Friday, August 3, 2012

The Last Post.

Every end, is also a new begining.

I am migrating my blogging from this blogger site to Wordpress and Facebook.  You can find my new site for my art and blogging at:

Signing off,


Wednesday, June 20, 2012


After several months of silence, the words and the ideas are brewing within like a long bottle wine that yearn to be un-corked. 

Yet in the silence, there has been much contemplation.  How best to express? With all my art and social endeavors I am constantly posting movies, photos, galleries and text to a variety of different social services.  I want one repository for it all.

I may just have to return to the old idea of having an artist website! 

Luckily I've done most of the work five years ago setting up my old website.  Stay posted on this site to see the progress of rebuilding from the past into the future, so that I can post my moments away.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Long time, no post

Wow.  It's been a long time since I have posted on my blog.  This is not for want of much reflection and much interesting happenings.  I have simply been contemplating how to best go about sharing my reflections and happenings.  I feel I am shifting into a new and exciting phase and this requires upping my digital expressivity.  And this requires new and better ways of sharing my work and thoughts.  More to come!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cutting creativity!

Four ladies from the village of Napua pose with 40 new glasses cut yesterday from old bottles at the Trashure studio after an intensive recycling workshop to prepare their wares for the village festival. The women take not only the glasses and a new cutter back to their community, but the idea that waste can be creatively transformed rather than just trashed. Since their last workshop in January they have come up with their own new ideas and creations-- more to come on this!

A Bianca Lattern: using the cut bottle tops we made a prototype candle Lattern (so named after its inventor).

"Unauthorized Use Prohibited": how about "Unplanned Product Packaging Prohibited"? Liquor bottles, like so many other corporate products, have dead-end packaging life-cycles, and thus end up as pollution-- except for this one which is now a glass! Power to the people.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Building with Bottles up in the Mountains

Over the last few months, I've been working with my girlfriend Bianca, and with the local officials in Sabangan, to help open up a hike for her company here in Sabangan. Sabangan, is at the foot of the very high, beautiful, and forest shrouded, Mount Kalawitan.
This remote mountain, capped with miles of virgin mossy forest and two meter thick pine trees, has only been opened up in the last year to outsiders.  The new Sabangan Guide School Association has had to clear deer traps and thick jungle to make the hike possible to their sacred ancestral mountain.  Alas, a typhoon last November damaged their Apa base camp and destroyed their organic greenhouse.
Trailadventours (Bianca's company) came to the rescue!  They donated 5000 pesos for the restoration work.  Yet, as we began planning the restoration, we found a colossal stash of trash tucked under Apa’s main hut– hundreds of bottles dating back thirty years had accumulated at the historic camp, which has been used over the decades by local hunters, Japanese Soldiers, Rebels, Filipino soldiers, rice farmers and intrepid hikers.  The bottles were an ugly blemish at the beautiful location, but, also, an opportunity.
Over three days, a team came together to fix up Apa.  The local councilor, Ernesto Bondad, Trail Adventours partner, Bianca Silva, Scottish backpacker Erik Jelinek, local guides Roger, Raymondo Dudds, Reggie and Gypsy and, recycling artist Russell Maier (me!).  Together we camped out for three days to build the greenhouse and to clean out the bottles.  Once cleaned, Russell guided the transformation of the bottles into tables, stools, glasses and lanterns to serve visitors of the camp site.  The greenhouse was erected in the traditional style of a rice rest hut and organic lettuce was planted inside.  Visitors will be enjoying the organic fruits (vegetables really) of our labors, for a long time to come.
Hikes to Mt. Kaliwitan began this past weekend.  I'll post another blog on that shortly.
(this post is adapted from a post that Bianca and I made on her company's blog:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Foreign IT Experts Lecture at Xijen"

I was in Sagada last night for a quick trip to use the village bank machine. As so often happens the universe had quite other plans. As I remarked in a previous post, living vivaciously is all about following your intuition every single moment on the twists and turns of the luminous path.

