The Trzepak*
A social sculpture and workshop-based project about community, place, and imagination. Based in Łódż, Poland.


*A trzepak (CHEH-pock, carpet-beater) is a monument to a communist past that still exists in the urban landscape of former Eastern Bloc countries and regions. Neighbors hung their household carpet over their closest trzepak, beat the dirt and dust out of it and brought it home. Trzepaki were usually placed in central, semi-public spaces such as in the courtyards of apartment complexes. Although intended to serve a specific function, the tzrepak soon also became a community meeting place. Children in surrounding buildings used it as a makeshift playground and climbing structure, and local teens used it as a place to hang out. The trzepak was a place where the private and public met.

Part 1:
The Workshops

This project started as a workshop series with textiles students at the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódż, and eventually grew to include the tenants of Piotrkowska 36/38 (a building complex in the city’s downtown), and Stowarzyszenie dla Rodziny, a non-profit organization that was housed in the complex, which supported eldercare, people with physical and intellectual disabilities, and those experiencing mental illness.

Inspired by its role in play and as a meeting place, the students chose to create a set of floor cushions that could be placed around the trzepak to facilitate conversation. Over the course of the academic year, I led six textile workshops during which students, tenants, and the non-profit’s clients and staff created fabric elements based on the project themes, which were used to create fifteen large floor cushions. These were freely used by the community as extra seating at dinner parties and events, and reflected their makers as well as Polish folk art and craft traditions. The cushions officially debuted during a neighborhood celebration in the courtyard of Piotrkowska 36/38. There, the different groups of students, residents, and other participants had a chance to meet, and the project was widely shared on social media. Afterwards, the cushions continued to be used as seating in the courtyard and at a neighboring cafe.

Above: Cushions in use at a community celebration.
The Trzepak as social sculpture / play structure.

Residents and Stowarzyszenie dla Rodziny staff choosing a spot to place the Trzepak in their courtyard. We later learned that this location was used by Nazis for executions. 

Donated trzepak delivery

The Trzepak and the final communnity textile installed in the courtyard.
Part 2
Social Sculpture

This project began with the idea of exchange, around the shared experiences and associations of the Trzepak - a monument to personal stories, memories, and the transformation of something cold and functional into a meeting place and playground. With the help of the community, this idea became a physical reality which brought many people together in its realization.

Over the course of working together, the Stowarzyszenie and neighbors used the ongoing project documentation to receive a development grant for improvements to the courtyard, including the install of a physical trzepak. Installation took place over several months and engaged many building residents, bringing some into community for the first time. One elder had first lived in the courtyard cellar as part of a group of homeless child war orphans. 

The Trzepak was completed in advance of an annual celebration on September 30, 2023 during which we officially cut the ribbon on the project and presented it to the community and the local press. 

In cooperation with the following:
Zygmunt Łukasiewicz, Stowarzyszenie “Dla Rodziny”( staff, volunteers, and clients), residents of Piotrkowska 36/38, and students in the textile design workshop of Izabela Walczak, Academy of Fine Arts. Łódż, Poland.

Special thanks to Piotr and Izabela Chuchler of Stowarzyszenie “Dla Rodziny”.
Cushion sewing and construction: Beata Kośka and Oksana Mikheienkp.
Trzepak transport: Tomasz Zawadowski
Project documentation: Klaudia Borzęcka and Mike Seely

Student participants:
Marta Bartel
Klaudia Boręcka
Karolina Chyc
Wojciech Gomularz
Karolina Kara
Karolina Kędzia
Aleksandra Kropidlowska
with Paulina Soltyszewska

Made possible through a 2022/23 Poland / USA Fulbright research grant.

Photo Gallery

Project Background

The presentation I made introducing participants to the project included references to other textile-based, socially engaged work. This included The Names Project (AIDS Quilt) and work by artists Tanya Aquińiga and Pia Camil along with a quick primer on socially engaged practice.