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© włodi/Flickr
© włodi/Flickr
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Raubdruckerin: The Art Collective That Prints Designs From Manhole Covers

Picture of Lily Cichanowicz
Updated: 24 September 2016
Berlin has always been lauded for its edgy, experimental creative scene. Meanwhile, the city’s street fashion extraordinaires usually don urban-inspired designs. Combining both of these elements into one cohesive look, Raubdruckerin art collective literally prints its clothing with designs from drains and manhole covers around the city, a project which first began in 2006.

These striking prints and patterns can be worn on totes, t-shirts, hoodies, gym bags, and more, coming in styles that are surprisingly appealing. The creative minds behind the project were able to catch an untapped source for artistic inspiration in some of the most mundane aspects of an urban landscape. The manhole covers are often chosen because they feature the names of various districts around Berlin.

Thus, they are ideal for the forward thinking Berliner, as the items often feature the mirror images of the district’s name surrounded by the patterned grooves of the manhole cover. Other items sport the outlines of Berlin’s iconic skyline.

The group makes their prints on location, inking up the manhole covers and fixing the images to totes and t-shirts right then and there, so it’s possible to catch them working around the city if you keeps an eye out. The operation is surprisingly discrete in its minimalism, however, as the artists’ supplies consists solely of a cardboard frame, some paint, brushes, and whichever articles of apparel they chose for that batch.

Still, the visibility brought to the operation via the on-site printing process has garnered the collective the most publicity of any advertising efforts they’ve used.

The alternative spirit of the project is evident in the name itself, which translates to mean ‘pirate printers’. Indeed, these renegade artists are applying the unseen elements of our urban setting to their canvases in unusual, creative ways. In making these prints, they are also helping to preserve a snapshot of the way things currently look in the city, with a particular focus on areas that most might not otherwise think to capture.

In fact, the group’s goal is ‘to bring people together by organizing street performances and to sensitize people´s view for the little and seemingly unimportant things in life’. While the paint they use fades quickly from the actual manhole covers, it lasts on the apparel, even through machine washes.

What’s more is that the group has expanded the operation to include cities like Lisbon, Paris, Amsterdam, and beyond. Want some hand printed Raubdruckerin apparel of your own? Check out their online shop, here.