Willard Wigan, MBE (born June 1957) is an English sculptor from Ashmore Park Estate, Wednesfield, England, who makes microscopic art. His sculptures are typically placed in the eye of a needle or on the head of a pin. A single sculpture can be as small as 0.005 mm (0.0002 in). In July 2007 Willard Wigan was honoured by The Queen with an MBE for his services to art.
Life and work
As a child with undiagnosed dyslexia, Willard Wigan was ridiculed in class by his primary school teachers for not learning to read. Wigan attributes his early drive in sculpting, which began at the age of five, to his need to escape from the derision of teachers and classmates. He wanted to show the world that nothing did not exist, deducing that if people were unable to view his work, then they would not be in any position to criticise it. Wigan has since aimed to make even smaller artworks, visible only with a microscope.
The subjects of Wigan's works range from popular culture to architecture. The sculptor often refers in his work to other artists and historical events. Amongst his most famous pieces are a minute reproduction of Michelangelo's David, carved out of a single grain of sand and a commissioned miniature version of the Lloyd's building in London. Wigan has recently created a miniature sculpture representing the Obama family and has carved a statue of astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the eye of a needle, in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the 1969 lunar landing. Other works include a microscopic Betty Boop and a copy of the FIFA World Cup trophy, both about 0.005 mm (0.0002 in) tall.
Collectors of Willard’s work include HRH Prince Charles, Lord Bath, Sir Elton John, former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, former Davis Cup Tennis Captain David Lloyd and music mogul Simon Cowell.
His work is described as phenomenal and the eighth wonder of the world. The height of his career came in July 2007, when he was awarded an MBE from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Materials and techniques
On average, it takes Wigan about eight weeks to complete one sculpture in a process that is physically challenging. Because the works are microscopic, the sculptor has learned to control his nervous system and breathing to ensure he does not make even the tiniest movement. Wigan, when working, enters a meditative state in which his heartbeat is slowed, allowing him to reduce any hand tremors and work between heartbeats.
To carve his figures, Wigan uses Swann-Morton surgical blades or hand-made tools, (some of which are custom made out of a sharpened microscopic sliver of tungsten), which he makes by attaching a shard of diamond to a pin. Wigan uses a range of materials, including nylon, grains of sand, dust fibres, gold and spider's cobwebs, depending on the demands of the piece on which he is working. To paint his creations Wigan often uses a hair from a dead housefly, although he does not kill flies for his artistic processes. His unseen early work included a life sized carved statue of Mike Tyson, a bust of Gianni Versace (sold at auction 2009), figurehead of Jesus Christ and many others that remain hidden in private collections.
Exhibitions and American Tour
In 2009 Wigan appeared as a guest speaker at the TED Conference in Oxford, UK. and later that year also as a guest on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien in the US. On The Tonight Show he exhibited, with the aid of a microscope, two of his sculptures constructed within the eye of a needle – one of Buzz Aldrin in a spacesuit next to the American Flag and another of five characters from Star Wars. Wigan explained that, while working on a grain of sand, he would sometimes use the tremor caused by his own heartbeat as a jack hammer to chisel the tiny particle.
After a series of exhibitions in the UK, during 2009 and 2010 Wigan toured the US.
Notes and references
- Strassmann, Mark (10 March 2010). "Willard Wigan's Micro Art". CBS Sunday Morning. CBS News. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- The tiny world of Willard Wigan, nano sculptor, Telegraph.co.uk, 7 July 2007, accessed 23 July 2007
- "Willard Wigan – Artist". The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. Yale University. 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- Willard Wigan: Hold your breath for micro-sculpture, TED Conference, July 2009
- Micro Sculptor Willard Wigan, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien
- "USA Tour Dates" at willard-wigan.com