Hold Your Breath (Literally) For the Tiniest Sculpture Ever Created

by hridika ahire
Hold Your Breath (Literally) For the Tiniest Sculpture Ever Created

February 6, 2021

People nowadays get fascinated by the smallest and strangest things. You must have seen on your Instagram feed or Facebook timeline all sorts of things- people making mini food, mini kitchen, mini utensils and whatnot. But have you ever heard about an art piece so tiny that it needs a microscope to be seen?

Willard Wigan broke records with his one of a kind miniature art- he has made the smallest handmade sculpture ever in human history. Wigan, 63, is a sculptor who carves sculptures so little that they cannot be adequately seen with the naked eye.

His journey started in Wolverhampton, UK when he had “a problem with learning to read and write” at the age of five. “I wouldn’t call myself illiterate. I just have a learning disability”, he says.

Willard wigan watching his smallest sculpture.

It Started With An Ant House

Wigan’s first-ever work of miniature sculpture was when his dog discovered a colony of ants in a hole. He decided that the ants needed a place to stay and a palace for the queen ant. “I did think they were just like small people. I used to sit and have a talk with them to see if they’d talk back”, he said.

When his mother saw the house and the palace that he made for the ants, she said “You make these little things, when you get older, your name will get bigger. The tinier you make them, the bigger your name will grow. If you throw a grain of dust into the sea, it will make a tidal wave of success. And that tidal flow will take you on a journey”. She, therefore, became his number one admirer and fan.

When a 13-year-old Wigan got his hands on a microscope for the first time, he realised that he could see things more clearly through it. He thought that he could make things even smaller, and that became his calling.

Art in Micrometres- A Much Awarded Feat

The art he does is measured in micrometres. Fans and admirers call his art the “Eighth Wonder of the World“. The British Crown also awarded him with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2007.

He also set a Guinness World Record in 2013 for sculpting a little motorcycle from a speck of 24-karat gold that he scrapped off from a chain. It was placed in the eye of a needle. He broke his record when he sculpted a foetus from a piece of carpet fibre, and he put it inside a strand of hair from his beard.

Wigan has even made the lightning-strike pose by Usain Bolt, Barack Obama and his family and many such personalities inside the eye of a needle. He has managed to even carve the Statue of Liberty on a single grain of sand.

The eye of the needle by Willard Wigan.

Unending Art Masterpieces

Another one of his masterpieces is a ship that he made. It wasn’t just any another boat- the vessel was smaller than a full stop! The ship was complete with sails and rigging and was constructed using rose gold and 22k yellow gold.

Out of all his work, Wigan’s favourite is Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper sculpture. He carved Jesus and his 12 disciples individually and placed them behind a fully furnished table with plates and the Holy Grail, all within the eye of a needle. This took him seven weeks to complete.

Ship made with 22k gold and is smaller than fullstop.

Acquired Artistic Skills and Learned Techniques

The skillset Wigan has is unique. He says that he learned some techniques along the way to bring out the best possible outcome.

I started to learn to breathe properly. I'd press my fingers together to stop the pulse from affecting my finger. Then I started to hold my breath, and I found that each time my pulse stopped, there was more stability.

- Willard Wigan

Wigan said that he also makes his tools. His tools are made of sharpened needles, minute bits of razorblade which he attaches to toothpicks, and even shards of a diamond. He said “When I rise in the morning, I get a magnifying glass and look on the pillow for eyelashes. They become my paintbrushes.”

As absolutely astounding his work is, Wigan says he has lost weeks of work because of some small mistake now and then.

Mad haters tea party from Alice in wonderland.

Willard Wigan said when he was making the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party scene from Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland, he made all the characters and decoration and even the cutlery. After all this meticulous sculpting, when it was time to paint Alice, he suddenly breathed and inhaled the whole scene.

This mistake of his left him with a killer headache and sore throat for days. Can you imagine the disappear that he must have felt at the time? The guilt of doing something as simple and natural as breathing had caused him to lose weeks of work.

He continues to make these mini sculptors putting his heart at risk because of holding the breath while working and not letting oxygen reach its destination many times.

But as they say, ‘Good things come in small packages.’ Wigans called by Queen Elizabeth II to commission a sculpture for her Diamond Jubilee celebrations back in 2012. His micro-sculptures are currently featuring at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in London.


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