These Ultra-Microscopic Sculptures Fit Inside the Eye of a Needle—Here’s How the Artist Paints Them

These Ultra-Microscopic Sculptures Fit Inside the Eye of a Needle—Here’s How the Artist Paints Them
(Courtesy of Paul Ward Photography and Willard Wigan)
Updated:
0:00

A man with autism and dyslexia has turned his fascination for the microscopic world into miniature works of art, inspiring others to look more closely at both the world around them and the unique potential of each and every one of us.

Dr. Willard Wigan MBE, 65, grew up in Birmingham, England, where he lives today with his beloved dog, Stanley. He makes the smallest known sculptures in the world, each one positioned inside the eye of a needle. His body of work ranges from a teeny tiny Queen Elizabeth II to a procession of 14 camels, the details of which can only be seen under a microscope.

Willard works with wood shards, grains of sand, microfibers, and homemade tools. He paints his sculptures using one of his own eyelashes affixed to a cocktail stick. He is a Guinness World Record holder and was honored by King Charles of England in 2007 for his services in art.
Artist Willard Wigan is a Guinness World Record holder and was honored by King Charles of England in 2007 for his services in art. (Courtesy of <a href="https://paulward.net/">Paul Ward Photography</a> via <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Artist Willard Wigan is a Guinness World Record holder and was honored by King Charles of England in 2007 for his services in art. (Courtesy of Paul Ward Photography via Willard Wigan)
The Last Supper. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
The Last Supper. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)
Moses. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Moses. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)
Gold Buddha. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Gold Buddha. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)

Discovering His Gift

Willard, who was not diagnosed with autism until the age of 50, was humiliated by his teachers at school for being unable to read or write.

He told The Epoch Times, "I wouldn’t call it a learning ‘difficulty,’ I’d call it a learning ‘difference.’ If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

“I never really studied because school wasn’t good to me. I didn’t really learn anything. I just learned that they didn’t accept me. ... I liked looking out the window and looking at the wildlife, looking at the insects flying around, and the bugs. I ran away from school because it was too much for me, and I discovered my gift when I ran away.”

The Moon Landing. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
The Moon Landing. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)
The artwork "14 Camels in the Eye of Needle." (Courtesy of Paul Ward Photography via <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
The artwork "14 Camels in the Eye of Needle." (Courtesy of Paul Ward Photography via Willard Wigan)

Willard sat alone by a pond, transfixed by the maze of veins on fallen leaves and the routes of herding insects. He started to be engaged by “the world that people disregard.” It was while playing with his dog, Maxie, back home in the yard that Willard first decided to intervene in this miniature world.

“[Maxie] was digging underneath the fence to get the ball, and when he did that he disturbed an ants’ nest and lots of ants came out on the ground,” he said. “I felt sad—I took it personal. I didn’t want the ants to be homeless, I wanted to make them live. I built a whole village for ants. I made a palace for the queen.

“The girl next door looked over the fence, and then she went, ‘That’s the bestest!’ When I heard that word, I felt like I was in a shower, and every droplet of water washed away everything that was said to me by the school teachers.”

The Broadway Tower. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
The Broadway Tower. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)

Changing His World

Possessed by a drive to make more tiny sculptures, Willard began shaping small shards of wood into figures using a razor blade. When his mother saw what he was doing, she encouraged him, “If you make them smaller, your name’s gonna get bigger.”

“One day, I heard somebody on the television say, on a biblical program, ‘It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ My mother gave me a needle and said, ‘Put a camel in it,’” Willard said. “I had to find a microscope. ... You can only go so far with your fingers.”

Willard started working with tiny pieces of plastic and charcoal. Often chastised by his teachers for sculpting in class, it wasn’t until he left school that his art would flourish.

Today, Willard works up to 16 hours a day on up to six artworks at a time. Each piece can take five or six weeks to complete, and the challenges lie in the details, such as Willard’s rendering of The Last Supper which was especially time-consuming since the 13 figures are “all squashed together.”

