How this Guy Makes the World’s Smallest Handmade Sculptures

Imagine making a sculpture so tiny, your eyelash is the paintbrush. Dr. Willard Wigan MBE, does just that. He makes the world's smallest handmade sculptures and the results truly incredible. A tiny replica of the Mona Lisa, smaller than the top of a matchstick? Check. A realistic replica of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury standing on the head of a pin? Yes. What else? The rest has to be seen to be believed.Additional Photography by Paul WardDirector: Charlie JordanDirector of Photography: Jonathan YoungEditor: Parker DixonTalent: Willard Wigan, MBEProducers: Anna O'Donohue, Wendi JonassenLine Producer: Joseph BuscemiAssociate Producer: Melissa ChoProduction Manager: Eric MartinezProduction Coordinator: Fernando DavilaSound Recordist: Matt JonesCam Op/Gaffer: Christopher ChaddertonProduction Assistants: Mihail Caracas, Daniel StasiwPost Production Supervisor: Alexa DeutschPost Production Coordinator: Ian BryantSupervising Editor: Doug LarsenAssistant Editor: Andy MorellSpecial Thanks: John Bowden, Shoot Factory

Video Transcript

- [Narrator] Imagine making a sculpture so tiny, your eyelash is the paintbrush.

Creating pieces in the eyes of needles.

A canvas one third the size of a fruit fly's wing.

That's the daily experience of this man.

- My name is Willard Wigan.

I'm the creator of the smallest handmade sculptures in history.

[upbeat music] This is more complicated than any microsurgery.

I don't care what anybody says.

You have to have a more stable hand than any surgeon to do this work.

This one took me a long time.

Four months.

Because each camel had to individually put in, and individually made.

Had to serrate the needles at the bottom, scrape it away so you got this jagged edges underneath.

And then press their feet into the bit that I've serrated.

If I ever needed psychiatric help, I think it was probably this one, because the camels were jumping and sticking to the top of the needle through static, and pushing them back down and... See how thin the legs are?

How did I make those legs without them falling off?

That was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

- [Narrator] In truth, every piece is impossibly difficult.

Because they're susceptible to the slightest of disturbances.

- [Willard] I was making Alice in Wonderland.

And when I make my sculptures, I normally lift them and put them into position.

So when Alice was made, I lifted Alice like that to sit in the chair behind the table.

And my mobile phone went off and I went, who's that?

And as I breathed in, I inhaled Alice.


Somewhere in my cavities somewhere.

[laughs] But it was a blessing in disguise 'cause I made another Alice which was better than the first one.

- [Narrator] These tiny marvels require a steady hand.

But also a steady mind, prepared to weather the microcosmic elements.

- Before I start work, I do breathing exercises.

I can feel my heart pumping away.

I can feel myself being really steady.

I can feel it.

And once I get closer to the microscope, all my fingers together, I can feel the pulse in my finger, and I can feel when it stops.

And then I'll work between the pulse beat.

That's what I do.

when I'm working, I am in a state of, I have to do this right and it tires me out.

Because I may do 16 hours, 17 hours, or even longer sometimes.

It's impossible to enjoy it because nobody enjoys holding their breath.

The first step, I have to cut out a rough shape of what I'm about to create.

And then once I've cut out that rough shape, I'll go back and I have a look at it.

Then I've gotta turn that rough shape into what I want it to look like.

And that is a bit where little problems can occur.

I would say 20% I get rid of, 80% makes its completion.

Sometimes I'll make something up in my head and then it doesn't quite turn out right.

Two weeks into it, I'll pick it up and say, I don't like that, and I'll throw it away - [Narrator] To carefully make something so incredibly small, Willard needs his own specialized tools.

- This one here is a hypodermic needle.

Very fine needle, one of the finest you can get.

And what I've done, I've cut the needle off to shorten it.

And what I do when I'm doing a sculpture, if I was carving an animal or something like that, I'd put a piece of material into the hole of the needle then manipulate it around and slice and separate the material that I'm carving.

