Enter the microscopic world of local artist
“The smaller your work, the bigger your name will become”, is a quote which sits proudly on the wall of the In The Eye Of A Needle exhibition, currently taking place at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. It is just one of the many insights we get into Willard Wigan’s upbringing, work and what inspires him.
The quote itself is one that his mother told him when he was a youngster, but one that inspired Willard to create the artwork which has already became a hit within its first week.
It is fitting for the exhibition to be on display in one of Birmingham’s most creative areas, the Jewellery Quarter, as Willard himself is one of the West Midlands’ most artistic personalities to date and he has become famous for sculpting the world’s smallest works of art.
He said: “Birmingham, and the Jewellery Quarter in particular is built by skillful people and our city is the capital of jewellery making. People don’t understand how much talent is in the area and I wanted to be a part of it and contribute towards it. So to have my exhibition here is a true honour.”
Born in Wolverhampton, Willard now resides in Birmingham and was even honoured 10 years ago with an MBE for his services to art. He first began to create tiny and intricate pieces of art at a young age after struggling at school due to his dyslexia and learning differences.
He believed that if he created work that people could not see, he would not be criticised. However, by taking one look into the specifically designed microscopes for his micro-sculptures at the museum, it not criticism that Willard is facing. Instead, it is people asking “how?”.
In The Eye Of A Needle showcases over 30 miniature works from Willard’s collection which sit within the eye of a needle, or on the head of a pin. These pieces include scenes from Cinderella, Frozen and Pinocchio, right through to Shakespeare, Hatty Mcdaniels from Gone with the Wind and gospel singer Fred Hammond.
Visitors can also take a look at a miniscule Olympic torch, a New York skyline and even a creation of the Last Supper. The world’s smallest pair of glasses on a pin head are also available to marvel at, as well as each season of the year created within four needles, and the world itself.
Willard said: “I wanted to put a lot of my work in to give the public a lot to see. The one that sticks out in everybody’s mind is the Last Supper piece, as well as the Evolution, the Ship and Pinocchio pieces. But essentially, people are looking for something that will blow their mind.”
Mind blowing it indeed is. It is arguably considerably different from any other art that has been on display in Birmingham for years, which makes it unmissable. As it has more of a science feel to it than paintings hanging in a grand hall, even those who aren’t interested in art are bound to be fascinated by Willard’s creations.
But just how does he do it? In order to create the micro-sculptures, Willard has to enter a meditative state where his heartbeat is slowed, which allows him to reduce hand tremors. Even the slightest bit of noise can affect his work, which means he often has to retreat to quiet areas, or work during the night.
Not only is the exhibition a perfect excuse to explore the Museum in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, it also gives visitors the opportunity to look into a microscope and discover a whole new world. Which is, after all, Willard’s aim. His work is set about by showing the world that there is no such thing as nothing. He said: “I wanted to experiment with the world that we can’t see.”
In The Eye Of A Needle is on display at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter until October 28, 2017.