I hope you enjoy this interview by Bus Life Adventure about the making of TBGB (The Big Green Bus) and the jewelry studio set up!
Bend, OR Jewelry Studio Bus Conversion
- Interview By: Brock Butterfield
- Bus Conversion By: Rachel Dean
-Motor: International 7.3
-Interior Square Footage: 160 sq ft
-Current Location: Bend, OR (in a friend's driveway)
-Purchased From/Location: A kid on a ranch near Trout Lake, WA, who traded an old ranch truck for it. The other guy got it at an auction in North Dakota. She had a pretty tumultuous early life before I adopted her.
-Cost in materials for the conversion: Welllllll, the paint job has been the biggest expense besides the initial cost of the bus, I dropped $2500 to have her looking good. Other than that, because it isn't a full build-out, it's been quite inexpensive. The snap vinyl flooring came from craigslist for $150 with just the right square footage. Most of the other wood came from my brother's wood pile, except for the 8' long butcher block counter top I bought from Lumber Liquidators in Eugene for $120 and cut into two sections, a 5' lower level and 3' standing level, which are used as my workbench and display area.
-Is the conversion complete or still in progress? It's definitely still in progress. It's fully functional as my jewelry studio and bedroom, but will take a bit more work if I plan on being self-contained.
-Does your bus have a name? I've played around with a few, but none have stuck. I need to come up with something quick before it gets deemed the 'Jewel Bus' for good.
Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about. I've spent years traveling and living abroad, and after settling in Bend 6 years ago, had a hard time getting used to paying rent. In addition to renting a room in a house, I was also renting a studio space downtown to grow my jewelry line. After nearly a year of paying double rent I figured there had to be a better way to do what I do and still put away acorns for my yearly international adventures.
Who is involved or part of the crew with your bus? I had help from several lovely friends in the early stages, taking out seats, painting the interior, snapping down the floor, but my brother has been the biggest help. When I was on a world tour last winter I left the bus in his care with a wishlist of to-do's. He's a super handy guy so he took care of most of them, except for the paint-job and the electrical work, we hired that out. And on said world tour, I met my boyfriend, Airen, in Ecuador (he was living 2.5 hours from Bend in WA where I had purchased the bus), and convinced him to spend the summer in Bend. So he's now the handyman around the bus, hammering nails and screwing in brackets as we discover more and better ways to secure things.
What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items? As you can see the conversion is quite minimal, pretty much just wood and flooring, which were mostly from craiglist and my brother's barn. Wow, writing this made me realize I need to call my brother and thank him again. After pricing curtain rods around town, I decided to go with metal piping and towel hooks from Home Depot; I like the look and it was loads cheaper. The fabric for curtains was bought at JoAnne's Fabric Store with a gazillion different coupons, so I think they actually paid me.
How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed? The bed platform in the back is made for a queen, so, I don't know, I could probably fit three friends on there with me, and then a few sleeping on the floor. So around eight if you're into the sardine thing, or just two if you're a bit more civilized.
What is your power source? I have a plug off the back bumper and a 100' extension cord I use when parked at friend's places. If we're out and about and away from power it's head lamps and candles.
Do you have a heat source for colder weather? Just an electric heater that actually keeps her toasty, although I fly south in the winter, so have yet to spend one in the bus.
How do you stay cool in the hot summer months? Park in the shade! And fans, and vacate the premises during the hours of 12-6pm if it's a 90 degree day.
What are you doing for water source? Do you have a bathroom solution for the "rumble guts" hit? Nope, I use my friend's bathroom where I'm parked.
What is the most unique feature of your conversion? I'd say her flashy red wheels.
What do you do for income while living in the bus? I'm a jewelry designer and the bus is my studio. The natural light lends itself to creativity and inspiration, and it's really the perfect amount of space to work. Having the bed in the back for mid-day naps is the cherry on top. I travel in the winters, collecting stones and curiosities to use in my designs from around the world, so in that time it's used as my life's catch-all storage pod.
What do you do for Internet while on the road? I haven't taken her on a long road-trip yet, and with shorter trips the intention is unplugging.
What’s the hardest thing about living bus life? It isn't quite fair to say I 'live' in it, however sleeping and working in the same space can take its toll. I tend to stay up too late working or wake up early and can't fall back to sleep because I feel my jewelry calling me. Oh, and I love all of the light from the windows, but it can be a tad fishbowly if we're trying to have private time.
Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)
I’ll be honest, my first trip to Morocco in 2013 was a little rocky and tested my limits a time or two. However this February I spent a week in Marrakech and was pleasantly surprised, and honestly quite relieved, the second time around. It was exhilarating and energizing; perhaps it was my morning ritual of strong coffee on an empty stomach, or the thought of the next undiscovered treasure, the uncertainty that awaits around every corner and smoke-filled, cobblestone alley. I love hitting the streets of the medina with no plan. One adventure lead to a small courtyard where local women were selling gently used kaftans. After letting the women play dress-up with me and parade me around to their fellow shop keepers I settled on my favorite three; score!
Here’s a quick run-down of some of my favorite spots in the old-town medina of Marrakech:
Food: Watch street vendors unpack their wares daily from the street-side Cafe Des Epices. The espresso gets your day going right and being among the early morning bustle can’t be beat. A quick favorite for lunch or a snack is the new Henna Art Cafe; the vegetarian food is super tasty and you can get your hands henna-ed by a pro. For sunset and dinner find your way to the panoramic rooftop restaurant atop the Les Jardins de la Koutoubia hotel; it’s undoubtedly been a slightly hectic day, you deserve a glass of wine above the chaos.
Shopping: Why right in the medina of course! But wind your way back away from the main square, Jemma el-Fnaa, into the less trafficked streets and squares; you’ll find better deals and a whole lot more peace of mind. If you’re in the market for textiles, be sure to check out the handira, or Moroccan wedding blankets. These unique pieces are worn like a cape by brides; the heavy white fabric is adorned with thousands of glittering sequins and make lovely wall hangings or bed covers.
Riad: It’s hard to go too wrong here, but I enjoy staying just off the main square on the quieter walking streets. My suggestion is take your time, ask around, check out rooms and find what feels best. I look for a nice rooftop terrace for my morning yoga practice and pretty tiles...just because. There are a couple of places with pools, so if it’s summer time go for the plunge.
Inspiration: Catch a taxi to the Jardin Majorelle. If you’re a design geek, or just like pretty things and plants, the botanical garden once owned by Yves Saint Laurent is a must. The cacti and exotic plants of dreamy origin will allow any creative mind to slip away to another world entirely. Water features and bright primary colors bring this desert oasis to life. Go get lost here.
Cleanse: Get a hammam, the traditional steam bath that Moroccans take weekly to cleanse themselves. You can find cheap local hammams, but be sure to check which hours are for women or men, or you can splurge on a five-star experience; both equally cleansing and fabulous in their own ways. For the splurge check out the subterranean spa and pool at Les Jardins de la Koutoubia. And don't be shy, ask for the hammam and relax as a woman (or man) scrubs the heck out of you until you shine, seriously.
It's been almost a year since I got back from Bali, and I just booked a return trip! It's more than Bali, I'll be going through Morocco and Turkey, picking up all the bits and pieces that make Navone unique. I've been to both before and fell in love with the texture and vibrancy of life; but I say that about everywhere, so maybe I'm just easy to please.
You'll have to wait until February to hear about that trip, so in the meantime here's a highlight reel from Bali 2015:
Canang Sari- daily offerings made by Balinese Hindus in thanks and prayer. They brighten temples, homes and the sidewalk with flowers, rice and incense.
I could have stopped every two minutes at another temple.
A man serving up Jamu, a traditional medicinal herbal tincture, for 25 cents a glass; turmeric and ginger for days!
I fell in love with Bali on the back of a scooter; no agenda, no destination, just a goofy grin as I took in the awesome beauty and let it wash over me like the breeze.
And who doesn't love a cow-induced traffic jam?!
Had I not just moved into a tiny-home school bus conversion I would have done a bit more damage in the shopping department.
But I did bring home a bunch of these recycled glass beads; see if you can spot them in Navone's designs!
Until next time, xo
As the small prop plane descends over palm forests and rolling green hills, I already have a good feeling about this spot.
We stay at a homestay run by a local surfer, his wife, and their six biological children and several unofficially adopted ones that have come to stay with them for various reasons, some forgotten, over the years. Surfboards for hire line the common eating area and more are hung at the side of the house. We rent a motorbike with board racks for the next ten days of surfing; some breaks are only a few minutes drive, but depending on the wind and weather, we'll cross the island or catch boats for others.
