The Art of Ink: Trash Polka

(introductory music) – [Narrator] It’s so
different, so clean and classy and beautiful and abstract
and all of the things that make tattooing loose and
tight and fine and wonderful. – [Nic] People tend to think
the body has restrictions on certain points, and the
whole point of Trash Polka, is to look at the whole
body as a canvas and be able to stretch those limits. – [Chris] Trash Polka can move from one part of the body to another. It’s very free-flowing in that sense. – [Nic] It’s a mix
between nature and chaos. The bold style, the realism, it’ll kind of splash off the arm across the body. – [Chris] When you take a
really well done portrait and then you take this
boldness of say a silhouette, and it stops you for at
least a minute where you want to look at it and say, oh
my God, that’s really cool. Trash Polka does that to people. (resonant music) – Tattooing was actually nothing that I had planned. I went to law school and I got a degree in sociology and criminology. I was actually selling a Blackberry on Craigslist one day, and
someone had messaged me to trade a tattoo kit for the Blackberry. I’ve always been really good at art, but it was nothing that
I was ever planning on doing for money or anything. And then when tattooing fell into my hand, it was just like, started
doing some free ones on some friends, and then that kind of overnight turned into
people wanting to pay for it and it was something I was
able to do for a living. – I got into tattooing
about 18 years ago or so. I actually kind of fell into it. I ended up getting a flat tire
on my way to work one day, and I pulled into the
place to get my tire fixed. I had some art sitting on my seat and the guy who was
fixing my tire happened to be into tattooing and
offered to teach me how, we went from there. – I discovered Trash Polka pretty early on when I started tattooing. I was lucky enough to
take a trip over to London to do a convention over there. If you go overseas, they just
have a much more abstract sense of the way they do things. They like the smeariness,
they like paint brush strokes, they like the big graphic look. When you start talking
about American-traditional, that’s super awesome to them because nobody does it over there, so that is just as cool to them really as Trash Polka is to us, it’s
just because it’s not common in an art, who wants to be common? (bright music) Trash Polka was invented by
two tattoo artists in Germany. Named Volko and Simone, they
are both musicians and artists. They opened Buena Vista
Tattoo Club in 1998. What Volko and Simone did was
they took all these rules, and kind of set them aside, and they just used the whole
entire body as a canvas. They wanted to create a tattoo style, they kind of represented their music. The style is a way of
meshing realism with trash. Polka is a type of folk dance that’s really common overseas. If this is something that
you really want to get, and you want a true,
natural Trash Polka piece, you can not get a Trash
Polka piece from anybody but Simone and Volko. You’ve got to go to Germany,
and you’ve got to go to Buena Vista Tattoo Club, and that’s where you can get one at. – The art that has been coming out of those two people, his
line, structure, depth, boldness, softness, I
think most of the people that are tattooed by them
would probably prefer not to wear clothing anymore. Your body has become a
canvas because that’s how amazing you look now. I just love it! (upbeat music) – Trash Polka is often times a collage of very random things put together. One of the coolest
things about Trash Polka, is the way you can take
things that really have nothing to do with each other. You’ve got your natural elements
and your chaotic elements, and you’re able to kind of
collage them all together and make it look like one piece of art. That’s why the style is
so rare and hard to do. – I think Trash Polka has a certain energy that almost reflects the German language. You know, it’s very beautiful,
but it’s very brash. There will be lines that
cut a total section off, but the negative element
becomes part of the tattoo. Open skin can be just
as much part of the art as solid black. – A lot of that style of tattooing is going to be very mechanical, and then it’s going to be
soft like a face or skin. And then there’s going
to be something really hard in it like a wire or a building. When they harmonize
right, you might have a really nice Trash Polka style tattoo. – When a Trash Polka tattoo is done right, it should definitely tell a story. The photo that you choose
to reference for your piece is the most important part of it. That’s what your tattoo’s
going to look like. So a lot of times, when we come in, we’ll spend two or three
hours just finding one image. Even if it’s something as basic as a rose. It’s a rose that’s going to go on them for the rest of their life and
you need the perfect rose. It’s like a puzzle, whichever
one looks best in that angle, that’s kind of the one you wanna go with. – Most people have a back story of why they want the tattoo, or what the tattoo means. And I always like to get at
least five or ten minutes of that because I really
feel like I do a better job when I kind of know what it meant to them, or why they are doing
it, so an element that I would have made soft before,
maybe I’ll make it hard because it should be more important. When I start to do a
Trash Polka style tattoo on somebody and I try to
bring in those elements, that make people want to know the story of why you got that done. An anchor is an anchor sometimes, or a rose is a rose sometimes. But when a rose is with a skull, it’s bleeding, and there’s sadness. I think that just speaks volumes. – With Trash Polka you definitely
see a lot of lettering. It’s very graphic, it’s very heavy. Certain quotes or phrases
that’ll really punch out and give specific meaning to the tattoo. – [Nic] Trash Polka is
supposed to be turning your body into one piece of art. You will see black and gray
in the realism side of it. You’ll generally see
large bold areas of black, mixed with one single color. – Color used with a Trash Polka tattoo is usually minimalist. Punches of red, punches of
blue, a lot of softer tones to really contrast the dark
blacks and heavy shading. – [David] I’m mostly a traditionally black and gray tattoo artist. But when you mess with that
Trash Polka type style, you’re definitely going to
be using an accent color. Red, blue is popular,
something that contrasts that black really nice. (soft music) – One of the really cool
things about Trash Polka, is one of my favorite
things is the boldness is designed to see from across the room. It’s just the style that
I’ve always been doing. I can truly say that even
if I wasn’t getting paid, I’d probably still wanna come
in here and do what I do. – To me, Trash Polka is blending a whole piece that works with the body. It just inspired me
because I wasn’t seeing anything like that. It’s really amazing. – [David] People come to us for tattooing that’s bold and abstract. Trash Polka offers that wow factor, that, oh my God, that’s really cool. You get such a beautiful feeling, your story is right there,
for everyone to see.


