Carved wood even played an important role in the founding of what would become the capital city, Reykjavik. When Ingólfur Arnarson sailed from Norway to Iceland in AD 870, he looked at the new land and then threw his ship's valuable carved wooden seatposts into the sea, saying that he would settle in the place where they washed up. They were found in an inlet with steam rising from it (from water heated by volcanic activity). That gave the place it's name - 'Reykjavik' means 'Smokey Bay'.
Even so, it is thought that when the first settlers arrived about 1140 years ago there were forests covering between 25% and 40% of the land area of Iceland. Some forests were destroyed by volcanic activity, but most trees were cut down to build with and to burn.
Burning wood was done partly to stay warm and partly to make charcoal, used in iron smelting and working to make vital tools. Grazing sheep stopped the regrowth of the cut trees and so by the middle of the twentieth century, there was less than 1% forest cover in Iceland. This lack of tree cover caused the added problem of increased soil erosion by the wind and rain, in a similar way to that seen when tropical rainforest is cut down.
The centuries preceding the twentieth had been a tough time for Icelanders and many emigrated abroad when international travel was possible in the nineteenth century. One factor in this hardship was a lack of wood to build with, stay warm or even to construct ships to leave in.
Another thing that he believes to be very important is networking with other carvers and makers and supporting them in their work.
For the future, Jón Adólf said that he is very interested in investigating blacksmithing and metalworking techniques. It seems appropriate, as carvers are so closely involved with the metal tools that allow them to create their carvings.
If you would like to see more of Jón Adólf Steinólfsson's work, you can visit his website (which is written in English):
Karin's beautiful glasswork can be seen on her English-language website: