A while ago, I wrote about an artist whose miniaturist sculptures I found rather remarkable, and now I run across a story along similar lines that is even more amazing. (Guess I’ve been thinking small lately. And this is about as small as it gets.)
As a child, microsculptor Willard Wigan (left) found an escape in all things tiny as a refuge from the dyslexia that made him the object of derision at school because of his difficulties in learning to read and write. At age five, he began fashioning minuscule “apartments” for the forsaken little ants that he perceived as being homeless. “I got carried away and made a few more ‘houses,’ then I made tables and chairs and little beds…so this is where the obsession kicked in,” he says.
That “obsession” has led to the British-born Wigan, 55, being awarded an MBE (Prince Charles is a huge fan), and celebrities like Elton John and Simon Cowell seeking pieces for their collections. Those pieces, too small to be seen with the human eye (one-third the size of a period at the end of a sentence!) are literally viewed under high-powered microscopes when they’re exhibited, and are usually found inside the eye of a needle (pictured top and right) or sitting on the head of a pin (“The Thinker” is shown below). Even Charlie Chaplin has danced on the tip of an eyelash.
The physical and mental concentration required to execute these miniature marvels is almost superhuman; the precision necessary calls for adjustments in breathing and lowering the heart rate, as the most minute of tremors can upend the process, which Wigan likens to “trying to pass a pin through a bubble without bursting it.” He employs an array of raw materials for his craft, including various forms of fiber, grains of rice and sand — and the occasional fragment of gold — when he works, eyes glued to the microscope, late into the night.
Not a surprise that nearly 100 of Wigan’s creations were recently acquired by Ripley Entertainment and are beginning to appear at its Believe It or Not! Museums around the country. But luckily, his unique talent is also showcased at a more serious artistic venue, Washington, D.C.’s Parish Gallery, in a retrospective entitled Willard Wigan: The Half Century Collection, which runs through January 2013.
It’s not often one can see not one — but nine — camels traversing the eye of a needle…