  • George Johnson

    Awesome Skin Art………………………………

  • GamingWithZ

    very nice I love this so much

  • Gabriel Taylor

    Sick of seeing the commercial thumbs down.

  • Motionless Productions

    this i the art i was looking for like 2 years

  • Viti

    is there gonna be a geometric tattoo episode?

  • piere de waaier

    just seeing the workspaces says enough. what a farce.

  • johnnyscifi

    Im moving to eastern europe to get all dis!! Plus, im sick of north america, north american girls, and im lonely as fuck

  • kevin 8039

    I don't like it personally.

  • Johanna Kromm

    this is amazing!

  • Shannon Veldink

    I really like this style of tattooing but I don't like the way they traced things, maybe that's part of the style, but I don't like it

  • Starlah B

    Love this series.

  • Steini Stein

    I just stumbled upon this video and Buenavista is in the city I live in, about 15 minutes from my place. I knew they were very popular and and booked for like years… but I had no idea that it was this big.
    I love this style for the way it just flows on the body. I don't like about most tattoos that they just look a bit misplaced and lost, just a little dot on this big canvas, if you know what I mean… I really like it

  • Tori Hunter

    This is so amazing!!

  • Tisha

    I have become obsessed with doing a sleeve in trash polka. I started with an anatomical heart in black and grey with red graphic over it an I am slowly piecing what else I like. I would love to get to Germany and have it done right.

  • xblackbloodangelx

    i definitely want a trash polka tattoo now

  • Joakim

    I've seen higher quality art in Hot Topic. Seriously, this is the most stupid looking tattoo style. Most of what I've seen looks like the portfolio of a first year alternative graphics student (and the rest is not much better) and also like it's been tattooed by the same person with no knowledge or care for the shape of the body, what's going to hold up over time and what's just going to become a mess.

    Also why don't they learn to fucking draw instead of spending hours online to look for roses. Draw one.
    And last but not least: talks about the boldness that can be seen from across the room, and in the next shot and all throughout this clip we see pictures of tattoos that have very important areas done up in a very soft shading and no outline. Tell me that's not just going to melt into the skin after 10 years making the face unrecognizable.

