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Wiggan proves he has the world at his fingertips

FANTASTIC: Willard Wigan pictured with a fan at his recent Eighth Wonder of the World exhibition at Resorts World in Solihull.

THE FESTIVE search through TV listings for something worthwhile to watch over the Christmas and New Year period will uncover a hidden gem featuring Wolverhampton-born sculptor Willard Wigan MBE.

Channel 4 is soon to release the transmission date and time of the first-ever UK TV documentary on the record-breaking Wigan, 60, who handcrafts microscopic artworks that are virtually invisible to the naked eye. Each capable of commanding fees north of £40,000, his portfolio includes the world’s smallest ever sculpture – Golden Voyage, a gold motorbike inside a single piece of beard stubble, which is less than a fifth of a millimetre
long.

The documentary will also show scholars at Oxford University marvelling at Wigan’s unusual talent. Speaking at his Eighth Wonder of the World exhibition at Resorts World in Solihull, near Birmingham, he said:

“They couldn’t believe what I do, they said it’s supernatural.”

His art grew out of his poor self image growing up during the culturally insensitive 1960s. Unable to access learning, at fi ve years of age, Wigan was marched around his school and exhibited as the embodiment of failure. He said: “I often ran away from school. I was so humiliated.

“The children called me names. I was traumatised”

His obsessive, repetitive behaviour – including running up and down staircases, removing and replacing tops from bottles – prompted his sensitive mother to wonder what was wrong with him.

“She would ask me why I did those things,” said Wigan.

“I would ask, ‘Do what?’ I had no explanation.”

Wigan recalls fleeing to a place of peace – a local park. Free from criticism, he surveyed the land and zeroed in on insects – like beetles, ants and dragonflies. Mistaking the beetles for the namesake pop group that dominated the charts during his childhood, Wigan sang to them believing they would sing back.

His obsession with insects led him to create tiny houses for the ants that crawled around him after a neighbourhood dog had dug up soil near his hideaway.

“I identified with the ants and was worried for them – I wanted to be small like them so nobody noticed me.”

His very first creation, carved by a six-year-old Wigan, now called The Ant House, was among the exhibits at Resorts World. Carved from strips of
wood using his stern father’s razor, the tiny item astounded his neighbours, then his mother, who recognised her son’s offbeat talent.

“She would say to me, ‘If you want your name to get bigger, make the houses smaller’,” said Wigan.

Put into a remedial class to learn in small groups, Wigan’s craft continued to develop and he carved out business opportunities as well as sculptures.
He said: “I recreated the characters from Beatrix Potter’s books onto a toothpick, charging the schoolchildren three pence. The wealthier kids would give me sixpence!”

Wigan’s self esteem began to grow, fuelled by his mother’s words, alongside the inspiration he received from listening to the oratory of Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali: “My world started to change because I grew more confident. My body was at school, but my mind wasn’t.”

Later, Wigan was diagnosed with dyslexia, which he refers to as a learning difference, not a learning difficulty. Able to slow his breathing and heart rate to reduce hand tremors so he can sculpt between pulse beats, Wigan has become a fixture of the international arts community, with his works taking pride of place in global adverts and Buckingham Palace.

His portfolio is increasingly reflecting his cultural heritage and Christian faith, featuring sculptures of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, US Gospel singer Fred Hammond and a depiction of the Last Supper – depicted in The Bible, just prior to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

ABILITY

No stranger to visiting schools and community venues to provide inspiration, he added: “Our options shouldn’t be limited to playing sports or music.

“There is technical ability in our community – we need to look for it, encourage it and watch it flourish. I am here to inspire and show what can be achieved when we do.”

Wigan’s status as one of the arts world’s greatest secrets is set to change: a feature fi lm on his amazing life story is in development, reportedly with UK producer-director Benjamin Johns looking to secure Idris Elba’s signature to play the title role. Preparing to head overseas for a series of dates in the US, Wigan concluded: “I would love to be part of more intimate shows within community settings to let our youngsters see what they can achieve.”

Visit www.channel4.com/info for more details on the Channel 4 documentary.

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