Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Some of the greatest and most-loved figures in popular culture have been micro-sized under the wand of Windrush descendant Willard Wigan MBE (Picture: Willard Wigan MBE/@willardwiganMBE)

A figurine of British soul legend Beverley Knight painted with an eyelash is among a collection of tiny statues dedicated to Black History Month by a renowned micro-artist. 

Willard Wigan MBE has brought his precision touch to this year’s ‘celebrating our sisters’ theme with a set of sculptures so small they can fit in the eye of a needle.   

The collection includes Knight, chat show host Oprah Winfrey, Disney’s Princess and the Frog and actress Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar.   

Wigan has also created an ‘equal balance’ statuette of cheerful black and white children sitting on a see-saw, inspired by Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.  

Each minuscule piece is created through a labour-intensive process which involves the creator slowing down his breathing in order to steady his hand movements  

Willard Wigan MBE has dedicated his Black History Month collection to the memory of his mum Zeta (Picture: Willard Wigan MBE/@willardwiganMBE)

He took six weeks to make Knight’s likeness, carving the statuette from Kevlar before making a dress from 24 carat gold and using an eyelash as a paintbrush. 

The sculptor’s creations have earnt him a multitude of plaudits and two Guinness World Records in a career that he credits to his mum Zeta Wiggan’s influence. 

Zeta, a Windrush generation arrival from Jamaica who settled in Birmingham, encouraged her son at a time when he struggled to read and write due to autism, which led to him being ‘written off’ at school.

‘My mum was a great inspiration to me.’ Wigan said.   

Beverley Knight looks thrilled to be in the eye of a needle micro-sculpture (Picture: Willard Wigan MBE/@willardwiganMBE)

Oprah Winfrey makes a bright impression in red in Willard Wigan’s 2008 micro-sculpture (Picture: Willard Wigan MBE/@willardwiganMBE)

‘I was written off at school and told I was a failure because autism wasn’t understood in the 60s.

‘I knew something wasn’t quite right because I kept making little sculptures, but then my mum found who I really was.

‘One day, she found me building houses for ants and she said, “go small and your name will get bigger”.

‘So that journey took me to where I am today, the world’s greatest micro-artist, thanks to the encouragement from my mum.’

Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker looks at home with his saxophone in the eye of a needle (Picture: Willard Wigan MBE/@willardwiganMBE)

Zeta, originally from Jamaica, saw some of her son’s early success before she died in 1995.  

Along with the world records, he would go on to receive an MBE from the late Queen and an honorary doctorate from the University of Warwick.

The father-of-one, 66, who still lives in Birmingham, has used the collection of existing pieces to celebrate the rich contribution made by the Windrush generation and the black community in general to modern life in the UK and US.

Willard Wigan MBE’s accolades include an honorary degree from the University of Warwick (Picture: Willard Wigan MBE/@willardwiganMBE)

The collection also includes Usain Bolt in his ‘lightning bolt’ pose and Grammy-winning gospel singer Frederick William Hammond, who is made out of plastic fibres Wigan scraped from one of his albums.

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Jazz legend Charlie Parker looks at home in Wigan’s homage, which shows the pioneer leaning against the eye of a needle with his saxophone.

While he has curated the endearing set for this month’s focus on black history, the father-of-one views his creations as a gift to the world.

‘Black people’s contribution to Britain has included laying their lives down in both world wars, rebuilding the country after the war, and contributing to music, sport and culture in general,’ he said.

Disney’s The Princess and the Frog is recreated in tiny scale (Picture: Willard Wigan MBE/@willardwiganMBE)

Usain Bolt is shown in his trademark ‘lightning bolt’ pose (Picture: Willard Wigan MBE/@willardwiganMBE)

‘It’s a legacy that should be celebrated and I’m proud to be part of that heritage with my skills, but I want to inspire others regardless of race, colour or creed.

‘As Martin Luther King said, “judge a man not by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character.”.  

‘People should be equal, which is why I have included the see-saw with the smiles on the kids’ faces.

‘I was brought up in a multi-racial community and this is how life should be. I don’t mention my pigmentation at all, I see myself as an artist.  

‘God gave me a gift and my mother put it on me to be the best.’

Equal balance is the theme of Willard Wigan MBE’s 2008 depiction of a happy playground scene (Picture: Willard Wigan MBE/@willardwiganMBE)

Wigan gave Metro.co.uk an insight into the rigours of working at 1,000x magnification — a level which can identify microorganisms — for 16 hours a day or longer.   

‘When I go to sleep at night I put sellotape on the pillow,’ he said.   

‘We shed eyelashes at night which are too small to see, and I use them as paintbrushes. I work on five or six pieces at a time and I don’t use photographs, I just see what’s in my mind and I go and do it. 

‘You have to have a really steady hand, you need to be a dead man working basically. You have to slow your breathing down and work between your heartbeats, otherwise it’s impossible to do. When I create the work I don’t enjoy doing it, what I do enjoy is seeing other people’s reactions once I finish it.

‘The way I see it, my work belongs to the whole world.’  

 To see more of Willard’s work visit his website here.  


MORE : Mickey Mouse gets shrunk down to microscopic size for Disney’s 100th birthday

Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact josh.layton@metro.co.uk

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