    These people have very little clue about tattooing and I would never even get tattooed by anyone who has
    a work station that looks like a dentist office. Incredibly lame. Don't buy into this or water color tattoos.

  • Max Komarov

    Love working in this style…@maxkomarovart

  • Kato Geukens

    i thought he literally sold a blueberry as in the fruit ?

  • Tyler Durden

    Very German

  • Will Thompson

    I hope he has a BlackBerry tattoo now.

  • Cool Beans


  • Second Power

    This reminds me of the merch rock bands or their CD covers from 2000s with the skulls and the font

  • ryker simms

    1k like

  • Dawna

    i have three tattoos this style…….so amazing!

  • Jorge Antunes

    vou estudar esse stilo

  • Jorge Nitales

    wow trash polka is Love ?

  • Tim Hansen

    I always think it is fascinating to hear how tattoo artists just ended up tattooing people by a coincidence.

  • Thebear

    I used to live in the german city the studio is at, their tattoos are truly amazing! Its not the style I'd like on my body so I never was in their shop but I love to see it on other people!

  • Raymond Davis

    This is one of the most punk things I have ever seen, and it's beautiful. If only I didn't have chronic eczema. 🙁

  • Dudeineedaname

    I remember seeing nic westfall at club tattoo back in the day he is a great person and awesome tattoo artist

  • ongo bongo

    This style looks like shit

  • Mikhail Kalashnikov

    Show do bola …

  • Oopsie Poopsie

    I saw this video a long time ago. Watching it again I realize how pretentious these dicks sound

  • Chloe

    This is my absolute favorite style of tattooing

  • sEan A

    It's collage art in tattoo form, guys. Stop acting like you made up something new. It already existed for a while.

  • Aree Oree

    It’s really beautiful. I can’t imagine having it on a whole section of my body though ?. I’m lame.

  • S M

    Whenever I see trash polka tats with the black and gray and splashes of red, it makes me think of those frames photos you can buy at Ikea with the icon London Routemaster bus in red on a black and gray background….

    No disrespect intended.

  • Greg Dundee

    Personally not a huge fan but each to their own

  • Cool Netflix documentary named joe

    Will I regret liking traditional style or no

  • Spencer Gomez

    Can someone explain to me the difference between trash polka tattoos and abstract tattoos? Thanks!

  • Michael Moore

    Those guys only invented the verbiage "trash polka"…. The art form has been around since before the 60's. Andy Warhol was doing this, and other, very similar styles of art, way before tattooing was even really popular in the United States. There's just been a resurgence of popularity for this art form, in tattooing, as of the last 10 years, but it's definitely not new to this generation. In fact it's a good bet that everything has been done before by one or more artists in the past. Tattoo artists have been breaking new ground since it became hugely popular back in the 90's. Before then, it was illegal in most of the 48 states. Artist's, in general, have been covering this style in their portfolios way before it was given an 'official, name that actually stuck. I can name a handful of artists, such as, Mark Ramos(also now a world re-known tattoo artist), of Iowa State University, that used this, and other, similar art styles in his thesis for his Doctorate degree, back in the late 90's. It just wasn't called "Trash Polka" back then.

  • KayC 344

    this is very interesting

  • KayC 344

    Trash Polka Tattoo aka Hipster Tattoo

  • Mariano Lopez

    I see nothing but white people getting these types of tattoos and in the comment section

  • Daniel Scheer

    The coolest style ever.

  • Lewis Sowerby

    I appreciate the originality of trash polka, I personally think it looks horrible though

  • Heretic

    this style is so cool, when done well…. I do have to wonder how it ages. Guess we will have to wait and see.

  • Etienne Astic

    Volko Merschky is the Best.

  • Ronnie Darko

    I was gonna get a tattoo in this style but it got me wondering how long will these tattoos last. Its probably gonna fade out once its healed.

