Pin head Qu'ran
A MICRO-ENGRAVER who takes botox injections because his work is so precise has pocketed a cool GBP50,000 after he painstakingly engraved a chapter from the Qu'ran onto the head of a pin.
World-famous artist Graham Short, from Birmingham, spent hundreds of hours in his tiny city centre studio working to engrave 'The Word of God', a chapter from the Islamic holy book, on the miniscule pin-head.
And even though the finished piece was not exhibited publicly, an anonymous Muslim collector visiting a solo exhibition of the 65-year-old's work in Cambridge was so impressed with the engraving that she decided to purchase it.
Prior to commencing work on the piece, experienced engraver Graham visited religious leaders at Birmingham's Central Mosque to ensure the project wouldn't cause offence.
“I’ve always been drawn to the beauty of Islam as a living faith,” says Graham, who himself is non-Muslim.
"I do like the Asian lettering, it's beautiful I don't understand it but I do like the style.
“The Arabic characters have their own intrinsic appeal, and I felt that micro-engraving the chapter on such a small scale was a homage to the intricate artwork that has been a feature of mosques down the centuries."
Graham, whose work is sought after all over the world, spent five months working on the pin and admits that working in a different language for the first time in his long career was an interesting challenge.
"It's the most famous verse so I thought I'd have a go at it," he added.
"It took longer than normal because I don't understand the lettering. When I do English words I know all the gaps between letters but in Arabic I don't have a clue.
"I printed it out and I was copying it as I worked. It went wrong a few times so I had to polish it and start all over again."
In order to keep a steady hand as he works on his 400x optical microscope, Graham has to keep his body and mind in perfect condition - taking beta-blockers to ensure his heart rate remains steady and getting botox injections around his eyes so the muscles remain as still as possible.
Graham, who is known for his miniature masterpieces after 50-years honing his craft, also works at night with his engraving hand firmly secured in vintage leather luggage straps, because the incredible detail of his work requires a minimum of vibrations from passing traffic.
The physical extremes he goes to for his art don't stop there and the 65-year-old keeps fit with long-distance swimming to help maintain a low pulse.
"I do a lot of swimming as well, the fitter I am the slower my heart rate is," he said.
"My work-shop is a small building and I don't go in till 10pm. I work at night because even the vibrations of a lorry going past in the day could cause me to make a big mistake.
"I wear a stethoscope and try to engrave inbetween heart beats. If I see a mouse, I have to go home straight away because I am scared of them and know I won't be able to stay dead still when I engrave."
After hearing Graham talk about his Qu'ran engraving at a private talk in Cambridge, a local woman got in touch with the engraver and eventually bought the master-piece for a whopping GBP50,000.
"She wanted to remain anonymous because it was an expensive purchase," added Graham.
"But she was a really nice lady. She was middle-aged and white. She was a Muslim though and I think she had the money because they had sold a family business."
Speaking about Graham's latest piece, managing director of the fine art brokers who represent the engraver's work, Rod Lacey, said: “The sale of The Word of God is evidence of a very healthy and dynamic collectors’ scene around Islamic-inspired art in the UK.
“Graham’s work sits at the crossroads of master craftsmanship and fine art – an area which boasts a very long tradition in Islamic culture – so for me, Graham working on Islamic-inspired pieces like this is his way of paying a wonderful compliment to centuries of tradition from craftspeople in the Islamic world.”