Live from TEDGlobal

Willard Wigan at TEDGlobal 2009: Running notes from Session 2

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Willard Wigan is a microsculptor, creating iconic sculptures small enough to fit on the head of a pin or in the eye of a needle. This morning at TEDGlobal, he explains why he’s driven to create these tiny masterpieces and shows examples of his incredulous work.

He opens the talk saying, “Every human being in this room was once as small as my artwork.” Wigan wanted to show the world that the little things can also be the biggest things. He started making tiny objects at age five. Academically, he explains, he couldn’t express himself and would hide in a shed at the back of the garden rather than going to school. In that shed, he entered a fantasy world, and thought that maybe if he made the ants around him an apartment, they’d move in. He got a piece of wood and constructed a little apartment — one that he says, “looked like a shanty shed.” Then, he watched the ants come around. From there, he says, “I watched this little world and it became part of me.”

As he got older he wanted to experiment with this world that we can’t see. He began with the Hoff house on a pinhead, made for a client who said, “I don’t believe you can do this. Can you?” Wigan went under the microscope and he did. He used crushed up pieces of glass, fiber from his sister’s old teddy bear and pulled out of his jumper. He held his breath while working, and tried to work between heartbeats.

Wigan then rolls through a selection of his extreme miniatures, as the audience gasps at each slide: Homer Simpson choking Bart on the head of a pin; Charlton Heston on with an aphid fly looking giant for scale; the Statue of Liberty in the eye of a needle; the Incredible Hulk breaking out of the eye of a needle; a ship with full rigging on top of a diamond; in formal dressage, a horse and rider on the head of a pin. It seems that Wigan has proved his point — the diminutive is not to be overlooked.