I was in my buddy Jed's restaurant in Sagada about to order dinner when another foreigner, an intriguing-looking young woman, walked in. As we both stood at the counter I insisted she must try Jed's amazing Peanut Veggie Stir Fry.

One thing led to another and before we knew it, we were in the middle of a lively discussion over our great meal. We were talking excitedly about our web development work with the latest Facebook App technology, java script and more. Turns out, Milena was a bright young Israelie programmer. We had lots in common to talk about.

An idea hit me.

The night before, I'd met a bunch of young women who were all first year Xijen college students beginning their studies in IT. It struck me that these young women would immensely benefit from a role model who was successfully navigating the front lines of the computer world in one of the top countries (Israel) for information technology.

I texted my friend Joel, director of Xijen, to see if his college would be interested. He texted back right away.

The next day, scheduled exams were postponed and Milena and I (mainly Milena) did a lecture on "Global Opportunities in the Future of IT" to about 100 rapt students. They were shy as can be, but they were attentive to Milena's every word. In the evening twenty students joined us again for a workshop on Java script. I learned lots too!

Oh... And about my original bank machine plan? There was a electricity failure in all the villages that day and I never did get to that bank machine (sorry Alvin!).

Life is like a box of chocolates, you just never know what you're gonna get.

Milena helps a Xijen student with her Java script attempt.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Burning Trash... Or...

Yesterday I was walking down the hill in the village. I saw my friend Esther, who runs a local restaurant on the side of the road. She was stoking a burning pile of trash. Noxious tendrils of plastic smoke swirled about her like grasping ghouls from a hellish dimension. Her pile is right beside the river. When it rains all those toxic ashes just wash right down.

I had just finished visiting my friend Gloria. Gloria and I have been working for the last month and a half on a Trash Painting. Rather than burn our garbage, she's been collecting it and diligently cutting and weaving weaving it. My love Bianca helped me to design this dazzling beautiful pattern with Gloria's weaving. The final oeuvre is beautiful in two ways: aesthetically and symbolically.

I waved to Esther and I asked if I could snap her photo (she laughed at the crazy Americano). I then called her over. Under my arm I had the painting, I proudly showed it to her. She loved it.

And so did half a dozen other ladies at the nearby store when they saw us. It was a poignant moment of contrasts. With a little perseverance and creativity we can transform problems to beautiful solutions.

I didn't know what to title this painting. The last one was 'Perserverance'. So, we'll call this one 'Transformation No.1"

Title: 'Transformation No.1'
Creators: Gloria, Bianca, Russell
Creation: Dec-Feb 2012, Sabagan Village
Medium: recycled wrappers
Size: 29.5 x 21 inches
Price: 600$ (available)
Framed: Pine shadow-box back frame

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Amazing Race...

CRAZY:  Here's me and the contestants (back seat), camera man, and celebrity guest from the Amazing Race (European version: PK Express).  

The other day, I was on my way home from Sagada with my latest trash painting (see below!) when I noticed a gaggle of white people in my village.

They were doing their best to wave down cars.  In three months, I haven't seen another white person in my village, so, after dropping off my stuff at home, Tomayo, my Police officer buddy, drove down with me in the police truck to investigate.  We were immediately swarmed and asked for a ride!  Two Belgians and a Parisienne were urgently trying to get to Baguio.  

Two of them spoke no English, only French-- (which fortunately for them I speak!).  I was able to understand that they were part of a race to get to Baguio.   At the moment they were badly last.  The younger teams were ahead of them with their English and good looks (a group of girls had put on Bikini tops to get a ride!).    

