Christian Long

Willard Wigan: Hold Your Breath for Micro-Sculpture

In TED Talks on May 9, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Reflection by VIVIAN H.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Willard Wigan:  Hold Your Breath for Micro-Sculpture

“There’s an old saying, “Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

Willard Wigan brings new meaning to the world of imagination. His creations transcend our perception of possiblity, to prove that there is more beyond what the naked eye can see. There are many limitations we often set upon ourselves, and most of the time if we cannot touch or see a new concept with our own eyes we do not believe in it. Our society has become increasingly scientifically based, we tend to forget the wonders of believing in something wholeheartedly as we once did when we were young.

“Nothing doesn’t exist. Because there is always something.My mother told me that, when I was a child, that I should always respect the little things.”

As a child, your perspective of the world seems so big. The classrooms, the teachers, everything is magnified. Likewise your body seems so small, and you just a tiny, molecular speck engulfed by your surroundings. The young Wigan, had also experienced this sense of overwhelming loss, as he explained “At school, academically I couldn’t express myself. So I was, more or less, classed as “nothing.” When your world is seen as less, the impulse to create something you can control becomes stronger. Perhaps, for the young Wigan, creating something much smaller than him gave him a sense of identity and control as an outlet for being incapable of expressing himself the way he wanted to at such a young age. Wigan’s teacher had “ridiculed” and used Wigan as an example of “failure”, which goes to show that even a child has already had limitations thrust upon him when he should hold the belief that nothing is impossible.

So what made Wigan decide to start building micro-sculpture?

Wigan states, “I looked down on the ground, I noticed there was some ants running around. And I went into this little fantasy world. And I thought, “These ants, are they looking for the queen ant? Or do they need somewhere to live?” So I thought “Perhaps, if I made these ants some apartments, they’ll move in. And I encouraged the ants to come ’round by putting sugar and things like that. And then I sat down and all the ants came along. And all I could hear was “Is this for us?” The start of something great always comes from imagination and the willingness to believe in something unexpected. If one is able to hold onto that curiosity and certainty as they grow up, whatever they might pursue will be infused with heartfelt passion.

While working on microscopic pieces, Wigan had to hold his breath working in between heartbeats, to make sure everything was level. It is quite amazing how he uses everyday objects like tweezers made from a hair clip and a nylon tag from his shirt. A gentleman one said to Wigan, “There’s no way you can do this, you must have used some kind of machine. There’s no way a man can do that. It must be a machine.” Wigan doesn’t need machines that cost millions of dollars, nor does he need much else besides his determination and hands to create this remarkable phenomenon. This just goes to show how much we can accomplish when we put our minds to it, everything comes from the mind with the start of imagination.

“I’ve heard a fly in pain. And they go “Ooooow! Ow!”Even though they get on our nerves, I would never kill an insect because, “All creatures great and small” — there is a hymn that says that.” Not only does Wigan create microscopic art, but he also respects the small things. Big or small Wigan shows us the wondrous effects of what we dismiss as the tiniest of objects. This ability to see past the surface, and into the spirit of what is on this earth is what makes Wigan’s creations so extraordinary.

“It’s very painstaking work, but the best things come in small packages.”

Here are some of Wigan’s breathtaking sculptures:


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