August 15, 2017


        Raubdruckerin (“pirate printer”) is a project begun by Emma-France Raff in 2006.  Like the brass rubbings I featured in the last post, Raubdruckerin prints from textured plaques that were not designed to be printing blocks and that are set in public spaces rather than being in a studio.  Specifically, they choose surfaces in the urban landscape, especially manhole covers.  They look for textured surfaces that are unique and often iconic of their place, sometimes including images, sometimes abstract designs, and often text.  Unlike brass rubbings, Raubdruckerin actually does print as any other relief block, rolling ink onto the textured surface, and pressing.  (This means any text on the original is backwards on the print.)
        I have to confess that although I’ve thought of this idea myself - around here we have plaques near our storm drains with a great design of a fish - I had never seriously considered actually doing it!  Naturally it’s a bit of an undertaking to clean the selected surface, roll it with ink, and print on it, right there in the middle of the sidewalk or street of a busy city!  Raubdruckerin makes an event of it, so that the printing becomes a performance in its own right, inviting passers-by to notice so that they, too, can appreciate the beauty of something they may have walked over hundreds of times without noticing.
        I was quite delighted when I learned about this project, and would love to see the idea emulated in more cities, including the USA.  A quick search of manhole cover pictures on the internet turns up some really gorgeous ones around the world!  To see more of Raubdruckerin’s work (or buy some), check out their web site.

[Pictures: Printing a tote bag in Bruxelles;
T-shirt printed in Berlin;
T-shirts printed in Stavanger and Lisboa (All images from raubdruckerin);
Charles River storm drain (Image from Charles River Conservancy).]

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