Trash polka

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Combination of photorealistic surrealistic motifs with abstract elements in black and red

Trash Polka is a tattoo style created by tattoo artists Simone Pfaff and Volker Merschky in Würzburg, Germany.[1][2] The characteristics of Trash Polka tattoos can be a combination of naturalistic, surrealistic,[3] and photorealistic motifs with graphic, lettering, and calligraphic elements primarily in black & red.[4]


Trash polka is a mixed media form of tattooing that is created with various, non-limited components.[5] Detailed photo-realistic portraits can be displayed in conjunction with graphic elements such as large black areas, brush strokes, and geometric or abstract shapes.[6][7] The tattoos are traditionally in black and red, but other colors can be used as well.[8] The style is often cited for its use of color contrasts, such as complementary contrast, that create an optical effect.[9][10] Abstract designs and realistic motifs are key elements of the tattoo style. It is common for lettering to be included in the tattoos with distinctive varieties of fonts. The majority of original Trash Polka tattoos are done as large scale pieces in order to suit the motifs and elements.[11]


The term 'Trash Polka' was created in 1998 by Volker Merschky and Simone Pfaff at Buena Vista Tattoo Club in Würzburg.[12] The artists originally gave their work the name 'Realistic Trash Polka' because they combined realistic images (Realistic), with graphic, lettering and other artistic layers (Trash).[13] They chose to use it in a musical sense, combining everything together like a composition (Polka).[14] After some time, they shortened the name to Trash Polka because they did not want to set rules for their style.[15] Merschky has referred to their style as a “combination of realism and trash; the nature and the abstract; technology and humanity; past, present, and future; opposites that they are trying to urge into a creative dance to harmony and rhythm in tune with the body."[16] The initial challenges were two-fold: customers wanting to get tattoos in this style were scarce, as there was nothing similar to this style at the time.[17]

Volker Merschky and Simone Pfaff[edit]

After Merschky studied interior design and Pfaff worked as a graphic designer, they both began tattooing. They are also painters, photographers[18] and musicians.[19] The couple are known to have broken the stereotypes of the classic German tattoo style.[20] They have mixed different styles together such as realistic and graphic tattoos.[21] For example, they would cross a portrait with black lines or insert lettering over a photographic image. They would use meaningful words or bold colour strokes to create powerful visual representations.[22] This created vibrant contrast on the skin and made the tattoos stand out.[23]

Over time 'Trash Polka' began to receive global recognition & appeared in articles in tattoo magazines, books and websites.[24] Merschky and Pfaff said "We need open minded customers who can lay their hands off and trust us", but they admitted that many people get offended. The process is usually as follows: A customer comes into the studio, tells them their thematic idea and possible keywords from a song, poem or quote that they want included. Merschky and Pfaff then sit down on the computer, create two to three designs and presents it to the customer. They explained their thought process; "If we only did what people want, we would never have been able to develop anything new," says Merschky. Some of the elements that they use in the tattoos today, they painted years ago.[25] From then on, Merschky and Pfaff influenced many tattoo artists around the world with their style.[26] First in Europe, then Russia, Asia, South America, Australia and in the United States as well.[27]

Trash Polka Trademark[edit]

The name 'Trash Polka' is a word creation[28] and registered trademark by Volker Merschky and Simone Pfaff.[29][30][31]



  • Lal Hardy: The Mammoth Book of Tattoo Art[32]
  • Tattooisme 2 by Chris Coppola, Frédéric Claquin & Kitiza[33]
  • La Veine Graphique Vol. 2[34]
  • Day of the Dead Tattoo Artwork Collection by Edgar Hoill[35]
  • Black Tattoo Art 2[36][37]
  • The World Atlas of Tattoo by Anna Felicity Friedman[38]
  • Tattoo Handbook 2 by Dimitri Hk, Steph D., & Benjo San[39]
  • Cranial Visions[40][41]
  • Tattoo Prodigies 2[42]
  • Tattooing Über Alles Vol. 1 The Germans[43]
  • Back Piece Tattoo[44]


  • TattooFest (Poland) September 2008[45]
  • Tätowiermagazin (Germany) October 2006[46]
  • Total Tattoo Magazine (Great Britain) April 2009[47]
  • Tattoo Burst Magazine (Japan) September 2009 & July 2012[48]
  • Custom Tattooz (Australia) August 2009[49]
  • Skin Deep Tattoo Magazine (United Kingdom) October 2010[50]

