Michelle Bird

 

“The first time I did Wwoofing was in Andalucía at an olive farm,” artist Michelle Bird told me. “I got to live in a teepee at a plantation. It was really fun because we got to hang out with the local people and cook and eat with them. We always had a really nice breakfast out on the terrace.” Now that the roles are reversed and Michelle is a workaway host, she keeps her experiences close in mind when working with volunteers. “It’s important to know what it is like for the other person,” she said. “To understand that the people who are coming are coming to discover something and learn something new.” Allowing the volunteers to learn and discover new things freely is what makes Michelle’s volunteer house so special. In Borgarnes, volunteers are encouraged to learn as they go—designing furniture from recycled materials, experimenting with landscaping ideas, and working though problems with inventive solutions. As an artist, she values the process and fulfillment of work. “People have the best ideas when they are in a playing environment.” She added. “That’s when new discoveries are made.”

Michelle is also quick to acknowledge that the workaway volunteers inspire her as well: “I learn a lot from the workawayers. It doesn’t matter how young or old they are or how different their worlds are. I’ve sort of created my own world, so it’s really great to have people to come and inform of how the rest of the world lives.” But most of all, volunteering in Borgarnes is just fun. When I asked Michelle about the funniest thing to happen with volunteers so far, she said, “The funniest thing that has happened? I don’t know. We’re constantly laughing.” Then she told me this story: “When Jack [North] finished caulking the bathroom, he said to me, it’s not great but it can’t be any worse than the last person’s work….not knowing that I was the last person to caulk the bathroom. It was hilarious.”