Arts·Paper Cuts

We're genuinely pretty freaked out — in a good way — by what Cybèle Young can do with paper

The Toronto artist bends Japanese paper to her will to create works that are fragile, miniature and full of power.

The Toronto artist bends Japanese paper to her will to create works that are fragile and full of power

We're genuinely pretty freaked out by what Cybèle Young can do with paper

2 years ago
Duration 7:10
Artist Cybèle Young turns paper into string, tentacles and a creature from the sea.

This video is part of our new series Paper Cuts, in which you get to be hypnotized by artists doing incredible things with paper, scissors, glue sticks and X-Acto knives.

Watching Cybèle Young make one of her paper-based artworks is almost kind of scary. She can take Japanese paper and make things out of it that seem impossible — like, for instance, the jellyfish you'll see her making here.

To give her pieces strength and flexibility, Young uses a Japanese craft called shifu — basically, making paper into thread. And that kind of strength is balanced by the fragility of the paper she uses to make things like jellyfish tentacles. It's all in service of creating a more expansive world. Young says, "Most of my life, I've been working in miniature. I think that there is a psychological component, in that you can control your world. You can create a sort of Lilliputian world that you can project yourself into and it can be anything you want. And I do want my audience to be able to do that as well."

Cybèle Young at work in her studio. (CBC Arts)
I work with paper because it's not precious.- Cybèle Young

In this video made by filmmakers Arnika Tamatoa and Jess Hayes, you get a look into Young's world as she re-creates one of her elaborate jellyfish. Settle in — this is a dreamy ride through Young's process, from creating shifu to meticulously gluing the structure of the jellyfish together, to making the entire creature come alive. And at the end, Young says, "The ability to destroy it is as wonderful as the ability to make anything out of it. It's just paper. I need to know that I can destroy it as easily as I can turn it into something."

Follow Cybèle Young here. And stay tuned for more Paper Cuts artists to come!


Lise Hosein is a producer at CBC Arts. Before that, she was an arts reporter at JazzFM 91, an interview producer at George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. When she's not at her CBC Arts desk she's sometimes an art history instructor and is always quite terrified of bees.