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Willard Wigan (1957-): builder of world’s smallest scultpure

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Willard Wigan with his famous “eye of the needle” sculpture

In acknowledgement of Black History Month, The Royal Gazette continues the publication of stories throughout February on African-American, Black Bermudian and global African people, events and institutions, and their contributions in history

Afro-British micro artist Willard Wigan’s journey to international recognition and financial security began with an unhappy childhood. Born in Wednesfield, in Wolverhampton, England, in June 1957 to Jamaican immigrants, he was afflicted with undiagnosed Asperger’s disorder. Uninformed, impatient teachers reacted to his dyslexia and struggle to read and write by humiliating him in front of classmates who also mocked him.

At age 5, he retreated into his own world, a shed behind a garden where he enjoyed observing the activity of ants. He amazed fellow students with his miniature sculptures — made from wood splinters and toothpicks carved with a razor blade — and charged them for viewing. Some of the sculptures were representations of his teachers. “They made me feel small,” he later recounted, “so I wanted to make them look small in my child’s mind.”

Upon discovering her son’s obsession with miniaturisation, instead of redirecting him, Zeta Wigan encouraged him in the hope that some day his creations would result in a career as a professional artist.

As Wigan aged, he learnt to better communicate with people. During nearly two decades working in a Birmingham factory, he continued perfecting his craft, routinely sculpting and painting deep into the night on projects that required him to concentrate on controlling his breathing and heartbeat, and labour in complete silence least he destroy the tiny piece he was crafting.

He once inhaled and consequently destroyed a project it took months to construct. Finally, in his studio in a shopping centre shop front in Birmingham, England, he sculpted a miniature bust of William Shakespeare that was noticed by an art buyer who offered a substantial payment for it. A news reporter’s follow-up on the purchase brought more attention to his work.

Using a powerful microscope and his own specialised tools that include head hairs, diamond and white gold fragments, and a paintbrush made from the antennae of an aphid fly, Wigan has set his creations on the head of a pin, atop an eyelash hair, on a grain of sand, in the eyes of needles, on a fish hook and, in one unusual case, inside a $1.5 million watch.

Willard Wigan

In 2013, he cemented his claim to be the person who fashioned the world’s smallest sculpture ever when he hollowed out a dot of his beard stubble and inserted a golden motorcycle that measured just three microns, which was smaller than a human blood cell. A number of celebrities have bought his painted sculptures that portray popular culture themes and personages from literature, sport, politics and entertainment. In 2007, Lloyd’s of London insured a 70-piece collection of his micro-sculptures for nearly $13 million.

Wigan has confessed to not enjoying the arduous effort it takes to produce his sculptures, but feels relieved and delighted to see people appreciating what he has accomplished, particularly young people who are autistic or suffer from low self-esteem.

His success led to appearances on British and American television shows. Wigan holds two Guinness World Records, has been appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and has an honorary doctorate from the University of Warwick for his contributions to the visual arts.


Benjamin Secher, “The Tiny World of Willard Wigan, Nano Sculptor,” https://web.archive.org/web/20071018203534/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/07/07/nosplit/banano107.xml; “Willard Wigan, Artist & Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire,” http://dyslexia.yale.edu/story/willard-wigan/; “Interview With Record-Breaking Artist Willard Wigan,” https://www.channel4.com/press/news/interview-record-breaking-artist-willard-wigan; “Thinking Big, Working Small: We Meet Willard Wigan MBE,” https://oxbridgehomelearning.uk/blog/thinking-big-working-small-an-interview-with-willard-wigan-mbe/

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Published February 25, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated February 24, 2023 at 6:00 pm)

Willard Wigan (1957-): builder of world’s smallest scultpure

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