Ray Wright is a totally blind woodworker.
Ray will be at the Craft Lake City event on August 11, 2023.
Here are some of his creations:
Ray Wright is a totally blind woodworker and woodshop instructor.
Ray is originally from Southern California. In 1983, he was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa and found out he was legally blind. He continued his work in the Motion Picture Exhibition field as a Visually Impaired movie Theatre Manager and moved up the corporate ladder as a Promotions Coordinator, Company
Photographer and Graphic Designer.
In 2001, Ray lost all his sight and became totally blind. Not
willing to stay home and do nothing, Ray enrolled in blindness
training classes in Northern California at the Orientation Center for the Blind. It was there he was introduced to woodworking as a blind individual. After his initial training he went to Guide Dogs for the Blind and recieved his guide dog, Taft, a male yellow Labrador Retreiver. After graduating from GDB, he was elected to the Board of Directors at the Vista Center for the Blind in Palo Alto, California where he remained until he moved to Utah in 2007.
After relocating to Utah, Ray enrolled as a student at the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DSBVI) in Salt Lake City, where he focused on honing his blindness skills including advancing his woodworking techniques and knowledge. It was here where he was introduced to and fell in love with the lathe. After
graduating, he started "Wright Turn Only", his own woodworking business and continued to privately study, practice and demonstrate alternative approaches to non-visual woodworking techniques.
Here are some of his creations:
In 2014, Ray joined the team as the woodshop instructor at DSBVI where he continues to "pay-it-forward" by sharing his knowledge and love of woodworking with individuals who are losing, or have lost their sight.
In 2016 he had the honor of blind-folding Utah's Governor Herbert and gave him a hands-on demonstration on how to use a table saw non-visually. At that time he presented Governor Herbert with a turned wooden light saber which the Governor had on display in his formal office in the state capitol through the end of his term in 2021.
As Ray likes to say, “Here in our woodshop we like to build two things…Things out of wood and more importantly, we like to build confidence. If you can use sharp power saws, lathes and other hand and power tools with the lights off and a blindfold on, you can do pretty much anything.”
Ray has entered many of his wooden creations in juried art exhibits in California and Utah. He has won several blue ribbons for his designs. In the Utah State Fair he has won Best of Show awards 3 times (two of them 2 consecutive years in a row).
He continues to run his business as a side gig and
offers his creations at various shows throughout the year including the annual Salt Lake FanX Comic Convention, gun shows, Christmas boutiques and at this years Craft Lake City Do-It-Yourself Festival .
Ray currently sitsas Vice Chair on the Advisory Council of the Utah
Schools for the Deaf and Blind, is on the Board of the Wasatch Pen Turners Club, and is an active member of the Utah Association of Woodturners, Woodworking for the Blind and the International Association of Pen Turners.
Ray has demonstrated his non-visual woodturning skills and
techniques at the local, state and national level at various meetings, workshops, symposiums and conferences.
When it comes to woodturning, Ray says, "There is something special about taking the blade to the
wood, as opposed to taking the wood to the blade". And, just in case you were wondering, the question Ray gets asked the
most is... “Do you have all your fingers?”. The answer is “YES!”.