time and sold pretty well everything. Gosh it was surprising, I never expected that.
Dean: You seem like a very creative person. Do you think any of your creativity was applied to any other parts of your life?
Murray: I’ve never pinned that label on myself but I suppose what I did as a doctor was in a way creative. I did things a little bit differently form what’s normally required.
I think most of us have a creative capacity, but its wiped out of us by education usually. Once you get to school and University it intends not to encourage creativity so you have to go backwards and start again.
Dean: What would you encourage people to do if they wanted to get involved in this sort of thing?
Murray: Well you can’t do it anymore unless you go to a small country town. You can go to the tip shop, but you can’t go out onto the face of the tip and fossick which we used to do. It’s all closed off, the whole system has changed.