55-year old British sculptor Willard Wigan is dyslexic and did poorly in school. Even today, he can barely read or write. Yet, he creates some of the smallest sculptures in the world, relying on nothing more than a scalpel and a microscope to see what he's carving.
His entire piece of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon fits on the head of a pin. His Statue of Liberty is made from a speck of gold. And he can fit no less than nine camels inside the eye of a needle.
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. Wigan has since aimed to make even smaller artworks, visible only with a microscope. His mother challenged him, he says. "Go smaller," she told him. So Mr. Wigan did.
The subjects of Wigan's works range from popular culture to architecture. 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 tall. Mr. Wigan has made about 160 of these sculptures.
On average it takes Wigan about eight weeks to complete one sculpture in a process that is physically challenging. Because the works are so minute, 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.
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