Smallest Works of Art on Earth

Willard Wigan was born in Birmingham, England in 1957 and is the creator of the smallest works of art on earth. From being a traumatised and unrecognised dyslexic child, he is now emerging as the most globally celebrated micro-miniaturist of all time and is literally capable of turning a spec of dust into a vision of true beauty. Willard can create a masterpiece within the eye of a tiny sewing needle, on the head of a pin, the tip of an eyelash or a grain of sand. Some are many times smaller than the fullstop at the end of this sentence.

He is the creator of the world’s smallest sculptures, often taking months to complete one, working between heartbeats to avoid hand tremors. “You have to control the whole nervous system, you have to work between the heartbeat – the pulse of your finger can destroy the work.” Wigan uses a tiny surgical blade to carve microscopic figures out of rice, and fragments of grains of sand and sugar, which are then mounted on pinheads. To paint his creations, he uses a hair plucked from a dead fly (the fly has to have died from natural causes, as he refuses to kill them for the sake of his art). His sculptures have included a Santa Claus and a copy of the FIFA World Cup trophy, both about 0.005mm (0.0002in) tall, and a boxing ring with Muhammad Ali figure which fits onto the head of a match.

The 1993 British film An Eye on X follows Wigan’s quest in carving two statues of American black activist Malcolm X, one life size and the other on the head of a toothpick. Additional footage in the production archive includes Willard flying aircraft made out of thin balsa wood, carving on the head of a toothpick and talking about his early life. Wigan was inspired to do his work beginning at the age of 5. He is learning disabled, and doesn’t know how to read or write. He said that his childhood teachers “made [him] feel small, made [him] feel like nothing.” He decided to prove that “less is more,” and that “nothing could be everything.”

In May 2007, Wigan’s 70-piece collection was purchased by tennis player and businessman David Lloyd, who has insured the collection for a total value of £11.2 million.