Willard Wigan interview Creator of the world's smallest sculptures
Imagine creating artwork requiring such a steady hand that it can only be carved between heartbeats, and is so minuscule that even an intake of breath could mean inhaling hours of work. That's exactly what artist Willard Wigan does.
Willard's incredible work sells for thousands of pounds and has even earned him an MBE, and now, for the first time ever, people will get to see Willard at work, as Channel 4 goes behind the scenes to find out exactly how he sculpts his tiny art pieces which can comfortably sit in the eye of a needle.
Am I Normal was lucky enough to speak to Willard about everything, from how he focuses while sculpting his work, to how his childhood experiences have shaped who he is today.
Watch World's Tiniest Masterpieces on Channel 4, Sunday 8th July at 22:10.
Hi Willard, let's start by asking you what it is about your miniatures that you think captures people’s imaginations?
I think it’s because normally, people look at things that are slightly bigger. They expect something bigger and this is unexpected. The interesting thing is that people forget that we all started tiny, as foetuses!
My work opens a completely new world to people. It puts a new perspective on the way that people see things.
How do you focus when you’re working?
I don’t enjoy the process, but I just focus on what the end product will be! I like to think of what people are going to see. I know they’re going to see something quite special, so knowing that helps me to focus.
You explain how one wrong movement or breath can mean the end of a piece. Is there a particular reason why you don’t wear a mask over your mouth and nose?
I don’t need a face mask because I actually hold my breath when I’m working, or I breathe very, very gently. If I breathed in suddenly, that would be a problem. I inhaled one of my sculptures doing that.
What advice would you give to people who lack patience?
People need to think about what they can achieve if they persevere. If you tell somebody to cook something rapidly, it won’t taste right because you’ve rushed it, but if you take your time then it turns out well.
You didn’t have a very positive experience at school. Can you tell us a bit about that and how you dealt with it?
At school, they told me I was illiterate. They would tell me I was nothing. I’ve learnt that you don’t have to have an A-Level, degree or diploma to become successful in this world. Some of the greatest – Einstein, and I think Richard Branson who suffered with dyslexia – they just developed an alternative skill.
What would you say to anyone who is also struggling at school?
To anyone who is struggling, I'd say that a lot of the time it can be a blessing in disguise.
That’s an interesting way of looking at it.
Well, if they didn’t have that struggle then they wouldn’t have the chance to find the alternative that makes them special.
You pay tribute to your mum in the documentary. What did she mean to you growing up?
My mum was such a big influence on me. She always used to say “if it’s not small enough, it’s not good enough,” and that the best could sometimes come from the worst. In the sense that, you could have a bad experience and that could help you become the best.
Sometimes, you might open the dustbin and there will be a big diamond inside.
After everything you’ve been through, if you could go back in time what would you tell your teenage self?
Back in school there was a bit of racism from teachers, so it was difficult for me to get past that. They were set in their ways and it was hard for me to be accepted. I tried to be as nice as I possibly could, so I wouldn’t change who I was. I really had to find ‘me’ though, after I left school. Really had to find out who I was, and I did. I didn’t get bitter, I got better.
You had the last laugh really, didn't you.
Yes! But I don’t hate all school teachers!
If you hadn’t ended up as a miniature artist, what career do you think you would have gone for?
I think I’d still be in the arts because I’m really a born artist. This is what I was meant to do, it just speaks to me.
You have a very calming presence. I’m sure that helps a lot with your work?
Yes definitely, you have to be a very calm person to do what I do. I don’t rush anything in life, I always take my time. My attention span has been trained so much.
What does the word ‘normal’ mean to you? Do you feel that you fit that label?
Everyone puts their own interpretation on the word ‘normal.’
Think of it this way: If someone creates a cover of a song and turns it into ‘their’ song, it might not be the original "normal" version, but it could be so much better. Essentially, people that do things out of the ordinary could in fact be doing it much, much better.
When people meet in a formal setting, the "normal" thing to do is shake hands, but imagine you got a high-five. Which one’s better?
The unexpected high-five, of course! We need more high-fives in the world.
Exactly. It’s so much more exciting than the normal handshake!
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