"He turns million-dollar vessels into 3-D reflections of the owner's personality.”
Transoms. Tattoos. Sloops. Seascapes. Josh Everett doesn’t just do it all. He does it well.
This is the boat that Josh built.
This is the trailer — that Josh built — that holds the boat that Josh built, that sits under the house that Josh built. (Or rebuilt.)
This is the chair that sits by the table a few feet from the bed beneath the picture that lives in the house several miles from the studio — all of which Josh Everett either painted, constructed or radically transformed. Hang out long enough with the 39-year- old Nags Header, you’ll start to wonder if he customized and installed his own dental work, as his whole story involves turning life’s next challenge into a creative outlet, then converting that passion into a commercial product. Starting with the tattoo guns he used to ink his own arm . . .at just 15 years old.
“I thought my mom was gonna kill me,” he laughs recalling the tale from his Colorado childhood. “Back then, tattoos were still a biker sport. And needless to say those were not very good guns. But they worked. And within a couple years I was making proper equipment.”
He wasn’t just making it. He was selling it. By 18, Josh was putting himself through college on the backs, arms and ankles of others, eventually running his own NYC storefront. For a decade he inked arms and sold machines across the world. But like many New Yorkers, Josh bailed after 9/11, trading a life of Chinese dragons and nautical stars to focus on fine art and carpentry.
“That whole period I lived in the city I was still doing paintings, illustrations, furniture and commercial art,” he explains. “But I found that when people think of you as a tattoo artist, that’s all they think of you.”
And that’s not Josh Everett. The walls of his home alone are a chorus of different creative voices. Sketches and sculptures traded with colleagues and friends. Stained glass lamps from his mom’s former Kitty Hawk shop, Shattered Dreams. (Josh encouraged her move down after a mid-90s surf trip.) The only thing missing is a major piece by the artist in residence — or so it seems. Until you sit at the Brazilian cherry dining set, all grooved seats and smoothed, arched backs; evidence of many years spent in his dad’s woodshop. And it’s not even the finished product — it’s practice. The real deal resides back in New York with Sabrett Hot Dog President Boyd Adelman. Just like his eight-foot-long brush-and-acrylic depiction of Wanchese Harbor now belongs to local homebuilding fixture Bob DeGabrielle, while the pulpit he carved this summer leads services at Bethany Methodist Church.
“That’s the way it is with all my work,” he explains. “The junk I keep for myself; the good stuff gets bought and goes away.
Some goes farther than others. Since 2007, Everett’s earned a rep in the specialized world of painting transoms. Laying out names like “Tyson’s Pride” and “Reel Time” in pinstriped gold leaf. Airbrushing billfish until they spring to life. Turning million-dollar vessels into 3D reflections of the owner’s personality. When I joke he’s doing “tramp stamps” for charter boats, he laughs. But he admits both are high-stakes jobs with no room for error. (What he calls “one strike baseball.”) And the last thing Josh wants to do is have to start over. All over.
“That’s the difference with Josh,” explains boat builder John Bayliss. “He not only paints the transom. He mills the wood. Installs it. Does everything but varnishes it. But Josh is very meticulous; he rarely makes mistakes. Not since his very first console sketch.”
That was 2004, shortly after he arrived on the Outer Banks. Before long, he was Bayliss Boatworks’ exterior cabinetry supervisor, earning a rep as a perfectionist taskmaster. He even learned computer design. That way he could draw the painstakingly detailed sketches that wow clients, as well as the high-tech plans crews use to construct the boat itself.
“I’d say he’s one of the top craftsman I’ve ever worked with,” Bayliss continues. “If not the top craftsman when you consider his versatility. In fact, I’m not sure there’s anything he can’t do.”
Recently, Everett’s been pushing his personal limits by building a 21-foot New England sloop start to finish: from choosing the 100-year-old design; to sketching it full-size on his living room floor; to pouring 800 lbs of hot lead into the keel; to milling and finishing the sprung teak deck; to custom fabricating the fittings. And, of course, adding “Wind Painter” in shiny gold leaf along her back. One might say the three-year effort is the embodiment of all his artistic talents. Yet, Josh readily admits this piece of functional art is as much “for sale” as it is “to sail.” For Josh, all the creativity comes on the planning side, well before he ever picks up a airbrush, palette or planer; the backside is all process. And, commercial job or personal painting, every project feeds directly into the next.
“That’s why I’ve never had job in a bar or restaurant my whole life,” he muses. “I guess I’ve got a different definition of a starving artist in that I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure I can keep working creatively. And I make sure I don’t starve.” — C. White