The Trzepak*
A 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
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 meetings, 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. 

A participant with a group textile made during the community celebration 

Residents and Stowarzyszenie dla Rodziny staff choosing a spot to place the Trzepak in their courtyard.

Donated trzepak delivery
Part 2
As the project evolved, the tenants decided that they wanted to install a trzepak in a dis-used portion of their courtyard. One had been present in the courtyard during communist times, but was removed approximately 25 years ago.

The community was able to use documentation and the success of the project to petition for and receive a development grant for improvements to the courtyard. They also received permission from the building administration to install a trzepak.

The installation and improvements are scheduled to be completed on September 30th, to debut at an annual community event. Students and workshop participants will participate in a textile-based group action around the trzepak at this event.

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, Własdysław Strzemiński 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.P

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.