DARYL RODRIGUEZ // tattoo artist
With his own unique style in his 6 years of tattooing is the 25 year old co-owner of Hold It Down Tattoo, Daryl Rodriguez. Known for his big ornate back pieces, Daryl is no amateur to his craft. Alongside his brother Nelson and the crew at Hold It Down Tattoo, Daryl has tattooed people from allover the world. Originally from Guam (Hafa Adai!) and raised in San Francisco, Daryl didn't imagine Richmond would be the city where he would pursue his dreams. He ditched his vision in joining the military and followed his true passion for tattooing.
Hopeful and ambitious, Daryl started off as an apprentice at Red Dragon Tattoo in RVA. With a couple years of extensive practice, the next natural move for the Rodriguez brothers was to open up their own tattoo studio. In 2010, Hold It Down Tattoo located at 302 Goshen Street, officially opened its doors. Filled with tchotchkes, hand painted signage, and other eclectic décor, Daryl thinks of his tattoo shop as a cozy atmosphere to kick back, invite friends and get some sweet ink.
Equally humble as he is talented, Daryl prides himself on his dedication to the customer. Whether he is at a tattoo convention across the nation or in his home base studio, he works hard to create something masterful and unique for each client. With tattoo guns blazing, we are excited to see what's next for the young professional.
Daryl's passion for tattooing exemplifies the tenacity of a true WORK Folk. It was an honor to shine a light on Daryl and help tell his story.
Tell me your full name a little bit about yourself:
DR: My name is Daryl Rodriguez. I'm originally from Guam. I grew up in San Francisco and moved there when I was about 9 years old. When I was 17 I actually got kicked out of my house and I hadn’t seen my brother in like maybe 9 years as I was going into the military he hits me up and says “Come to Richmond. If you really want to go to the military, go to school first and I’ll help you through that.” So by the time I would get into the military, I’d be an officer not a grunt. But school didn’t work out and I got into too much trouble. I grew up really fast. Once I was in Richmond, my brother gave me my shot at tattooing and that’s how it all started.
“…friends, family – for anyone that ever needed help, we always held it down for ‘em.”
What’s the history behind Hold It Down Tattoo?
DR: The name of the shop is Hold It Down Tattoo. My brother and me opened it up 4 and a half years ago when I was 21. A lot of people say we got the name from this hardcore band from New York called Mad Ball, but I got the idea from my brother. He actually has this hand tattoo of an anchor and right above it and right below it, it has ‘Hold It Down’. He’s always stuck by it because friends, family – for anyone that ever needed help, we always held it down for ‘em.
Tell me about how you think you have evolved as a tattoo artist.
DR: As a tattoo artist I have evolved due to the people we invite here and the people I work around. All of us at the shop are consistently pushing ourselves to better ourselves and make it more of a competition. If someone else is doing well, we try to better ourselves and be a better person in general.
What type of hours do you keep?
DR: We work from 12-6pm but we keep that leeway in case we want to leave or have errands to run. If I'm doing a back piece or if anyone’s doing a big piece we go throughout the day for as long as we need. When we're at home base it’s more of a hang out for us so we don’t burn ourselves out tattooing. We travel throughout the year a lot. That’s when we really work hard. We do guest spots and conventions. Conventions could be anywhere from 10am – midnight so its just consistent working.
“…I'd rather work at my own pace than sell my soul.”
Is there a healthy competitiveness within the RVA tattoo community? DR: I personally think in the last 5 years there are way too many tattoo shops. Not being biased since we came up within those 5 years but we also worked in Richmond for a really long time. Competition is a really big deal if you’re dealing with street shop stuff like the crazy walk-ins. Although money is cool, I'd rather work at my own pace than sell my soul. Thanks to the Internet, Instagram, Tumblr – you name it, we get people from all around the world to come get tattooed by us. That means a lot.
What do you think it is about your style that makes you stand out?
DR:I feel it’s more of the atmosphere we portray here. We try to keep this shop more of a home feeling like your friends can come hang out if you want. The whole deal is we are going to hurt you we might as well make you feel comfortable as well. Looking at the art aspect, every tattoo we do pays homage to the olden days like your sailor tattoos or traditional Japanese tattoos – that bold strong outline. A good foundation of black is like the building blocks of all tattoos. It’s what holds everything together. We like to think we are ever changing. We try to take every piece of flash and mold it into what we see rather than take it off the wall and put on somebody just like 100 other thousand people. We want something different all the time.
Do you see any new trends coming around good or bad?
DR: Yeah there are a lot of trends in tattooing. For a while, tribal tattoos were a whole big thing. It didn’t matter if it looked like a tiger: as long it was big bold and black, people got it. A lot of it has to do with movies and music. If music is good the tattoos are good. But trends also come with a lot of change. Traditional tattooing is really popular I’d say thanks to the younger kids. I’d even pay homage to Sailor Jerry and Ed Hardy. Ed hardy took traditional tattooing and made it more of a modern style.
Things I don’t really like in tattooing I’d say are color portraits. There is not enough black, not enough outline. It’s just another trend that’s gonna go out soon. Everything comes full circle in tattooing. Everything’s been tattooed everything’s been recycled. It’s your preference
Has there ever been a time you refused to do a tattoo?
DR: There have been many times that I refused to do tattoos. A lot of the times its when younger kids come in here with no tattoos and they want their throats neck and hands tattooed. I tell them right off the bat: that’s your career right there. I do this for a living – you don’t. The moment you put that tattoo on, it limits your options. Before you know it, all their bosses are probably going to be sleeved out so who knows. The future keeps moving, everyone’s gonna keep moving along with it.
What’s one of the biggest lessons you have learned tattooing?
DR: The hardest part of tattooing is symmetry, getting everything to balance out right. The biggest thing I learned in tattooing is to make your customer happy.
How many tattoos do you think you do a year?
DR: I'm terrible at math but I do let’s say about 2-3 big tattoos a day. So I will let you do the calculations. I tend to do the bigger ones here at the shop. Traveling is where we make the most money. It’s where we really want to work hard. Not to say we don’t work hard at home base but here we’re a little more lax.
What’s the tattoo you are the most proud of?
DR: Let me recollect... I think it’s this secret back piece I’m working on. It’s on David, my apprentice tattoo artist now; he just started tattooing here full time. It’s a giant cobra and a skull. David's been hounding me to get this tattoo done on his back for a really long time. One night, we got the idea of just drawing it on and it’s probably the best rendering of a skull I’ve ever drawn and one of coolest snakes I ever did.
Daryl Rodriguez also serves as advisor for WORK's OUCH Tattoo soap, where you can find here.