Willard Wigan's Amazing Micro Sculpture
The Littlest Things can be the Biggest Things
Several years ago, I remember a friend telling me about an interview she had had at her younger son's school. The teacher told her that her son would never amount to much. The boy in question was 6 years old, and was finding reading a little more difficult than others in his class. My friend was in despair, her son was demotivated and depressed. How often have you heard stories like this? Too often, I would guess!
This page is about such a child, who struggled to cope with dyslexia, and was made to feel like nothing, but who grew into a talented and inspirational man. His skill and his art works are truly amazing, so much so that people can barely believe what they see.
That man is Willard Wigan, a self-taught micro-sculptor, whose mother saw his budding talent and encouraged it to grow. She told him "you can't read, you can't write well, but the smaller your work, the bigger your name will come".
This photo shows Willlard Wigan's sculpture of the Earth, which is set inside the eye of a needle. All photographs on this page are copyright, and used with the knowledge and permission of Willard Wigan Limited.
Making Houses for Ants
At the age of 5, Willard began making houses for ants. He thought they needed homes, and decided to help out. Later, as his fantasy micro world developed, he began making them hats and shoes.
This was a place he could escape to, away from the criticism and ridicule he suffered at school. He had been made to feel like he was nothing, but this was something that he could do, and do very well. His miniature artworks were so small they couldn't be seen without a magnifier, and so he surmised they couldn't be criticised!
He wasn't "nothing" - he set out to prove to the world that nothing did not exist.
Interview on the Conan Show, November 2012
A fun interview on the Conan show, featuring several impressive sculptures by Willard Wigan
The Eighth Wonder of the World
Over the years Willard has challenged himself, using different materials, to make smaller and smaller micro-sculptures. His works are now so tiny that they can only be viewed with a microscope.
He usually presents his pieces sitting on the head of a pin or within the eye of a needle. He has trained himself to meditate and slow his own heartbeat. To avoid even the slightest hand tremor, he has to work between the contractions of his heart. One of the hazards he has to avid is inhaling his own work!
He works in the quiet of the night to minimise disruption and the vibrations caused by traffic. Working in this way is a great strain, but he still strives to improve: Willard says "As small as what you've seen, it's not the best of me yet"
Art in Miniature
The anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once said "all miniatures seem to have an intrinsic aesthetic quality." I can't help but agree!
A celebration of the art of the miniature, packed with beautiful color photos. John Mack explores the concepts and properties of the miniature - Aztec jade figures, Mughal miniature paintings, ancient Egyptian amulets, English prints, maps, models, mosaics, and much more.
Materials, Tools and Methods
Working at such a tiny scale, Willard Wigan has had to develop his own techniques, tools and materials. He has carved masterpieces from grains of sand, rice and sugar, using tiny surgical blades and shards of diamond. He has used carbon fibre, nylon, spider's web and gold, and even painted with his own eyelashes.
To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.— William Blake
and TV Interviews
Willard Wigan's life story does attract attention; he is a formidable talent. He has been interviewed on several TV shows, and now undertakes speaking engagements for various organisations, including large corporations and charities.
Technology, Entertainment, Design institute - TED
Willard Wigan was invited as guest speaker at the Technology, Entertainment, Design Institute in July 2009. He talked about how he was used as an example of failure by teachers at his school, and how this led him into the world of micro sculpture. His self-developed methods are of interest to nano-technology organisations and micro-surgeons, around the world.
To see Willard Wigan's presentation to TED, click here.
The talk is very interesting and amusing, and includes several of his impressive creations.
Diverse Interests and Collections
Willard Wigan’s sculptures can be as small as 0.0002 inches (0.005 mm) in height. His sculptures include the Moon Landing, the Olympic Torch, the Statue of Liberty, Elvis, Snow White, Bart Simpson and The Last Supper. Each piece takes a considerable amount of work – up to 18 hours a day for several weeks.
Exhibitions and Collectors
These incredible micro-sculptures have been exhibited around the world and attract fans of all ages. Collectors of these rare pieces include Mike Tyson, Simon Cowell, Lord Bath, Prince Charles, and even the Queen.
David Lloyd, a former tennis star, bought much of Willard Wigan’s collection in July 2007, and has since insured the pieces for over Â£11 million!
HRH Queen Elizabeth II requested a very special piece – the Coronation Crown - in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee. In fact, Willard Wigan was honoured with the award of an MBE for his services to art. This was presented by HRH. Prince Charles in July 2007.
At the Palace, receiving the MBE
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Support for Charities
Willard is a supporter of charities working with children in difficult circumstances. He was commissioned to make a replica of Siegfried & Roy to mark the launch of the MagiCares charity which works to alleviate the suffering of people and animals around the world.
Willard Wigan was also asked by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Charity Fund to make a sculpture. The iconic stateman was presented with a tiny version of himself during his birthday celebrations in 2009. The charity was established in 1994, at which point Mandela made a five year commitment of one third of his Presidential salary as his charitable legacy to protect and enrich the lives of children.
If you are inspired to try your own (steady) hand at micro sculpture, you'll need to develop your skills. Here's some cool kit that will help you begin
Set of 6 assorted needle files with rubber handles. Can be used for filing wood, plastic, silver, gold, and other hard to file materials. Approximately 5 1/2" inches long.
Links to articles on Willard Wigan and his work
- Willard Wigan's Website
To see more evidence that there is no such thing as nothing, visit Willard Wigan's website.
- Gloucestershire church in sand grain
An artist sculpted a Gloucestershire church from a grain of sand from the churchyard. He recreated St Bartholomew's in Chosen Hill, from memory, using a minute diamond chisel.
- Micro model marks new president
Tiny sculptures of President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle and daughters were created to as a tribute to the President's his inauguration.
- Honour for sculptor of tiny art
The Queen's New years Honours
- MicroSculptor's microscopic royal wedding tribute
A microscopic sculpture of Prince William and Kate Middleton, hand in hand, was made as "the smallest, biggest tribute" to the couple on their wedding day.
- Micro-portrait of the Queen carved onto a coffee bean
To mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and commissioned by Douwe Egberts, Willard Wigan sculpted a portrait of the Queen on a coffee bean.