Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Science of Scoring

If you’re a soccer fan, you’ve probably had the experience of watching a goalkeeper allow a shot to slip right by him and into the net (especially if you’re English!). It can be wrenching to watch a trained professional fail to stop a shot that it seems he had plenty of time to anticipate.

But, like most things in professional sports, it’s harder than it looks. And a new study reported on by Seed Magazine confirms it. The article asks a good question: “why are goalkeepers, who are paid millions of dollars to stop shots, sometimes utterly baffled by curving balls?” A paper in the New Journal of Physics measured the trajectory of spinning soccer balls and found that, “when the balls were spinning, they curved in a smooth arc in the direction of the spin. But as the speed of the balls slowed, they began to curve even more dramatically.”

As it turns out, human beings are terrible at anticipating the trajectory of a moving, spinning soccer ball. Given the way that human perception works, keepers are constantly adjusting their position based on how the ball is moving. A quick change in direction (like the one seen here) can fool even the best-trained goalkeeper.

Another paper published in the journal Naturwissenschaften also shed some light on this issue. The study measured how well players are at predicting a soccer balls trajectory, and found that all players – including goalies – are prone to systematic errors.

Aside from being a cool piece of sports science, it’s a great metaphor for the VUCA world we live in. The current environment is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. We are constantly up against our natural limitations when it comes to anticipating curveballs and adapting.

Whether it’s an economic recession, an earthquake, or a well-spun free kick, having the freedom to deal with our innate inability to anticipate is one of the great challenges of our time. It needs confidence, certainty and support to act and react quickly in our new world.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Accidentally Brilliant

I love hearing stories about how big ideas came to be. It turns out that, oftentimes, world-changing innovations weren’t the result of an isolated epiphany or the effortless insights of a genius. They were accidents.

The technology blog Gizmodo recently told the story of the “10 Greatest (Accidental) Inventions of All Time.”

My favorite involves one of the most ubiquitous gadgets in the world: the microwave. According to Gizmodo, the microwave came about when Navy engineer Percy Spencer was working with a microwave-emitting magnetron (then used in radar arrays) and “found that a chocolate bar in his pocket had started to melt.” He deduced that the microwaves were to blame, and used the principle to create the popcorn-popping device we all rely on today.

Play-Doh also has a great origin story. It was originally marketed as a substance for cleaning spots off of wallpaper. It wasn’t until children began using it to create Christmas ornaments that it caught on as a toy.

This just goes to show that, as I often contend, ideas can come from anywhere. As someone in the ideas business, it’s good to be reminded of how often good ideas can blindside you.

It’s for this reason that, when it comes to managing creative individuals, I find it best to set some basic rules, and get out of their way. You need to create a space where wild ideas can be aired and accidents happen.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Now in Futuristic 2D!

Since the release of James Cameron’s Avatar last year, 3D films have become a hot trend. With films like Alice in Wonderland and the release of state-of-the-art 3D televisions from companies like Samsung and Toshiba, it seems like everyone is interested in making flat images into three-dimensional experiences.

The Japanese design firm Nendo, on the other hand, has turned this idea on its head. They have designed a series of household items (chairs, coffee tables, lamps) that appear to be simple, two-dimensional line drawings, but are actually real three-dimensional objects. The two collections (“Thin Black Lines” and “Blurry White Surfaces”) have been on display in London since September 20 (in fact “Thin Black Lines” is housed at the Saatchi Gallery.)

Nendo’s proclaimed mission is “giving people a small ‘!’ moment.” Those rare “wow” experiences that can sometimes give you a real jolt. With these two collections, they’ve succeeded. These are addictive to look at, and they stimulate the senses in a truly original way.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Zeitgeist On Demand

If you’re in the market for some earth-shattering ideas, one of the best resources on the internet is Google’s ZeitgeistMinds website. It hosts an assortment of videos from their regular Zeitgeist conferences.

I had the pleasure of speaking at one of these conferences a few years back (you can check out my presentation here) and it was one of the most thought-provoking weekends I’ve had in a long time. In fact, Saatchi & Saatchi’s CEO for New York and the Americas, Mary Baglivo, recently came back from the most recent U.S. Zeitgeist meeting of the minds, and was blown away by the caliber of thinking going on there.

It’s no wonder. Google does a great job of assembling some of the most notable thinkers, entrepreneurs, leaders and artists of our time (including Ted Turner, Sir Richard Branson, and the Prince of Wales) getting them together in one room, and igniting a jam session of amazing insight.

Drop by Zeitgeistminds on any given day and you’ll find intriguing presentations on everything from the “iterative design” process that gave birth to Cup Noodles to the business of space to panel discussions on innovation and leadership.