Brightly colored laundry hangs to dry, criss-crossing porches and yards, blowing in the breeze like Tibetan prayer flags. Children stop whatever games they're playing to run to the dirt track road waving and yelling, reaching tiny hands out for a high-five. Once a particularly bold little boy, thinking himself unseen by any adults, smiled, turned his back to us and gave us his best full moon.
You can tell a lot about a place by the health and disposition of its dogs. I've been places where the dogs are rough, not the kind of characters you'd want to meet alone in a dark alley; where friends are few and foes many. Siargao dogs have little in common with those gnarly mongrels, apart from a bit of mutual DNA, we're talking apples and oranges. Dogs here have succumb wholly to the island mentality. Not to imply their lives are without strife and sorrow, but they seem aware of the relativity of matters. They've got it relatively good and there's nowhere else they'd rather pass their flea scratching days.
The rains come unannounced. Not altogether unwanted, but like your slightly annoying, ill-times friend that swings by a little too often; but hey, he brings the good beer. It pulls the heat down with it, resetting the day to a bearable temperature. If I'm surfing it's a real treat, a fresh shower to wash the crusted salt water from my eyes.
On an early morning walk I marvel at the simple, natural beauty of the island. This place may soon be the next Bali, resorts have begun dotting the coastline as surfers and tourists alike flock here for their piece of paradise. One Australian couple who have lived here for fifteen years are planning their next move; they were drawn to the rural and rustic island life, and now that there's a paved road and a small airport, they predict more 'progress' will soon follow. A bright butterfly lifts from a bush as if a flower taking flight, and I think of the impermanence of it all, not weighing in on the good or the bad, just aware and accepting that this moment is in fact all we have.
Being an Oregon girl through and through two things I can't live without are the great outdoors and clean, fresh, organic food. Bring those two together into one educational, inspirational and eye-opening afternoon and you've found the way to my heart...and er, stomach.
Last week we went with our friend Mia to Ilocos Norte. Being a 12hr bus ride north of Manila on roads that seem to be under constant construction, and without an airport nearby, tourism is slow to arrive in this pristine tropical paradise at the northern most tip of Luzon. Walking the deserted white sand beaches, your only company is the faceless hollering and screeches that echo from the dense jungle and mountains that continue their ascension straight from the sea.
Mia introduced us to Bing, the proprietress of Pannzian Beach, an eco-resort that strives to bring awareness and change to social and ecological issues within the local community. Pannzian sits nestled at the mouth of a mountain rimmed valley that opens to the sea, on land that has been in Bing's family for as long as local history can recall. The resort boasts an innovative farm-to-table restaurant that features wild-harvested foods from the surrounding area. And thus, we have come for the foraging, our goal: to collect enough wild edibles to feed our group of five.
Bing in her mud boots and we in our flip flops set out with baskets to collect our lunch and wide-brimmed woven hats to protect against the imminent rains. We're hardly a few feet from the path when Bing starts pointing out edibles, how to prepare them and what medicinal benefits they might hold. I'm instantly aware and cautious of my every step, fearful of stepping on perfectly good salad greens.
It seems like only minutes have passed and our baskets are brimming; wild cabbage and spinach, mini cucumbers (only and inch long and ready to eat!), wild tarragon, mint, oregano and basil, and mulberries too! We continue for awhile, running around excitedly pointing out plants to Bing, at which she'll either nod encouragingly or frown and laugh at our childish curiosity and enthusiasm.
We return to the kitchen and the chef allows us to lurk around watching how they prepare our pickings. Fresh coconut meat is scraped from the shell to make milk, and the greens are sautéed and steamed. Before long we're sitting down to enjoy the day's catch, a vegan feast that's taken only a keen eye and a bit of botanical knowledge to acquire. As a perfect crescendo the sky cracks and the heavy clouds spill around us in the open walled, grass roofed building. The mood is light and joyous, as if a new world has just been unveiled. A world of plenty; a world where fresh and food are synonymous, where humans and nature coexist respectfully. A world of possibility and plants.
Bing pointing out edibles.
Sauteed with fresh coconut milk, salt and pepper, tastes like chicken!...ish
Wild Bugnay berries, hand pressed for wine!
A feast to remember!
Thank you Mia and Gus Gus for making this incredible day happen!