Willard Wigan – the artist celebrated in the recent Birmingham Parks and Recreation display at the Chelsea Flower Show – was born nearly sixty years ago. He was a creative boy and a dyslexic – undiagnosed before and during his time at primary school. He couldn’t perform to the “standard” and was therefore deemed “nothing”.
“I started off as a five-year-old by building furniture for ants, and houses for ants. When I started school I realised I had a bit of a problem. I was told that I was ‘nothing’ so I am now exhibiting what they say is nothing, but when they see it, it will be the biggest nothing they’ve ever seen.”
To watch the whole interview this quote was taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07cyg1s/rhs-chelsea-flower-show-2016-episode-1 (31.19 – 38.20 minutes).
Wigan is now a respected artist who creates fascinating (and minute) pieces of work within the eye of a needle.
From the BBC Blog: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2006/04/dyslexia_made_me_big_in_tiny_a.html
“When Willard Wigan, who has dyslexia, started school in 1962, he wasn’t exactly blessed with forward-thinking teachers. He was considered illiterate by them, and his work was described as “disgusting” to the other children in the class.
“I was programmed to believe that everything I did was no good”, he says, “and I believed that”. As a result, Willard used to truant from school. He spent a lot of time in the woods, and started to build tiny props for insects. He then moved on to carving.
“I did little sculptures of the teachers. They made me feel small, so I wanted to make them look small in my child’s mind.””
One has to wonder how many artists through the decades we may have missed – the ones who don’t possess the resilience and determination that Willard evidently had as a youngster.
Another contributory factor in his success was his ability to escape – It was a fantasy world I escaped to – and to meditate to the point of slowing his heart-rate.
In order to carve in such painstakingly minute detail – where even the slightest tremor in his hands would be catastrophic – Willard has taught himself to slow down his breathing and heart, and to work in the spaces between heartbeats. He can keep still for 22 hours without moving.
For more information about Willard Wigan and his work, click here.
Andy Hargreaves recently wrote about the importance of creativity in an article for the RSA – “Blooming Teachers”.
“Creativity isn’t just egocentric self-indulgence or oddball eccentricity. It is also the way we devise ingenious solutions to overwhelming social problems. Creativity counts when other social values also come into play like heritage, inclusion and sustainability. Creativity is a collective responsibility, not just an individual disposition.
Crises and social problems require many people to be creative, not just one or two. At this point in history, we need creativity, care and compassion on a scale that we have never witnessed before.”
Indeed we do, and our current education system – a system in denial of the need for creativity as well as the need for personal and social development – demonstrates that.
“In education, though, the greatest criticisms of the creativity movement have been matters of scale. We might be able to generate more creativity with an inspirational teacher or two, in a few schools here or there, or even in school networks of self-selected enthusiasts. But what about building entire systems of creativity where every teacher is capable and every student can benefit? How can we develop more creativity for all of them?”
Not by creating a system that has little regard for creativity and individuality, with educational aims that disregard the creative abilities of very many students.
“While the compelling need for creativity, care and compassion across the world has been growing, the greatest global educational trend of the past two decades ran completely contrary to it, driven by the promise of short-term results.”
Hargreaves argues that an era of “collective autonomy and responsibility” is urgently needed.
“Creativity, we are seeing, is a collective responsibility, not an individual characteristic. Creative learners need many creative teachers who work together effectively for the good of all their students. A system that empowers teachers in this way usually results from deliberate design, not just luck or circumstance. Creative learning and teaching call for creative system designs too.”
It also requires empathetic teachers – something that Willard Wigan evidently lacked in his childhood.
Returning to the Chelsea Flower Show and the creative genius of Willard Wigan, we can see what Andy Hargreaves is talking about. Creativity needs individuality within collegiality. By combining the talents of an individual artist with a team of thoughtful collaborators, the results are inspiring.
Imagine what can happen in education if the same principles were applied.