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Metro Cities: These artists are turning overlooked city elements into clothes

Berlin-based printmaking company Raubdruckerin makes urban structures wearable by transferring images onto clothing.

RAUBDRUCKERIN STREET ART One of Raubdruckerin's finished products. The Berlin-based printmaker uses urban structures, like manholes and drains, to create wearable designs. Uploaded by: Markus, Jade

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RAUBDRUCKERIN STREET ART One of Raubdruckerin's finished products. The Berlin-based printmaker uses urban structures, like manholes and drains, to create wearable designs. Uploaded by: Markus, Jade

Manholes, drains, pavement and tracks — the elements of a city that are often overlooked inspire Emma-France Raff.

She’s the founder of Berlin-based experimental printmaking company Raubdruckerin, which makes urban structures wearable by transferring images onto clothing like T-shirts, sweaters and totes.

Raff and other Raubdruckerin print makers travel across Europe, finding small details to turn into designs.

“It’s nice to find something that has a relation to the city,” Raff said.

That could be a surface that says Barcelona, a piece of sidewalk with an imprint of a bike in Amsterdam, or tram tracks in Lisbon.

But sometimes, Raff is inspired by any interesting pattern or surface.

“[It could be] old wood that you find on the street, and you say ‘nice pattern,’” she said.

The idea started out as a collaboration between Raff and her father—who is a painter—when they lived in Portugal. After a few test prints, they brought their work to festivals, and the concept expanded from there.

The name Raubdruckerin means pirate printer, Raff said.

“It’s a feministic statement, because most of the [names] in Germany are masculine,” she said.

She added that some people think the pirate part of the name is provocative, since it means to copy something, “but actually, it’s more about appreciating and giving attention to overlooked objects, and giving them a new life.”

Raubdruckerin launched its newest T-shirts on Nov. 11.

Do it yourself:

Raubdruckerin runs workshops on printmaking, and Raff warned the process is not as easy as it looks, but has tips for those looking to try their hand at it.

First, find a cool surface—it can be tiles, drains—even trash, Raff said. It’s important to clean the surface before starting.

Use a small ink roller to spread an eco-friendly water-based textile ink evenly across the surface you want to imprint.

Lay the fabric onto the surface where you want the design to appear—Raff recommends fair trade certified organic cotton material. Carefully lift the imprinted fabric from the surface.

When finished, clean up after yourself. Raff said a water-based ecological ink should wash up easily enough. You can use scrubbing tools to get into cracks.

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