Ace miniaturist Hedley Wiggan needed speed and patience as well as a steady hand to take on his latest, and perhaps wackiest, artistic assignment yet.
The 50-year-old Wigan Infirmary theatre nurse was commissioned by insurance firm More Than to create micro-sculptures out of butter of landmarks in areas of the country where residents carelessly dump the most fat down their drains!
These have now been photographed in a professional studio and will be used to back a campaign alerting householders and businesses about the perils of clogging up our pipes and sewers with badly disposed-of lard. The five worst offending regions, in descending order, are the North East, South East, South West, London and North West. And so Hedley carefully crafted buttery effigies of The Angel of the North, Brighton Pavilion, Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Tower and Blackpool Tower. He was also asked to produce Santa Claus and a reindeer for good measure because we all offend more with flushed away animal fat at Christmas than at any other time of year.
Hedley, whose works are now in demand all over the world, said his biggest challenge this time round was temperature. He added: “I was asked to carve some landmarks in lipstick for a Heathrow Airport ad campaign a couple of years ago but while there are some similarities with butter, there is the added complication of melting. I have never worked in this medium before either. “I would keep the pieces of butter in the fridge and then work on them for up to three minutes at a time before having to put them back in to chill again. “I also had to be careful about my own temperature, so I had a bowl of water in the fridge too to dip my fingers in before handling the pieces – warm hands are a no-no. It was pretty painstaking. They had to be just the right size – too small and they would melt away; too big and they would become too difficult to transport.”
And transporting the pieces presented problems of its own. As bad luck would have it Hedley had to take the six works down to London on the train on one of the hottest days of the year, so it was touch and go whether he would open the container and find a ghee-like puddle on arrival. Thankfully they survived the journey intact to be photographed. All but the Santa have since melted though and even Father Christmas is looking a bit worse for wear and smelling rather rancid now! But it was all in a good cause. He said: “The fact that I can make a piece of art from a similar amount of fat to what we’re throwing down the sink shows how careless we’re being when it comes to our pipes and drains.”