Digital Projects Producer Zack Zerndt's new T-shirt cost $68.17 and arrived from overseas in about three weeks.
Stephanie Johnston Digital Projects Producer Zack Zerndt's new T-shirt cost $68.17 and arrived from overseas in about three weeks.

If you're like us, you have a soft spot for sewers (it happens when you've been working in public works long enough). So does Berlin-based artist Emma-France Raff. In 2008, she began using manhole covers to make T-shirts, hoodies, and bags in a project known as Raubdruckerin (that's German for "pirate printers"). After applying eco-friendly ink to manhole covers, vents, grids, and other public utilities, Rath uses a rolling pin to imprint the surface, which means -- well -- traffic must be temporarily diverted.

Raff has made prints in 10 European cities and hopes one day to take her project across the globe. Plans include a grand tour through Europe to collect all possible prints and traveling to Japan, which she believes has the most extravagant manhole covers in the world (see photo below). Who knows -- she could be spotted at a public utility near you in the not-too-distant future.

Sewer manhole decorated by picture of Nakatsu castle in Nakatsu city of Oita Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan.
Adobe Stock / joymsk Sewer manhole decorated by picture of Nakatsu castle in Nakatsu city of Oita Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan.

If you'd like to show off your love for all things water and wastewater, do what we did: Buy one of her 100% organic cotton T-shirts online (see photo above). Mine is from a manhole in Mitte, Berlin's central borough, on vintage white; but there are so many more options. Designs are black on white, blue, green, red, gray, and brown backgrounds. Prints include the manhole covers of Berliner Wasserbetriebe, the city's water company, whose 4,355 employees deliver 155 million gallons of drinking water daily and treat 159 million gallons of wastewater daily. Also, the manhole cover from the Neukoelln neighborhood of Berlin, which has a geometric pattern and the name of the neighborhood on the print.