Willard Wigan, MBE (born June 1957) is a British sculptor from Ashmore Park Estate, Wednesfield, England, the son of Jamaican immigrants, 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).
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.
In January 2018 Willard Wigan received an honorary doctorate from the University of Warwick in recognition of the significant contributions that he has made to art and sculpture.
Exhibitions and American tour
In 2004, Wigan exhibited at The Artlounge gallery in Birmingham. The BBC's Inside Out - South West noted that the works displayed included "scenes of Jesus Christ and The Last Supper, with each individual figure no bigger than an eyelash or a human hair. At less than a hundredth of an inch tall, it's painstakingly precise work".
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.
Wigan marked the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II by sculpting the Queen’s portrait on a coffee bean; he described creating the work as "a bit of a challenge because a coffee bean crumbles and is hollow in the middle".
The Library of Birmingham exhibited his works in January 2015. In 2010, the BBC reported that Wigan had sculpted a model of St Bartholomew's church in Chosen Hill, Gloucestershire on a grain of sand that he had taken from its churchyard. He had done so in response to a challenge from his girlfriend, who described the result as "absolutely fantastic". The vicar of the church said the sculpture was beautiful, but Wigan expressed his own dissatisfaction with the work, saying "As small as what you've seen, it's not the best of me yet, I'm taking it even smaller because I'm not satisfied with my work right now, it's too big."
- Strassmann, Mark (10 March 2010). "Willard Wigan's Micro Art". CBS Sunday Morning. CBS News. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- "Willard Wigan – Artist". The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. Yale University. 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- Lady Bracknell (10 April 2006). "Dyslexia made me big in tiny art". BBC Online. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
- "The tiny world of Willard Wigan, nano sculptor", Telegraph.co.uk, 7 July 2007, accessed 23 July 2007
- "Midweek: Dame Joan Bakewell, Willard Wigan, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Gary Clarke". BBC Radio 4. 3 February 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- "Though the Eye of a Needle". BBC Online. 20 September 2004. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- 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
- "Micro-portrait of the Queen carved onto a coffee bean". BBC News Online. 18 May 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- "Willard Wigan micro-sculptures on show in Birmingham". BBC News Online. 14 January 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- "Sculptor carves Gloucestershire church in sand grain". BBC News Online. 26 March 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- Official website
- Willard Wigan | Profile on TED.com
- BBC Birmingham biography
- Snopes page with images