Cheltenham Horse. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Cheltenham Horse. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)

He said: “I’ve learned that because it’s so small, you have to ... hold your breath and work between the heartbeats. There’s a pulse in your fingers, there’s a little vibration in your pulse, and then if you’re not careful it'll disrupt the sculpture.”

Willard’s struggle was exemplified the time he “inhaled Alice” by accident while rendering the Mad Hatter’s tea party from “Alice in Wonderland.” He has had to train his breath, dexterity, and attention span simultaneously, and claims patience is paramount.

“On this molecular level, you know, I don’t get pleasure doing it. I get pleasure when I finish,” he said. “[T]hen when you see people come to the exhibitions and they look through the microscope and go, ‘Oh, I see a dragon!’ ... and you can hear them gasp, you know; they see all these things that are created for them to see.”

Willard working on his miniature artworks under a microscope. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Willard working on his miniature artworks under a microscope. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)
(Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
(Courtesy of Willard Wigan)

It took years for Willard to shake off the negative self-belief instilled in him during his school days. At 32, he knew where he was headed; by 50, he'd honed his skills and knew his worth as an artist.

It was his microscopic sculpture, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” that first caught the attention of international media.

“Before I knew it, I was on television. Now I’m doing exhibitions all over the U.K., I went to America, did a show there, everything started to change because people saw the skill that I had,” Willard said. “I do inspirational talks, I do teaching engagements, I go into schools and talk to kids. I may take one microscope with me, or two, and then the kids can see what I have become.

“I feel very humble about it, I feel proud, but at the same time, it doesn’t change me as a human being, you know? I’m still that kid at school, I’ve never forgotten that.”

Angel and Harp. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Angel and Harp. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)

We were “all once microscopic” and nobody should be disregarded for their differences, Willard said, who hopes that the school kids of today will persevere with their education and still find their own outlets for creativity.

“When you were conceived, you were tiny, then you grew into a human,” Willard said. “My work is a message. ... I’m inspired by underestimation, as humanity has a habit of underestimating these small things.

“Autism isn’t a death sentence. My philosophy is this, right; if you never had a chance, the reason ... is because you never took a chance. You have to take a chance to show people what you are capable of doing, and never allow anybody to tell you that you can’t achieve anything.”
Check out more photos below:
William Shakespeare. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
William Shakespeare. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)
Tiny House Red Door. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Tiny House Red Door. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)
The Broadway Museum Tower. (Courtesy of <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
The Broadway Museum Tower. (Courtesy of Willard Wigan)
Aim for Glory: The Commonwealth Games. (Courtesy of <a href="https://paulward.net/">Paul Ward Photography</a> via <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Aim for Glory: The Commonwealth Games. (Courtesy of Paul Ward Photography via Willard Wigan)
Point of Glory Katarina Johnson-Thompson. (Courtesy of <a href="https://paulward.net/">Paul Ward Photography</a> via <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Point of Glory Katarina Johnson-Thompson. (Courtesy of Paul Ward Photography via Willard Wigan)
Johanna Martzy, a Hungarian violinist. (Courtesy of <a href="https://paulward.net/">Paul Ward Photography</a> via <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Johanna Martzy, a Hungarian violinist. (Courtesy of Paul Ward Photography via Willard Wigan)
Queen Marie Antoinette. (Courtesy of <a href="https://paulward.net/">Paul Ward Photography</a> via <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Queen Marie Antoinette. (Courtesy of Paul Ward Photography via Willard Wigan)
Little House Conservatory. (Courtesy of <a href="https://paulward.net/">Paul Ward Photography</a> via <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
Little House Conservatory. (Courtesy of Paul Ward Photography via Willard Wigan)
London Bridge Eye of Needle. (Courtesy of <a href="https://paulward.net/">Paul Ward Photography</a> via <a href="https://www.willardwiganmbe.com/">Willard Wigan</a>)
London Bridge Eye of Needle. (Courtesy of Paul Ward Photography via Willard Wigan)
Share your stories with us at [email protected], and continue to get your daily dose of inspiration by signing up for the Inspired newsletter at TheEpochTimes.com/newsletter
Related Topics