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Build Addicts: Krystal of @Soko_Skoolie

Name: Krystal Sokolis

Instagram: @Soko_Skoolie

Social Links: @Ophilya_Handmade (Personal Studio work) www.ophilya.com

@Two_Chicks_Talking_Trash (Podcast) https://www.buzzsprout.com/735410

@The_Revival_Society (Sustainability coalition) www.therevivalsociety.org

My name is Krystal Sokolis. I am the owner and creator of Ophilya Handmade, The Revival Society, and co-founder of the podcast Two Chicks Talking Trash. These are all outlets that focus on sustainable design and education. Currently, my family and I are in the process of converting a 2003 International bus into a studio/home in order to continue the work on the road.

This path of owning a skoolie seemed destined since birth. My grandfather Opa was a German man that fled the war at 16. So naturally, I grew up on stories of survival, and ingenuity. Opa was a gear smith, furniture maker, and could fix just about anything. Hence the nickname “Mr. Fix It.” After meeting his wife, Oma, and having three children, my grandfather bought and customized a van for his family to travel the world.

I remember when he would pull the projector from his dusty old basement and slide through frames to illuminate all of the places they explored. It had to be these glorified tales of adventure that struck a chord for this need to expand my world.

You could say I followed Opas example because I was instantly hooked on this idea of discovery and creation. He taught me how to disassemble electronics for maintenance. I now know how to fix a washer or dryer, basic plumbing, how to clean out and a/c unit, and more. All because I truly listened to the repetitive advice “know how your things work. Do this, and you will never have to call a repairman.” The frugal man was right. I could not begin to describe how much money I have saved over the years. A $500 job was now $3 plus time.

This knack for fixing what is broken, and building what I dream, was not just inspired by Opa, but was inherited from generations of capable minds. My father is the owner of a construction company, my mother is the offspring of “Mr. Fix It.” Therefore, she has the ability of problem solving with endless creativity. My uncles, sisters, and cousins all possess amazing design abilities and artistic talents. Part of our tradition of getting together has become our famous art gatherings. We prepare fun foods and drinks and will have an assortment of projects to work on.

Since I conveniently inherited a hoarder’s amount of art supplies when my grandmother passed, we expanded these artists' nights to welcome the public. What used to be a small family gathering has turned into a mailing list of people hoping to be invited to our celebration of creation.

Obviously, I was born to be an artist. But after graduating with my Master’s from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2018, I experienced a harsh transition of not knowing where to go next. I was simply heartbroken and in need of mending. So, my family welcomed me back to reevaluate my existence.

Step one for solving a broken heart: adopt a dog. “Klaus” is an 80lb Plott hound that basically saved me from myself. When they say there is no filling a void, get a dog. He and I are stuck like glue. He hangs out in my studio while I create sustainably made products for Ophilya Handmade. Basically, every day, he and I hide tucked away in an attic in the middle of a forest preserve, building products to send out to boutiques across the US. As a result of being cooped up in one location, the days begin to feel a bit repetitive.

Truth is, living amongst a family of craftsmen with all of their tools and equipment makes it difficult to want to relocate, but naturally, I need to spread my wings. So, the moment I began researching and entered the inspired world of skoolies, I fell in love. I adored the customized aspect and the nostalgic feel of converting a bus into my home.

For nearly a year we searched, not sure yet really what we wanted. We went to used bus lots where hundreds of busses were lined for sale. But somehow one random day of feeling broken down, I logged onto Facebook Marketplace and found a converted 2003 International Skoolie just ten minutes down the road. It was one of those moments when life presents a path and you clearly have to take a leap of faith. Somehow the timing was perfect, so as soon as our mechanic gave the nod of approval, we knew were heading home with a bus.

The original design of our purchased skoolie had a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. It was a very basic set up, but the previous owner assembled it in a way that was charming. At first, we assumed we would be adjusting some of the fixtures, but as we began to demo, we realized there were leaks in the roof and rusted framing in need of repair. We made the choice to start from scratch. The only thing that would stay was the fire burning stove.

These minor setbacks seem disheartening at first, but once you push past disappointment, you begin to realize the possibilities. This allowed us to redesign to better suit our needs. Since my sister is an unbelievable interior designer and my father is a master carpenter, we put our minds together to develop a plan. We first wrote out our intentions for the bus. The end goal is a studio where Klaus and I will live but should also transform into a space that will accommodate guests.

This opportunity for my whole family to get involved has been nothing less than a blessing. Of course, it comes with more challenges than we originally anticipated, but somehow it has opened so many new avenues. Now that we are thinking smaller, we realize that it allows us to dream big. I do not think this project is for everyone. It takes a specific set of skills. But if you have the team to back you up, or you are one for puzzles, it is the ultimate game of problem-solving.

Currently, we still have a crazy list of things to do, such as finishing the kitchen installation, putting in the flooring, bunk beds, electric, plumbing, welding in storage containers, and the list goes on. Somehow all this work has been so enjoyable though. This new adventure has inspired my sister and me to start the sustainability podcast “Two Chicks Talking Trash” and expand our non-profit “The Revival Society”. We now can educate and host interviews for the podcast on the road.

Quite literally this bus conversion has driven us toward pursuing our wildest dreams. We do not yet know where this will lead, but we have all been enjoying the ride together. Now as I reflect on the past couple years, it seems life is a collection of puzzle piece moments. All those good and bad experiences somehow began forming into a clearer image of all these magnificent possibilities that life has to offer.

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