Willard Wigan creates sculptures so tiny they can fit in the eye of needles

Williard Wigan, a micro-sculptor, recently visited Prince George's Community College to discuss his works of art, many of which fit inside the head of a sewing needle. An exhibition called "Art in the Eye of a Needle: Micro-sculpture by Willard Wigan" is on display at the Parish Gallery in Georgetown through Jan. 23.
By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 3, 2009

They say it's not the story that intrigues us so much as the storyteller.

Willard Wigan, 52, a famous micro-sculptor, is telling his story to an audience at Prince George's Community College, explaining how he began creating art so tiny that it fits in the eyes of needles.

It began, he says, with his teacher in a classroom in England, when Wigan was 5 years old. The teacher holds her nose high in the air and speaks with the crispness of the king's English:

"Where is the little colored boy today? Yes, of course, there you are. Come here."

The boy wants to vanish. Instead he follows the teacher's instruction and goes to the front of the class. The teacher gives him a piece of chalk and tells him to write, but he cannot because he has dyslexia, a learning disability that his school in England in the 1960s had not recognized.

The teacher spins the little boy to face his classmates and announces: "Willard is an example of failure."

The boy wants to become smaller before his classmates, retreating within himself until they can no longer see him.

"Nothing," the teacher announces in a tinny voice. "Nothing is what this boy will become."

The boy hates school. And absconds. That's the word he uses. "I absconded."

His mother finds him hiding in the shed behind his home in Birmingham, where he was the middle child of five children.

"What are you doing here?" his mother asks in her strong Jamaican accent, not yet diminished by her life in England.

Her son, who is only 5, can't find the words to articulate his humiliation at school. He tells her he doesn't like school. She tells him he must go to school. He says he doesn't want to go to school. She tells him, if he doesn't go to school, she will drag him. She leaves him in the shed, staring at the ground. That is when he begins to notice small things. Before him crawls a trail of ants.

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