Museum Catalogs

  • Tattoo Forever Rome- Gangemi Editore International Publishing[51][52][53]
  • Time Tattoo Art Today – Somerset House London – Tattoo Life Production[54]
  • Tätowierung in der Kunst – Museum Villa Rot Burgrieden- Stuttgart[55]

Music: Dobbs Dead

Dobbs Dead is a music project done by the two artists. Their music, which combines alternative music with American folk / country music with European influences, is characterized by a dark, melancholy feel that they call "post-mortem folk" music.[56] Pfaff played the pump organ and Merschky the guitar / harp / drums, and vocals were done by both of them.[57] They had finished their debut album Birth in the fall of 2010, which include 11 songs of original compositions.[58][59] With their music project, they also performed live regularly with changing band members.[60]

Art exhibitions[edit]

  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome 'Tattoo Forever' 2 June – 24 July 2016[61]
  • Museum of Art and Business, Hamburg 13 February – 6 September 2015[62]
  • Art gallery, Fürth 10 October – 8 November 2015[63]
  • Somerset House, London 'Time: Tattoo Art Today' 3 July – 5 October 2014[64]
  • Academy of Würzburg/Schweinfurt Faculty of Design ' Trash Polka' 17 June – 9 July 2014[65]
  • Museum Villa Rot, Stuttgart 'Gestochen Scharf' 24 March – 28 July 2013[66]
  • Gallery 59 / rue de Rivoli, Paris 'Menschenkinder' 13–25 September 2011[67]




