After 25 years of performing as a musician around Tampa Bay, Ted Wray decided to turn his creative juices elsewhere. Wray had stopped making music for a living and working in bars. He saw a version of himself he didn’t enjoy anymore. This led him to find a new creative outlet: Book sculpting.
“I turn damaged books into magic,” Wray said. “Books have always been magical. I think we forgot. Books shape our culture, and they’re so meaningful and for so many people they escaped from hell through the power of books.”
Essentially, the art of book sculpting is carving, cutting, painting, or folding pages within one or multiple books to create an illusive piece of art.
Wray described his form of book sculpting as the “sub-genre of book excavation.” He tested out various techniques by looking at artists he admired.
“In 2014, I started playing around with a knife and books, and I found my style about 2016,” Wray said.
Some artists may insert pages from other books to create a three-dimensional collage. Wray creates collages by only using the pages within that book. The book’s front cover is cut to show the inside collage.
“I will easily spend a day driving to all the thrift stores in Pinellas County and just flipping through pages,” Wray said. “Basically what I look for are books in good condition. Heavy – the heavier the paper inside, the better. And the more colorful the imagery, the better. So, you know, very often it’s art books.”
Wray said the carving process varies. Sometimes if he is in the zone, time flies by. Not all days feel that easy.
“There are some books that I’ve cranked out from the first cut to the last cut in less than 24 hours. There are other books that might have taken weeks or even months. I have some that I started a couple years ago,” Wray said. “I easily have more than two dozen books that I’m in the middle of working on. And I might get stuck and I might leave it behind for a while and then come back to it.”
His carving process ranges from 20 to 80 hours, depending on how elaborate the book is.
Wray explained that he has always been an artistic person. At 19, he went to Connecticut Institute of Art where he expanded his natural talents; today, he continues online art courses with an artist advisor.
At the moment, Wray displays his art in two places: the DRV Gallery in Gulfport and Gilmer Arts Gallery in Ellijay, GA.
The DRV Gallery will host Wray for a book-sculpting demonstration on March 18 from 1-3 p.m. Attendees will learn about his process, materials, journey, and inspiration, according to the gallery’s website.
Keep up to date with Wray and his book carvings on his Instagram.