‘Creator of the world’s smallest handmade sculptures in history’

Guinness Book of World Records
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Willard Wigan MBE – His tools include handmade miniscule instruments made out of the most unusual of materials; a housefly’s hair as a paintbrush, an eyelash and shards of diamond. With these tools he creates miniature masterpieces which rival the greatest visual artists in the world.

As a five year old Willard struggled with literacy and numeracy and undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome his school life was somewhat traumatic.

‘I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t understand me, I saw the world differently, my world was fascinating, full of creatures who spoke to me, it was a world where my imagination saved my life.’

The five year old Willard would spend hours, with his ear to the ground studying the ants, listening waiting to hear them speak, their movements each with a specific task. So when his dog destroyed an ant’s nest he felt compelled to help.

‘ I cried and felt I needed to help, I felt like I was responsible for the destruction, after all it was my dog and I had drawn him here’

‘I knew I had to build the ants a new home,’ [Photo of the ants house]

‘The Queens palace was made first and then little houses for her subjects, I didn’t stop there, they of course needed furniture, little beds and tables and of course tiny plates for their tiny meals’

Using my father’s razor blade broken into pieces and my mom’s hair clips for tweezers, I made tiny tools with which to make the little chairs and even a little merry-go-round, swings and see-saws for their down time.

And so the journey began, with encouragement from his mother Willard continued to fashion tiny sculptures.

‘My mother would always say to me ‘Go smaller son your name will get bigger’ and so I used that encouragement to sculpt smaller and smaller.’

‘My mother would always say to me ‘Go smaller son your name will get bigger’ and so I used that encouragement to sculpt smaller and smaller.’

‘I had no idea that I was different, didn’t see this as a gift, and still don’t if I’m honest, it’s hard work and consumes hours even days of my life, I forget to eat and sleep when sculpting, it’s not unusual for me to work eighteen hours in one go. The joy comes on completion, when I see people’s reactions. Their disbelief, the look of confusion, most people can’t comprehend what I do, some think its trickery and then the wow! when they realise.’

It was the black and white films of the great Dickens stories such as Great Expectations, Scrooge and Oliver Twist which became his muse and he practiced his skills on cocktail sticks. Using drawings from a Beatrice Potter book to carve the characters on a splinter of wood or cocktail sticks.

‘I lived in a miniature world where the smallest objects grasped my interest, I wanted to know what could I do with them, what could I make; a blade of grass became a tunnel for a train carved out of a splinter of wood, I would follow dandelion seeds, fascinated by the grace, movement and structure of them imagining them as tiny ballerinas pirouetting to a unheard symphony’.

At 15 years of age Willard managed to save up enough money to buy a second hand Micro scope and this spurned him on making smaller and smaller sculptures.

‘I made a collection of tiny tools, a needle with the point sharpened by an oil stone. In later years I replaced my mom’s hair clips with a split eye lash to make tweezers’.

Willard isolated himself, recognising that on leaving school and with no education, would give him very few options.

‘My teachers told me I was destined for a factory life, and they were right, I found myself doing labouring or piece work, but always felt that I had so much more to offer, my creativeness was quashed, I was embarrassed by my lack of education and so I never stayed long in jobs always preferring to go back to my tiny sculptures, spending hours, days and weeks in my bedroom mastering my skills’.

Willard quickly realised a method of working.

‘Any false movement, sharp or otherwise, can scupper progress, so I enter a meditative state while working. Using breathing techniques I would sculpt between heartbeats to reduce hand tremors, choosing to work at night time so that the hustle of the city, the rumble of the traffic doesn’t interfere when I sculpt.’

‘It’s not just about sculpting something that’s smaller, now with experience and a finely tuned skill it’s about sculpting with great detail’.

Willard now has a collection of over 60 sculptures ranging from The famous Last supper and Humming Bird to more recent pieces such as The Channel No 5 Bottle and The Golden Galleon. Each piece is detailed.

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