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Micro-Sculptures Fit In The Eye Of A Needle

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Willard Wigan joins us from NPR West. Welcome to the program.

WILLARD WIGAN: Thank you. I feel very honored to be here. Thank you.

HANSEN: So, just how big or - I guess I should say more precisely - how small is a micro-sculpture?

WIGAN: To give you an idea, we call it a full stop in England, you call it a period stop at the end of the sentence in a newspaper. Some of my sculptures, I could fit probably four, five images onto the period stop.

HANSEN: Wow. Do you work with a microscope?

WIGAN: Yeah. My work takes an intensive level of concentration 'cause I have to slow down my nervous system. I have to work between my heartbeat. Even the pulse in your finger can actually cause a little problem. So I have to sort of time it so I have one-and-a-half seconds to move between the beat. It does send me insane, I must admit, doing it, but I know that the impact that it has is colossal in it.

HANSEN: Yeah. Typically, how long does it take to complete a micro-sculpture?

WIGAN: Some can take from five to two months, three months. It depends, you know, it depends on how I feel. And sometimes I have little accidents where I can actually inhale some of my own work.

HANSEN: That happened to you, didn't it?

WIGAN: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WIGAN: I was making a sculpture, Alice in Wonderland, you know, the Mad Hatter himself and Alice, and they were all sitting around a table. So, Alice was the last one I wanted to sit down into the chair. When I do my sculptures, I have to lift them with an eyelash. So I (unintelligible) pull out one of the finest eyelashes out of my eye and attach it to a needle. So, as I was lifting very, very gently, and as I was doing that, my mobile phone went off. And, you know, when you take a sigh, like...

(SOUNDBITE OF SIGHING)

WIGAN: ...and then I noticed that it had gone. Which I knew I'd inhaled her. So I didn't feel happy about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HANSEN: No.

WIGAN: Because it was one of the best pieces I've done. But I actually managed to complete it. So the second one I'd done was even better. So I had to just replace Alice.

HANSEN: How long did it take to complete the Obama family micro-sculpture?

WIGAN: That took me about seven to eight weeks. I knew that he was going to become president, so I decided I wanted to create a bit of history, you know, a small bit of history in the eye of a needle.

HANSEN: Was that the first micro-sculpture you did with more than one real person?

WIGAN: And during the summer months, I came out and sat down and had a look at - I was looking down at the ground and I saw some little ants running around. And my mind went into a little fantasy world 'cause I kept thinking the queen ant has abandoned them and they have nowhere to live. So I started to make little apartments for the ants.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WIGAN: And the ants came around to play, but they never paid me any rent for the apartment.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WIGAN: So, just a little bit disappointed with that. And they said to me, thank you, Willard, thank you, thank you very much. But here the ants bite you.

HANSEN: Is there anything that you wanted to do and you tried to do, but you couldn't?

WIGAN: It's punishing work, but the end result is then what I enjoy. I never enjoy actually doing them because there's always something that you're going to meet a mistake somewhere. But, you know, I look at the mistake as one step to success.

HANSEN: Willard, thank you very much.

WIGAN: Oh, thank you, thank you. I have a lot of patience.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WIGAN: And it's been a pleasure talking to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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