  • Drew Livinhislife

    Who does this kind of work in LA??? HMU

  • bumble

    1) but how well do trash polka tattoos age; american traditional are relatively simple because the thick lines and limited colors age really well with you.

    2). so he started out a scratcher?

  • Joe Buczkowski

    i would call it like punk rock ransom note style.

  • InnerPull

    so essentially they got excited about photoshop at the turn of the century, went overboard making a collage with all the effects they couldnt do before in microsoft paint, and then did it on skin. and im only hearing about it now. and it still looks like a shitty overdone photoshop collage from the turn of the century. what a novelty.

  • Jay Paglia

    Interesting art, but this technique won't age well, particularly the photo-realistic parts.

  • brbjuke45

    Looks stupid, but hey that's one dumb's opinion

  • Whyntir

    i love trash polka. it is beautiful chaos.

  • akhaiiro

    My god, that blue accented piece was incredible

  • Alicedraws

    This style is both very odd yet very well made. It's organized chaos. Personally I would not get one as I am more leaning to another style but I would love to someday be able to create one of these for someone who really wants it.

  • PercyLeMat

    Reminds me a little of Dave McKean.

  • Nova Caress official

    It's just a bad attempt at fine art.

  • ScavChurch

    Apb reloaded tattooing


    Lettering to look like a ransom note! ffs

  • Nina blaa

    I got my first Tattoo at Buena Vista! Well, it wasn't a Trash Polka, but their guest artists are pretty awesome too.

  • Eladio Herrera

    Love this style for myself! It goes with the art style i love to do, sucks that i have to go to Germany to get it…not sure if there are more options of artist here in the U.S who do it besides these guys.

  • Chris P

    it seems very lame im sorry not a fan

  • storm pooper

    Fly moronso

  • laisa marques

    It looks like the Watchmen art style


    Looks ducking stupid lol

  • FreeRhythm

    I need this.

  • Koppakuoriainen

    I really love the trash polka style. Black with a little touch of red here and there is awesome.

  • 21whichiswhich

    Actually, I really like it.

  • Alissa Lou

    idk if its my style, but its cool to see how passionate people are about this style.

  • Jesse Wanderss

    Graphic design for ur body. I just fell in love.

  • FutebolMusicaDance

    The perfect blend of harshness, catharticism, bold, yet artistic, balanced, and uses the whole body as its canvas. No wonder I've been redrawn to this style BUT fuck I gotta shell out for a large piece and plane tickets to Germany lol.

  • weirdmanu

    I have trash polka in progress. Untill now we do the cover up… All black. Soooo painful and there is so black. But I think when it s over become so cool

  • Neil Dickson

    best ive seen at it is florian karg

  • nikon d3200

    I like american ink

  • Laghagua

    amazing ART.

  • alan king's randomness

    3:11 that piece looks VERY similar to the tattoo on Bray Wyatt's shoulder (wwe wrestler)

  • paabs

    at 4:44 it shows him tracing a skull. serious question, so you dont really need to learn how to draw then?

  • Tenjin Ikeda

    Wonderful to see the possibilities of tattoo art!

  • 3a3a3a

    Every art form has to be respected, but trash polka is an absolute disgusting garbage

  • Dalton Schaible


  • Karl Malone

    i know what will be my first tattoo 😀

  • Sav Vong

    Worst style to come out of modern tattooing

  • John Lane

    Yeh I'm most certain my next piece will b trash polka from artist in Vegas! There's got 2 be 2-3 artists in sin city who can do this style. Must do research.

  • Tommy Robinson_boi

    Old dusty ass Germans idk y’all da sketchiest out of all Europe

  • joey fingahs

    what was this style called again? XD

  • Jack Pendergrass

    No credit to Simone and Volko ?

  • Marcus Ng

    i think Trash Polka is influenced by David Carson, during the Ray gun magazine period (an alternative music and lifestyle magazine.

  • Brandon Inman

    Not that I don't appreciate the style – it's sort of a new age DADAism – but most trash polka looks like lazy photoshop work on someone's body. That full body work they showed at 2:53 was amazing though.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *