A piece of cardstock paper is usually not that exciting. But in the hands of Edmonton artist Benjamin Perry, ordinary paper transforms into something much more magical. Using kirigami – the art of cutting and folding paper into three-dimensional shapes – Perry builds everything from elephants to renderings of Medusa. But his most high-profile work is the boar head he created on commission for display in Three Boars Eatery. The restaurant’s chef, Brayden Kozak, who previously worked at the Sugarbowl with Perry, appeared on the March cover of Avenue holding the elaborate animal head.
Perry, 32, began producing animals and mythical creatures in 2009, after a back injury caused him to take time off from his job as a chef. His boredom triggered a new, self-taught hobby – kirigami, which is similar to the Japanese art of origami, except the artist folds and cuts the paper. His first creation, a giant unicorn head, led to a show at the Sugarbowl later that year, featuring about five paper figures.
Now, Perry builds figures of varying sizes using just heavy, rigid cardstock, an X-Acto knife and white glue. Larger, more intricate designs, such as the Medusa – which includes 21 snakes – take weeks to build, but he finishes smaller pieces, such as video-game figures or a pig’s head, in about three to six hours. Perry’s paper artwork also varies greatly in price, depending on the size and detailing – the Medusa, which is currently mounted at The Paint Spot store in south Edmonton, retails for $700.
Perry, who teaches workshops on street-art graffiti and illustration at The Paint Spot and special events, became interested in commercial art when his mother married a tattoo artist. As a teenager, Perry apprenticed with his stepfather and worked as a tattoo artist for nine years before turning his full attention to other art forms.
“I find it very Zen. It’s a really nice way to relax and not overthink. It’s a nice escape.”