They also print tote bags from utility grates, and gym bags from concrete!
Raubdruckerin is a Berlin-based printer that focuses on printing from found urban signage. I mean, have you ever looked at a manhole cover in your town? It’s kind of pretty, isn’t it, at least if you turn your head and squint? And doesn’t it also perhaps include some iconography of your town or state, something that identifies it and puts the manhole cover into geographic context?
Now imagine wearing that design printed onto your T-shirt or gym bag, and you have Raubdruckerin!
The neat thing about this art is that it tells much of the same story as a souvenir T-shirt, say, but in a way that’s truly authentic, and using icons that even locals may not have looked deeply enough at their city to recognize.The different sizing of the urban signage, and its different textures, also adds interest, and gives a really different look to the same old printing process.
Printing off of public spaces is automatically a greener choice than constructing your own plates and equipment, but Raubdruckerin also includes other eco-friendly elements into its process. The paint is water-based and absent solvents, plasticizers, or heavy metals; the T-shirt is organic cotton.
Public space printing is also special because of its intrinsically performative nature; check out this video of someone printing from a manhole cover, and look at how many fascinated by-standers there are. Seriously, the guy even gets applause at the end!
Inspired by this, I took extra notice of all of my town’s sewer grates and manhole covers while walking around with my kid the other day. Most of our manhole covers are emblazoned with the words “SANITARY SEWER”, which doesn’t seem that awesome to put on a t-shirt, but a different utility cover had a lovely pattern that would look very nice printed on a piece of plain white cotton and sewn into a pencil case…