[ger. Raubdruckerin: female pirate printer ]
raubdruckerin is an experimental printmaking project, that uses urban structures like manhole covers, grids, technical objects and other surfaces of the urban landscape, to create unique graphical patterns on streetwear basics, fabrics and paper. Every piece is hand printed, mainly on-site in the public space, as a footprint of the city. raubdruckerin is based in Berlin, but works as well regularly in other metropolis like Amsterdam, Lisbon and Paris.
The main focus is to explore the surfaces of cities, searching for overlooked, seemingly insignificant details on the pavement, which turn out to be true urban design pieces. They reveal unobserved parts of cities, that are full of history, diversity and creativity.
The process of converting a detail of the city into an image, displayed on somebody’s chest, can be considered as reversed street art. A part of the city is being extracted from its origin and brought to new life in a different context. By carrying the image around, people become part of the project themselves. To stimulate our perception regarding the relationship to our surrounding, refine everyday routines, as well as beeing sensitive to the beauty hidden in the unexpected, are main motivations of the project.
raubdruckerin was formed and is mainly run by dipl. raubdruckerin Emma-France Raff. Back in 2006, when she was still living in Portugal, she developed the idea together with her father, painter Johannes Kohlrusch, in his studio in rural Alentejo. First experiments took place on a road towards Lisbon and after seeing the results, the journey began. Initially named estampatampa they presented their creations at the Festival “Musicas do Mundo” 2006 in the town of Sines.
Two years later, back in Berlin, Emma got inspired by the local manhole covers and she started printing the motives ‘Mitte’, ‘Kreuzberg’, ‘Neukölln’ and ‘Friedrichshain’.
Production in public
The pieces are printed on-site, at the original location of the chosen manhole cover or similar object. The fact, that this way of textile printing is taking place outside, in the public space, creates situations that would never happen in conventional textile printing and manufacturing. It allows passengers to become viewers, observing the process as it evolves. It creates possibilities for communication, exchange and spontaneity. Furthermore production depends on factors like weather, time and season, which makes the project human. This approach takes a critical view and offers an alternative viewpoint on nowadays mass production.
The overarching concept includes to attain sustainability through all fields of action. From choosing the producer of our blanks, to deciding which paint we’re gonna use for our prints, to the way and place we work.
The printing process
Our low-tech printmaking technique is a simple, manual procedure. It can be considered as a kind of relief printing with objects used in a non-intended way (manhole covers as printing templates). Nor additional printing plates or screens, neither a printing-press is required and the overall consumption of resources and material is reduced to a minimum. We only use eco friendly ink for our printworks. The ink is water-based and 100% free from petrol.
All our products are made of certified organic cotton, the Hoodies having a certain part of recycled polyester, and are fair traded. The producers are part of the Fairwear Foundation (FWF) and are certified by the global Standard for organic fibers GOTS.
Our team consists of mainly 2 constant members and occasional contributions of others – mostly friends – if needed. In the long term we would like to build up a small dedicated team – working under fair, anti authoritarian conditions, creating a friendly and respectful environment, which allows creativity to prosper. That as well is part of what sustainability means for us.
Since we are based in Berlin, that is where most of our motives are from and that’s the place where we print the most. Nonetheless we do not limit our work to a local level. We want to discover and print surfaces in all kinds of places around the world. When we travel to somewhere, half of our luggage consists of our working materials and we are always looking for printable surfaces to produce a small series to bring back home.
Our plans for the future include a ‘Grand Tour’ through Europe to collect all prints possible and also we dream about traveling through Japan, the place with the most extravagant manhole covers in the world.
The impressive motive ‘Berlin Mitte’ is made by the manhole cover of the local water company ‘Berliner Wasserbetriebe‘. It displays some of Berlin’s most famous landmarks, making this print a very popular and authentic souvenir. You can find it in major public plazas like Alexanderplatz. We mostly prefer to print it in the historic Nikolaiviertel.
The manhole cover in our neighborhood ‘Neukoelln’ produces the most hip image, consisting of a geometrical pattern and the inscription Neukölln. It belongs to the local district heating plant.
As a contrast we like to print the ‘Kreuzberg’ manhole cover, which appears rough and minimalistic. It comes from a very simple manhole cover with a metal grid in the center and a concrete surface around it – used by a telephone provider.
In ‘Friedrichshain’ we found a wonderful cover, which reveals an exotic image with an Aztec-style pattern and lets you imagine that it might lead to some distant utopia. As a new addition we discovered a very rare manhole cover in ‘Berlin Reuterplatz‘ with a star in the center and some nice old school typography, which we started to print very recently.
Workshops & Events
raubdruckerin is hosting regular ‘street printing’ workshops at selected events, festivals and neighborhood fiestas with focus on creative exchange, under involvement of people of all ages and backgrounds.