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Turning waste into art: How doomed trees in Warsaw were turned into sculptures

The rotting trees in Warsaw’s Fairytale Square were saved from being hauled off to the chipper. Several metres of the tree trunks were allowed to remain and were carved into playful sculptures.

art and culture Updated: Jan 27, 2018 16:50 IST
Associated Press
Warsaw,Fairytale Square,Travel
A tree sculpture of a floppy-eared teddy bear known as Mis Uszatek, a beloved Polish cartoon character. (Instagram/Pablozet)

To residents of one Warsaw neighborhood, the rotting trees in Fairytale Square didn’t deserve a sad ending. So instead of being hauled off to the chipper, several metres of the trees’ weak trunks were allowed to remain standing and carved into playful sculptures.

Barbara Laszczkowska, an activist in Warsaw’s Ochota district, came up with the idea for repurposing the trees in Plac Basniowy — Polish for Fairytale Square — when city officials ordered them removed, fearing they could topple during storms.

Laszczkowska found a sculptor who used a chainsaw to create three fanciful creations: an owl sitting on books; an elf under a mushroom; and a floppy-eared teddy bear known as Mis Uszatek, a beloved Polish cartoon character. “Because this is Fairytale Square, such a beautiful name, it is a pity to cut these trees to the ground and not to leave anything,” said Laszczkowska, as she leaned against the owl.

“I just wanted to prolong the life of these trees, and at the same time, make our residents enjoy their stay in this beautiful square, which has just a lot of possibilities,” she said.

When city officials ordered the trees taken down, Laszczkowska asked if 3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet) of each trunk could be left in place. A local gardening company agreed to sponsor artist Andrzej Zawadzki’s work. It cost 5,000 zlotys, or about 1,200 euros or $1,500. Families and school groups flocked to the square during the 12 days Zawadzki spent transforming dead wood into playful art.

Zawadzki, who is from the nearby town of Mszczonow, said he was overwhelmed by the positive response, describing “amazing emotions of joy” expressed by residents. Some showed their gratitude by bringing him hot tea as he worked outside on the snow-covered square, which the artist said he found “gloomy” despite its name and tried to infuse with “a touch of colour”.

“I really like it,” resident Adam Prokop said as he strolled through the square. “It is a pity to waste such a cut trunk, so now children will have fun — and residents from the area, too.”

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First Published: Jan 27, 2018 16:49 IST