Pirate Printers Turn Street Surfaces Into Textile Prints

Have you ever stopped for a beautifully designed manhole cover you stumbled upon on the street? Probably not. Manhole covers and other surfaces of the urban landscape are usually taken for granted and not appreciated for how they look. However, there are people who are actually getting inspired by the beauty of manhole covers, printing the designs on T-shirts and other fabrics.

Raubdruckerin, loosely translated into “Pirate Printers”, is an experimental print-making project based in Berlin. The designers make use of the wide variety of surfaces in the urban landscape, such as manhole covers, grids or technical objects, to create unique graphic patterns on textile and paper. Every piece is hand-made on-site in public space. They say it’s a “footprint of the city”.

The story of Raubdruckering started a while ago in Portugal — founder Emma’s native country — with help from her artist father. After she moved to Berlin she became inspired by the beauty of the city’s manhole covers, which have unique geometric patterns, and in some cases a local area’s name. Well-known neighborhoods like Mitte, Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Friedrichshain all have their own patterns.

The main focus of the project is to explore surfaces of cities, search for overlooked, seemingly insignificant details on the pavement that, apparently, turn out to be true urban design pieces. The designers consider it as reversed street art. Most works are created on-site, using eco-friendly water-based ink. The interesting aspect is that the production process becomes completely visible and often attracts a crowd of spectators. Also, the results are affected by weather, time and season.

Since the project is based in Berlin, most prints are made in this city. Meanwhile prints from Amsterdam, Paris and Lisbon were added to the portfolio. In Amsterdam, a very local street tile with a picture of a bike was used, while the Lisbon print features the name of the Portuguese capital. The ultimate aim of the project is to discover and print surfaces in all kinds of places around the world. Their plan for the future includes a “Grand Tour” through Europe to collect all prints possible.