  1. ^ "Artists – Trash Polka Tattoo".
  2. ^ (German)"Buena Vista Tattoo Club".
  3. ^ "Explained and Illustrated – KickAss Things". 29 January 2014.
  4. ^ Scandinavian Tattoo Magazine (90 ed.). 2009. p. 31.
  5. ^ (German)"Trash Polka: Ein wild-kreativer Tattoostil, der in Würzburg geboren wurde – Klonblog".
  6. ^ Rise Tattoo Magazine (07 ed.). p. 84.
  7. ^ (German)Häusle-Paulmichl, Gunhild (6 July 2017). Der tätowierte Leib: Einschreibungen in menschliche Körper zwischen ... Gunhild Häusle – Paulmichl – Google Books. ISBN 9783658179892.
  8. ^ "Buena Vista Tattoo Club – Studio Profile / Big Tattoo Planet".
  9. ^ Rise Tattoo Magazine (07 ed.). p. 86.
  10. ^ "Trash Polka Tattoos – Inked Magazine / Part 2".
  11. ^ (German)"Trash-Polka / Tattoo Magazin App".
  12. ^ "Artists – Trash Polka Tattoos by Volko Merschky & Simone Pfaff".
  13. ^ "The Treasure in the Trash / Speakeasy Tattoo / Los Angeles Tattoo Shop / Scott Glazier".
  14. ^ "Buena Vista Tattoo Club – Studio Profile / Big Tattoo Planet".
  15. ^ "What is the Trash Polka Style? – Inked Cartel".
  16. ^ "Tattoo Styles: Three Trending Styles Across Tattoo History – Find the best tattoo artists, anywhere in the world". 13 September 2015.
  17. ^ (German)"Tattoo-Kunst in Deutschland: Die groß Freiheit auf der Haut – Goethe – Institut".
  18. ^ "When tattoo artists put down the needle – in pictures / Art and Design / The Guardian". The Guardian. 7 July 2014.
  19. ^ "Dobbs Dead – Post Mortem Folk by Volker Merschky and Simone Pfaff".
  20. ^ "All You Need to Know about Trash Polka Tattoos".
  21. ^ "An introduction to the trash polka style / Inkluded".
  22. ^ "Juxtapoz Magazine – Buena Vista Tattoo Club".
  23. ^ (German)"*WIN* Tätowierte T-Shirts – Ein "Trash Polka" Interview".
  24. ^ (German)"Tattoo-Ausstellung im Schaugang an der FHWS – Würzburg – B4B Mainfranken".
  25. ^ (German)Haack, Melanie (13 December 2010). "Trash und Polka -WELT". Die Welt.
  26. ^ (German)"ROCK'N'ROAD – Tattoo /// Realistic-Special: Ist das ein Foto?".
  27. ^ Aitken-Smith, Trent; Tyson, Ashley (8 September 2016). The Tattoo Dictionary – Trent Aitken-Smith, Ashley Tyson – Google Books. ISBN 9781784722548.
  28. ^ "Volko Merschky & Simpne Pfaff / – everything about tattoo art on one map -Map".
  29. ^ "Artists – Trash Polka Tattoos by Volko Merschky & Simone Pfaff".
  30. ^ "Buena Vista Tattoo Club". Facebook.
  31. ^ "Realistic Trash Polka / Tattoodo". 31 January 2014.
  32. ^ Hardy, Lal (2012). Lal Hardy: The Mammoth Book of Tattoo Art. Hachette UK. ISBN 978-1-780-33921-4.
  33. ^ Coppola, Chris; Claquin, Frédéric; Kitiza (February 2013). Tattooisme 2 by Chris Coppola, Frédéric Claquin & Kitiza (Herscher ed.). ISBN 978-2-7335-0386-7.
  34. ^ Escarmand, Christophe (18 February 2015). La Veine Graphique Vol. 2 (Noire Meduse ed.). ISBN 978-2-9539778-2-0.
  35. ^ Hoill, Edgar (September 2013). Day of the Dead Tattoo Artwork Collection by Edgar Hoill (Reuss ed.). ISBN 978-3-943105-25-4.
  36. ^ Kakoulas, Maria (September 2013). Black Tattoo Art 2 (Reuss ed.). ISBN 978-3-943105-21-6.
  37. ^ "Black Tattoo Art 2: Modern expressions of the tribal : Modern expressions of the tribal von Marisa Kakoulas Edition Reuss 9783943105216 Gebundene Ausgabe - AHA-BUCH".
  38. ^ The World Atlas of Tattoo by Anna Felicity Friedman. Thames & Hudson. 2015. ISBN 978-0-500-51786-4.
  39. ^ Tattoo Handbook 2 by Dimitri Hk, Steph D., & Benjo San. Around the Caps. ISBN 978-2-918024-03-3.
  40. ^ Cranial Visions. Memento Publishing USA. October 2010. ISBN 978-0-615-39053-6.
  41. ^ " Hardcover Cranial Visions Tattoo Book : Tattooing Products : Books". Amazon.
  42. ^ Tattoo Prodigies 2. Memento Publishing USA. July 2014. ISBN 978-0-9896811-3-1.
  43. ^ "Tattooing über alles - Vol. 1 - Amboss Tattoo". Archived from the original on 7 December 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  44. ^ Back Piece Tattoo. Fujimi Publishing. November 2010. ISBN 978-4-89421-987-8.
  45. ^ "TF # 17, September 2008 by Tattoofest Magazine - issuu".
  46. ^ (German)"TätowierMagazin /// Deutschlands älteste Tattoo-Zeitschrift". Archived from the original on 26 September 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  47. ^ "Total Tattoo Magazine".
  48. ^ "Tattoo Burst".
  49. ^ "Custom Tattooz / Magshop". Archived from the original on 15 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  50. ^ "Skin Deep – The UK's Best Selling Tattoo Magazine".
  51. ^ (Italian)"Alla Pelanda un omaggio al mondo dei tatuaggi come opere d'arte / INSIDEART". 22 June 2016.
  52. ^ (Italian)"Tattoo, gli strumenti per farne un'arte – Arte – In Cartellone – Lifestyle". Archived from the original on 14 November 2017.
  53. ^ (Italian)"9788849232615 Federica Nicosia 2016 Tattoo Forever. Storia, Costume, Arte Contemporanea. – LibroCo.It".
  54. ^ "Time: Tattoo Art Today / Tattoo Life". Archived from the original on 15 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  55. ^ "Exhibitions – ArtminusZero".
  56. ^ "Dobbs Dead – Breathing". YouTube.
  57. ^ Tattoo Life Magazine (67 ed.). pp. 72–73.
  58. ^ "Dobbs Dead – Grain of Sand". YouTube.
  59. ^ "Trash Polka – Talking Trash". YouTube.
  60. ^ "Website Festivalticker".
  61. ^ "Tattoo Forever: Marco Manzo Brings Tattoos To The Museum / Tattoodo". July 2016.
  62. ^ (German)"Tattoo at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg / Art Blart".
  63. ^ "Skin Stories – Tattoo und Kunst – Fürth –". 2 October 2015.
  64. ^ ""Time: Tattoo Art Today" Show at Somerset House / The Hundreds".
  65. ^ (German)""Trash Polka": Simone Pfaff und Volko Merschky – eine fotographische Werkschau / Fakultät Gestaltung".
  66. ^ (German)"Ankündigung Ausstellung "Gestochen Scharf. Tätowierung in der Kunst" im Museum Villa Rot – Tattoo-Guide".
  67. ^ "Exhibitions – ArtminusZero".

Content in this edit is translated from the existing German Wikipedia article at de:Realistic Trash Polka; see its history for attribution.