ST. ALBANS CITY – Jhon Rodriguez grew up on the other side of the world in Colombia, but these days he’s raising his family in St. Albans.
And he brought his unique tattoo style.
The Rodriguezes – Jhon and Jodi – set up the couple’s latest tattoo parlor, 100 Candles, in St Albans City three months ago and they are looking to rebuild their client base in the area after moving here to raise their family.
“It’s a safer place to raise kids than Miami,” Jodi explained. “And I have family here.”
For Jhon, it’s something of a fresh start for the 47-year-old after a 28-year career as a tattoo artist. He spent years making a name for himself in his hometown of Bogota — Colombia’s capital of 7 million people — and later in Miami at his former shop, Rosa Negra. However, he is relatively unknown in St Albans.
Starting in Colombia
Jhon Rodriguez found out he wanted to be a tattoo artist at the age of 18. After getting his first tattoo – a Tasmanian devil – from a former girlfriend, he embarked on the career full of enthusiasm despite not having much guidance.
Tattooing was still in its infancy in the South American city at the time, Rodriguez explained, and he had to find ways to practice the art by being imaginative, making his own tools, and learning through practice. He estimated that the entire city of Bogota only had 10 tattoo parlors at the time, and they weren’t too keen on teaching a young man how to tattoo.
However, over the years Rodriguez perfected his craft and gained a reputation for dedication, often putting in long days and weekends due to his obsession.
He also got many commissions from local musicians in Bogota’s punk scene, who appreciated his definitive art style, full of hard-edged lines that resist the blunting that often comes with age.
After a decade as a tattoo artist, Jodi Rodriguez came into Jhon’s world by accident.
She had worked in the tattoo supply industry in New York and was visiting Colombia on vacation. A friend of hers knew Jhon, she said, and she ended up going to a party where he was celebrating the opening of a new salon in Bogota.
They didn’t even speak that night, but the two eventually connected via social media and chatted afterwards via Google Translate. Jhon couldn’t speak a word of English at the time and Jodi couldn’t speak Spanish. But somehow it worked.
Jodi eventually moved to South America to be with Jhon, much to her family’s chagrin.
They made it to Miami a few years later, where Jhon opened another store, Rosa Negra. They lived there for about a decade before moving to Vermont to be closer to family.
Despite changing locations, Jhon’s obsession with tattooing has remained constant.
Even his vacations often revolve around tattooing, Jodi said, and Jhon uses his time to meet up with clients while the family checks out other attractions.
“I can’t stop because I’m dying,” Jhon said.
Rodriguez said he was intrigued by the idea of making symbolic art that stays with a person. Creating something under the skin is almost a primal idea, he said.
Because of this focus, Rodriguez does not create art for other media, and his style has evolved specifically for artworks that look best when the body is the canvas. He focuses on strong, well-defined lines with lots of color – reminiscent of both Japanese and Native American styles – depicting some sort of animal, which he says stems from a strong personal connection to nature.
“We’re vegetarians,” said Jhon Rodriguez. “We try to take care of everything that is around us or in nature.”
Jhon’s style is evident at his tattoo parlor in St Albans. The Rodriguezes’ simple room on the third floor of American House is filled with color, with artwork covering nearly every inch of the room’s four walls.
However, he hopes people will take notice of his tattoo work. He relies on both social media and word of mouth to build his reputation outside of Colombia. The Rodriguezes are also involved in the community as they raise their children in the local school system.
Jodi, who has her own fair share of tattoos, said it will take time. She’s met some people who aren’t sure how to react, but she’s also seen less stigma surrounding tattoos. With many other tattoo artists in the area, the two are sure they can find their niche.
“I said from the start. I always want to learn,” said Jhon. “I have a style that is evolving.”