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.