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Who says you need a fancy printing press and machinery to create your own t-shirt designs? The Berlin collective called Raubdruckerin (“Pirate Printers”) have taken to their own city streets with only a paint roller, ink, and a keen eye for geometric patterns. The group finds street fixtures—like manhole covers and vents—applies ink directly to the ground, and then they stamp these intricate designs onto shirts and tote bags.
The real work of the street art pirates is to reveal the neglected designs of the city—the little exhibits on show for us everyday that we often walk right over without notice. The diversity and creativity that goes into designing a simple manhole cover is astounding, and deserves to be celebrated. Although Raubdruckerin is headquartered in Berlin, the collective travels around the world, discovering the literal street art of cities like Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Paris. Each city has its unique patterns and typography that goes into simple street fixtures. Each manhole cover and grate becomes a chance to study a different culture.
Because almost all of the print works are directly printed on the object in a public space rather than in a private studio, there is a performance element to Raubdruckerin’s products. You—the tourist, the resident, the shop owner, the child, the parent—are invited to learn, observe, and converse about perception, places, and found objects. Sometimes, the group invites spectators and passersby to print their own one-of-a-kind t-shirts. If you don’t happen to find yourself in one of these cities, Raubdruckerin also sells their creations on their online shop, so you can be a pirate too.