Like peeling a carrot almost.

And this second one here, it's got a little blade.

It's like an engraving tool.

Very hard steel.

The third one, it's like a hook and its twirled at the end.

And that hook enables me to manipulate and move and twist things around.

When you look at it underneath the microscope, they look a bit crude looking, but they do the job.

This one here is a paintbrush.

My eyelash is stuck on the end of that.

So that's pretty simple.

And this one, this is like a little drill.

So I drill little holes.

So if I'm drilling a hole, I just press onto the material and I just keep turning it backwards and rotating backwards and forwards, but very very gently till I make a little hole if I have to.

This one is like a claw.

And what it does, it grabs things.

I can hold things with it and it can pick things up.

It's got this little hand on it that can grab.

You can't buy these tools.


You have to make them yourself.

- [Narrator] With these small implements, the scope of work Willard can do is truly staggering.

- This one here is the smallest sculpture any human being has ever made by hand.

This is a little baby inside a hair.

So when I find hair on my face here, which you can't see.

When I shaved it, I went like this, and in between my fingerprint, it's the finest piece of hair.

And then what I did, I drilled a hole into the hair, and then the baby was made from a floating fiber.

So when the sunlight comes through the window, you see those little fibers floating, I caught one of those.

I had to make a tool so sharp to cut it.

So I smashed up a diamond into little bits.

And it's one of them that I used to slice the shape of the baby.

This one took me three months to get it right, 'cause it kept going wrong all the time.

I call this one, 'The Beginning'.

- [Narrator] Willard's beginnings were not easy.

His talents developing while facing challenges in the classroom.

Before autism was diagnosed in schools.

- Back in the sixties and seventies, the educational system would neglect kids with learning differences.

So I'm in autism, which wasn't diagnosed back then.

Kids were sort of left behind, not because their own fault, because the teachers left them behind.

So if a kid had any talent, you would never know, because he was discouraged.

But one thing I've learned is I never got bitter, I got better.

When I was 15, I had a microscope.

This guy gave it to me from school.

And I used to break bits of razor blade off and push them into a matchstick, and put a bit of glue on them so I've got a little scalper blade and things.

And I started getting little bits of toothpicks and putting bits of metal into the end and holding things down and slicing.

And as I got older, I started to evolve.

55 years of doing this, I'm now 65.

So my whole life, my whole body has been trained.

That's the dedication that I have.

- [Narrator] Willard's dedication makes him always strive for perfection in his work.

- The emotional process is when it goes wrong, I'm pissed.

And then I sit down and I... You know, it's not what you do when you get knocked down, it's what you do when you get back up.

So if I get knocked down with something, I get back up and then I find out why I got knocked down, why it didn't work, and I'll do it again, and I'll just keep going till I get it right.

- [Producer] How do you feel when you complete a piece?

- It's like climbing a mountain.

Mount Everest.

You get to the summit and it's like... You see, my pleasure is looking at other people, you know, seeing their reaction.

To know that inside the eye of a needle has opened up the biggest world to people.

- [Narrator] Among these people entranced by Willard's work was Queen Elizabeth II.

- Most proudest moment of my life.

I had a letter from Buckingham Palace saying she'd accept my tiny microscopic crown.

The Queen came out and it was in a beautiful microscope, especially made for her.

I took it there and showed it to her.

She says, this is fantastic.

It's so special.

I've never had something so small that's so special.

Thank you very much.

Shook my hand.

And I walked away thinking the alarm clock was gonna go off thinking I'm gonna wake up.

- [Producer] What do you hope people take from your work?

- Well, I hope they see small things in a much bigger way.

They look at life different.

If you see anything and you can help the person.

If you see a little bee on the floor when he's walking, pick him up, put him somewhere safe.

There's kids out there with autism.

Take time to listen to them, understand them, 'cause they're diamonds in a dust bin.

Take the lid off the bin and see what's in there.

What society seems to throw to one side, and they'll realize they made a big mistake.