 My mind raced to help them out.  Tomayo could only drive so far in the Police car. Who could help us in Sabangan to get to Baguio? I had Tomayo stop at the mayor's house along the highway.  Mayor Donato, keen to help, had us jump in his highpowered SUV in a stunning display of impetuous generosity.  Off we went!  A crazy, full out, auto-race ensued on the most winding and precarious mountain road that you can possibly imagine.  The mayor was an AMAZING driver and we we took hair pin turns at full speed.   By nightfall-- skimming past the others in outrageous driving maneuvers, we were all queasy, but-- in second place!  

In Baguio, I got them to my friend Akira, who let them sleep at the back of her bar (the rules are that the contestants can't pay for anything and everything has to be given to them).  I bought them dinner.  It was the least I could do for two Belgians-- when I was in their country on my amazing journey, know that I was shown sooo much kindness and hospitality.  My new Baguio buddy, Alvin, stayed up all night with me and we found a van to take them the next morning at 7:55 AM.  

And juuuust in time,  the race began again at 8 AM!  

I am proud to say that Alvin and I got them then up to first (in another outrageous pass that will surely make the show)-- even if we faltered a bit at the end.  They caught a ride in a fast car in the town where they were required to transfer, and off they went!  

I wish them the best of luck and am deeply grateful for the profound lesson in following one's intuition.  

The art of following one's intuition never stops folks.  To waver in one's unending gratitude for each twist and turn, to regret the past, to wish something other than it is-- is to falter on the journey.  To give kindness to anyone at any moment is furthermore the best possible thing you can ever do, no matter the intricacy or solidity of one's own plans in that moment.  Do what you can!  That's what we are here for.

Merci Damien, Noela, Daniel, et Christophe! 

'Persistence' -- Our Latest Abstract Trash Canvas!

 Detail from canvas #4: Persistence
So, you all I've been working with Trash. We're making all sorts of great products with the trash weaving in the villages-- from bags to wallets to placemats.   These weavings are collaborations with communities as we collect, wash, cut, and assemble the trash.

Of course, I am first and foremost an artist. Thus, what I am most passionate about are the Trash Paintings that we are making using this same technique of weaving used sachets and wrappers.

I am tremendously excited about this. I've been working with the villages and the women weavers for almost a year now to establish the technique of weaving the trash in a compelling abstract aesthetic and mounting them appropriately. They are getting better and better!

And, now we now have a new painting complete!
Title: Persistence
By: Russell Maier, Karen Kalinga, (created in Sagada and Sabangan villages)
Size: 4'9 x 3'3 (145cm x 100cm)
Medium: woven trash (wrappers)
Price: 1900$ (available)
Framing: to be mounted on a pine stretcher backing (can be easily assembled and dissembled for shipping)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Trash to Treasure-- progress!

We've been real busy here in the village experimenting with home you can transform Trash to useful, beautiful and salable items. The idea is that by transforming trash three things can happen:

1. transform community pollution
2. increase the standard of living of poor folks with freely-made functional items
3. generate a new stream of livelihood income for the unemployed (mothers, farmers, out-of-school youth).

My house has been transformed into more than even a studio-- a laboratory for playing with trash: creating, refining and using. We've had three workshops now and created the coolest stuff. Here's some photos of our progress and play!

A table made from small plastic Yakult bottles (which are 100% non-recyclable!)

This one is simple but revolutionary-- drinking glasses from bottles. Here a mother's group learns to make them for their homes and to sell. The finished glasses are beautifully sanded and far nicer than the cheap glasses that folks normally here buy.

This table was made entirely from gin bottles.

I've also been working with Aunt Rose (who literally works at a city street corner as she sells candy and cigarettes to passer-byes) to transform drinking straws into mats, lamp shades and placemats.

Using wrappers of every sort I've been working with the local ladies to make everything from wallets, to clutch bags, to placemats and more.

My biggest passion however remains art. We are using the technique of weaving wrappers to generate large abstract "paintings" made entirely of trash. Here's some more examples of artistic collaborations using nothing but trash:

My dream is to show BIG trash canvases back in Paris and Berlin. We've got a few new ones in the pipe. I'll post soon!