Origami trib­ute to Canada un­folds at the CNE,


Usu­ally trekking across Canada from coast to coast would take months on foot, but two Toronto artists have found a way to show off ev­ery prov­ince and ter­ri­tory in a jour­ney that only takes min­utes.

Us­ing more than 20,000 pieces of pa­per, Yuri and Ka­trin Shu­makov have crafted ev­ery­thing from the CN Tower to Par­lia­ment Hill and the Mar­itimes’ sea­side into an origami dis­play span­ning about 30 me­tres.

Their nod to Canada’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial is draw­ing crowds to a back nook of the En­er­care Cen­tre at the Cana­dian Na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion, where the Shu­makovs re­vealed to the Star how their mas­sive dis­play un­folded.

In the be­gin­ning

The Shu­makovs’ piece all be­gan with a phone call more than a year ago. Hav­ing pre­vi­ously given the cou­ple space to dis­play a Toronto-themed model in 2013, CNE or­ga­niz­ers knew their work, and this time, they wanted some­thing that would cap­ture Canada. (The Shu­makovs won’t say how much they were paid for the com­mis­sion.)

The cou­ple sketched out ideas and even­tu­ally set­tled on a “coast to coast” con­cept. They started re­search­ing and build­ing famed tourist at­trac­tions in Novem­ber 2016, but only fin­ished the model the day be­fore they were due to set up at the CNE.

“We wanted to and planned to do more, but we only had so much time.” KA­TRIN SHU­MAKOV TORONTO ARTIST

“We wanted to and planned to do more, but we only had so much time,” Ka­trin said.

Among the pieces the cou­ple would have liked to in­clude but had to nix be­cause of their dead­line were Sci­ence World British Co­lum­bia and the Mon­treal Botan­i­cal Gar­den. The hot spots The Shu­makovs repli­cated ev­ery­thing from Van­cou­ver’s Canada Place to Al­berta’s farms, Santa’s vil­lage at the North Pole and the Canadarm used on space shut­tle flights, but they say the hard­est at­trac­tion to recre­ate was Par­lia­ment Hill with its clock face, Peace Tower flag and sig­na­ture red-and-white-flow­ered gar­den.

Its height, and the cou­ple’s ded­i­ca­tion to not us­ing glue on any of their pieces, meant they “had to be clever about the size and rec­tan­gles” of the build­ing.

“To keep all the shapes to­gether, we made lit­tle pa­per locks,” said Ka­trin, who adores their Par­lia­ment Hill model, but ad­mits her favourite is the CNE’s Princes’ Gates, which she topped with a God­dess of Winged Vic­tory statue hold­ing a pe­tite Maple Leaf, like the orig­i­nal.

Mean­while, her hus­band favours their CN Tower replica that’s em­bla­zoned with coloured lights. I spy Nes­tled among the land­marks, teepees, a hand­ful of boats and a few trains, a keen eye can spot dozens of minia­ture peo­ple loung­ing un­der beach um­brel­las, paint­ing by the wa­ter, hang­ing shirts on a clothes­line, har­vest­ing crops and re­lax­ing in Muskoka chairs. If you look closely, you can even see fig­ure skaters mod­elled af­ter Cana­dian ice stars Pa­trick Chan and Scott Moir. Float­ing above them are 30 hot air bal­loons that Ka­trin said are a hit with chil­dren.

Be­cause the dis­play is so del­i­cate, stan­chions keeps vis­i­tors a few feet back, but not from pep­per­ing the cou­ple and vol­un­teers with ques­tions. “Ev­ery­one wants to know about pa­per cuts,” Ka­trin says, laugh­ing. “We never get pa­per cuts. Pa­per loves us.” Meet the masters The Shu­makovs first dis­cov­ered origami about 28 years ago, when they met. At the time they were work­ing in the­atre with Yuri as a mu­si­cian and Ka­trin in the art depart­ment. On tour in France, they met a Ja­panese the­atre di­rec­tor.

“He pre­sented us with a lit­tle crane be­cause it’s a habit to present one to new friends,” Ka­trin re­called. “We opened it and folded it again and it was so in­ter­est­ing that we started to cre­ate origami our­selves.”

Their fas­ci­na­tion with the art quickly grew into full-time ca­reers cre­at­ing large-scale dis­plays of fic­ti­tious lands dot­ted with cas­tles and in­hab­ited by wee wizards, elves and princesses.

They’ve also tack­led cities in­clud­ing Al­bu­querque and Toronto. All of their pieces are folded from their own de­signs — a rar­ity in the origami world, where many repli­cate tra­di­tional pat­terns. On the road The Shu­makovs are al­ways full of nerves when­ever they fin­ish a dis­play at their home stu­dio and have to move it to an ex­hibit. To make the jour­ney to the CNE with­out any mishaps, they dis­as­sem­bled the dis­play piece by piece, pack­ing it into gi­ant boxes that were driven to the En­er­care Cen­tre. Once there, it took a week to re­build the model in time for open­ing day.

Af­ter clos­ing day, Ka­trin said, “We are plan­ning to pack it care­fully and see if we can dis­play it some­where else. If we can show it again, then we will def­i­nitely add new pieces.”

Katrin and Yuri Shumakov de­signed the ex­hibit and folded pa­per for nine months to cre­ate the Mas­sive Canada 150-themed origami dio­rama at the CNE. It’s more than 30 me­tres long.


Us­ing more than 20,000 pieces of pa­per while avoid­ing us­ing glue, two artists have crafted a coast-to-coast vi­sion, with ev­ery­thing from the CN Tower to the Ot­tawa par­lia­ment build­ings.

The North Pole in origami with Santa Claus, left, and one of two hockey games on three sheets of ice.

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