Jack North


Jack North traveled half way around the world to learn that his interest in carpentry and design was a family tradition. After beginning his first woodworking project at Michelle Bird’s house and art studio in Iceland, he called home to tell his family in New York how much he enjoyed the building process. They were not surprised. Jack’s father, he learned, had been a tradesman. And his ancestors in Norway had been shipwrights and woodworkers for generations.

His first workaway project in Borgarnes was building a four-meter window bench entirely from repurposed materials—two derelict closet doors, wooden bed slats, and the remnants of an ugly laminate book shelf. With limited tools and even less experience, Jack managed to build everything in the photographs below. “Work with recycled materials is more about studying the pieces you have and what needs to happen to them,” he said, “instead of studying what you need to build.” By letting the materials direct him, he built something sturdy, practical, and surprisingly beautiful.

 “Jack is like a sponge.” said workaway host Michelle Bird. “He has this incredible capacity to take in a lot of ideas and immediately put them into action.” She was so impressed with Jack’s work that she assigned him a second, bigger project.  His four-day stay in Borgarnes lasted three months. Using online resources and his own ingenuity he made a coffee table with the scraps from his other projects.  Together in a team he constructed a small cottage, designed the interior woodwork, and collaborated on a new set of stairs. “I’ve learned more in two or three months here than I probably could as a carpentry apprentice.” He said with a smile.