On the sleepy island of Koh Samui in southern Thailand, there is a group of artists and expat lasses who are making the shores of the Gulf of Thailand beautiful once again. Inspirational artist Donna Reiss gathers her brushes and paints oversized rubbish bins with beautiful sea-themed art. Donna is an almost ethereal glittery mermaid who embellishes these glamourous rubbish containers with charms and sparkles reminiscent of those found in the oceans. She claims that there is an artist in us all and provides a smart outline design for guests to paint an oversized painting-by-numbers project. The decorating classes bring unity to different nationalities with one clear goal – eliminating rubbish on the beaches.
Donna was born in Cuba, but grew up in America and has spent the majority of her career traversing skies across the world as a flight attendant. She is one of the lucky few that are naturally gifted in the creative world and has never received any formal training. Each of the bins takes over 50 hours of labour-intensive-love to complete; they are all remarkably different. Just recently, Samui Elephant Haven each received two bins depicting the love and protection of elephants and their kingdom. Donna’s dream is to see these ‘community-created’ bins as commonly as a 7/11 or Family Mart across Koh Samui; for them to be seen in Phuket and across Thailand, into Asia, and eventually across the world.
Donna and her university admissions husband moved to Thailand over ten years ago to retire; she was dismayed to see so much litter strewn across the beaches. In her mind’s eye, Koh Samui was palm trees and white sandy beaches, not a rubbish-plagued island. This destruction inspired her to use her creative talents, so she set to work on large containers with weather-resistant acrylic paints and her brushes. These colourful creations were instantly recognisable, and people were intrigued.
Mermaids are the mystical keepers of the sea; so these beautiful creatures seemed the ideal choice to ensure that the bins, which were soon to line the beaches of the island, became an iconic symbol of eco-driven Samui and its people. 5,000 hours of painting time has created over 100 brightly coloured waste receptacles across the isle; understandably there is a waiting list for more from beach-fronted businesses and hotels, having such demand shows that people do care where the rubbish goes. The bins are available for THB 1500.00, and all of the proceeds go back into providing the containers, paints and brushes for another new and startlingly creative means of disposing unsightly waste.