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Dalton Ghetti, microminiaturist

With a sculpting knife, a sewing needle and a razor blade, Dalton Ghetti creates unbelievably precise miniature sculptures on the tips of old, artfully weather-beaten pencils. Ghetti works the graphite slowly, carving away at it until the pencil becomes the base for his microscopic sculptures made from the pencil’s lead. The precision and level of detail Ghetti is able to achieve on such a small scale is something he’s spent the past 25 years perfecting.

After years of making large-scale sculptures, Ghetti decided he wanted to challenge himself by sculpting as small as possible. He experimented with a variety of materials, like chalk, but he describes his eventual decision to carve into the graphite of a pencil as his “eureka moment.’ Working without the aid of a magnifying glass, most pieces take several months, though the longest, a pencil tip with two interlinking chains, to two and a half years. “I was really please with it,” he said, “because it’s so intricate people think it must be two pencils.” Ghetti, now 49, has never sold his work. Rather, he keeps them or gives them away to friends. He even has a group of more than a hundred sculptures dubbed “the cemetery collection” because they broke before he could finish them.

Micro-sculpting is a specialized field, to be sure, but Ghetti joins the ranks of a few other well-known (relatively speaking) microminiaturists like Hagpop Sandaldjian, whose work is part of the permanent collection at The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. Sandaldjian was a master of ergonomics and developed specialized ways of playing difficult-to-master string instruments. Sandaldjian’s obsessive devotion to precision movements made sculpting microminiatures a natural fit. Working within the confines of the eye of a sewing needle, Sandaldjian soon “learned to apply his decision strokes only between heartbeats.”

Ghetti’s miniature graveyard