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 being sensitive to the beauty hidden in the unexpected, are main motivations of the project.

Raubdruckerin was formed and is mainly run by 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. He was telling her about manhole covers, that they are different everywhere in the world.

Emma was studying textile design in Porto in that time and was experimenting (actually already during her childhood) in several fields of manual design techniques not only printmaking.

They started talking about ideas around working artistically with manhole covers and Emma just wanted to see if she could use them to design fabrics. That’s how she started printing them on fabric and was very inspired by the results.

Soon they developed the idea to print T-shirts with them and presented their first creations on the festival ‘musical du mundo’ (2006) in Sines, Portugal. Back then they called the project “estampatampa”, which means roughly: print the cover. 

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.

Raubdrukerin also offers interactive workshops in each city location. This allows for members of the public to walk by and practice their own methods of textile printing and line making and also to feel closer to the process in itself.

Many people stop to talk and express themselves, when they meet Raubdruckerins printing team in the streets. Telling their stories. Sometimes it results in a small moment of awakening from the routine. It is unusual to see somebody working in the public space like Raubdruckerin is doing. We think it is important to use the city as a social space and demonstrate that the public space belongs to everybody. This project leaves a lasting impression on people and they talk about it to friends and family. In a way, they’re having an art experience in a very simple but powerful way. Everybody can access the beauty of it and starts seeing their city with new eyes.

The basics or the prints are all chosen carefully and are fair traded and made from organic cotton, as well as the ink used being water based and environmental friendly. Also, the printmaking method itself (relief printing) is very simple and needs very few material resources. All in all, the team around Raubdruckerin wants to promote the idea of “less is more”. Less consumption and more qualitative and customised clothing and accessories. And further to create awareness for the catastrophic labour and environmental conditions around fashion/clothing industry.

Raubdruckerin have since published videos onto Youtube and Facebook and received great feedback, gaining over 100 Million views in total!