In this latest article in The Guide, DPG’s Editor Joe Tepper talks to British sculptor Hedley Wiggan, who is trying to help conservation efforts by crafting some miniature tributes to the creatures of the sea.
When it comes to inspiring large marine conservation changes, even the smallest actions can make a difference. And by small, we mean so tiny you need a magnifying glass to see it.
Earlier this year, miniature sculptor Hedley Wiggan received a call from the Sea Life Aquarium in London with an unusual request. Hedley is used to the unusual having sculpted fly-sized versions of the Olympic torch and pop star Harry Styles on the tip of a pencil. But his new client had a new material in mind: shark teeth.
“At first, I was a little skeptical, as I'd never worked with this material before,” says Wiggan, recalling when the aquarium first contacted him for the project. But the hesitation didn’t last for long: “I was very excited […] at the chance to work on such a great project as it was for a great cause, and I also love all marine creatures.”
Gaining the attention of today’s youth on issues such as marine conversation can be difficult when video games and television replace visits to the aquarium or viewing marine life in the wild. Sometimes it takes the strange and spectacular—yes, even miniature shark teeth carvings—to gain support for conservation.
Despite never having gone diving, Hedley began crafting six sculptures out of the inch-long teeth, which are naturally shed by the sharks and collected by the aquarium staff. The still-sharp teeth proved to be a challenging material to work with, even for the seasoned sculptor. And there wasn’t much time before the sculptures were set to be on display at the aquarium.
“Normally a sculpture will take me two to three weeks,” explains Hedley, whose work has gone viral several times. “As I only had around three weeks to create all six sculptures, I had to work day and night to finish the tight but exciting project.”
The resulting sculptures captured an array of marine life and themes, including sea turtles, penguins, a cownose ray, shark, and—Hedley’s favorite—King Neptune. And while the sculptor has yet to scuba dive with any of the animals portrayed, he hopes the novelty of his creations draws in more people to the aquarium, and in turn increases conservation awareness.
“I hope that the sculptures will educate visitors to the Sea Life center and teach them the real beauty that surrounds us all,” Hedley explains of the impact of his art. “We [must] treat all creatures with the respect they so rightly deserve.”