And for those New York-based idea junkies out there who are interested in seeing big thinkers in person, you should come by Saatchi & Saatchi New York’s 7x7 ideas festival this Wednesday where you can see seven leading thinkers, artists and experts present seven big ideas, each in only seven minutes. Tickets are available for (you guessed it) $7 at

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Monocle Store Next Door

Readers of this blog know that Tyler Brûlé’s stellar publication Monocle is one of my all-time Lovemarks. I wrote a while back about the enormously sensible strategy of a magazine extending its brand directly into retail when Monocle opened its London retail shop. Well, I’m pleased to report about the Monocle storefront that recently opened in Manhattan’s West Village, just down Hudson Street (at Charles St.) from the New York offices of Saatchi & Saatchi.

The 188-square foot shop somehow captures the same excitement about design, luxury goods, ideas and commerce that makes the magazine such a stimulating read. What’s most surprising is that it provokes this energy with only a small number of hand-picked items, including finely crafted stationary, furniture and toys. Despite this, you’ll never know what will delight you when you wander in. Their understated, sophisticated taste in products always hits home for me. Glad to have Monocle in the neighborhood!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

“Open a book to page ninety-nine and read . . .”

Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands

Conventional wisdom tells us not to judge a book by its cover. But what’s the alternative? The writer Ford Maddox Ford once suggested that readers "open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

It seems like odd advice, but a glance at a stimulating blog called The Page 99 Test reveals how effective this technique really is. The blog invites authors to share the 99th page of their work, and explain why it does (or doesn’t) reflect “the quality of the whole.”

As you might expect, the page ninety-nine rule doesn’t always apply. And yet, reading an author’s description of a single page of a book is a fantastic alternative to a traditional book review – and it’s definitely more informative than even the most insightful evaluation of a book’s cover art. The page ninety-nine test gives you a feel for the texture and tone of a book, without giving away too many goodies.

The blog inspired me to go back and give my book Lovemarks the page-ninety-nine treatment. Sure enough, page ninety-nine is devoted to a key theme in the Lovemarks philosophy: inspiration.

“I believe the most important thing any adult can do for a child, any leader can do for his or her people, any product can do for its owner, any event can do for its audience, is to inspire them. Only inspirational brands can be Lovemarks.”

This does it for me, it’s Lovemarks in a nutshell. From now on, I’ll be doing the page 99 test before I buy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Earthquakes and Empathy

New Zealand has been in the gun from nature over the past few weeks. A Haiti-sized 7.1 earthquake struck the beautiful city of Christchurch at 4.30am a few Saturdays ago. Remarkably no one was killed though damage runs into the billions. By all accounts it was a terrifying event. And last weekend a ‘weather bomb” the size of Australia passed over the country dumping rain, snow and hail all over the place.

What has been remarkable about the Christchurch event is how calmly people have worked together, how local and central politicians under the leadership of Christchurch mayor Bob Parker and NZ Prime Minister John Key have come together to restore services and start rebuilding, how the utility and infrastructure companies and workers have methodically gone about making things happen. And on October 23 Dave Dobbyn, Opshop, the Exponents and many other musicians and artists will Band Together for a benefit concert for earthquake-affected Cantabrians.

I hope that all of New Zealand is opening their hearts and pockets to the Canterbury region. The probability of this is high if a recent international survey is anything to go by. The UK-based Charities Aid Foundation has just completed a study measuring which countries are most charitable. Sure enough, New Zealanders are the most likely people in the world to donate time and money to charity. They share the top spot with Australia. (The United States, incidentally, tied for fifth – a strong showing, to be sure).

The study ranked countries by the percentage of citizens who donated money, donated time, or helped a stranger within a month of the survey. So, what percentage of Kiwis lent a helping hand in the last month? A whopping 57 percent.

This bodes well for the recovery effort, and for the future of New Zealand as a whole. New Zealand is a good example of how compassion and generosity are building blocks of a strong society.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Transformational Change By Design

As vibrant and promising as the world is in 2010, the problems we face today are more serious than ever. From gushing crude oil to shaky financial markets, our tremendous progress has brought with it equally tremendous challenges.

Being a radical optimist however, I’m confident that we will continue to overcome even the most intractable problems through creativity. I often say that “ideas are the currency of the future,” and it’s true. More than anything, we are going to need fresh, groundbreaking ideas if we are to stay safe, happy and healthy for decades and centuries to come.

These are just some of the thoughts that have been coursing through my mind since I read a stimulating little book called 10 40 1 from Sappi Fine Paper. The beautifully designed volume celebrates 10 years of Sappi’s Ideas that Matter program by showcasing 40 designers who “envisioned a way to change the world through the power of design.”

Ideas That Matter is a grant program that enables designers to contribute to charitable causes they believe in. Over the past decade, the program has awarded $10 million to designers who were intent on using their gifts to further the social good. The projects included in 10 40 1 are a perfect example of the Do One Thing philosophy for changing the world that I have long subscribed to.

Just take Doug Hebert. He decided to use his skills as a designer to help make potential adoptive parents more comfortable with the idea of bringing abused children into their homes.

In collaboration with DePelchin Children’s Center, Doug and his team from Savage Design Group Inc. produced After Harm, Hope, a book that not only addresses the many misconceptions about abused children and eases the anxieties of adoptive parents, but one that also seeks to empower children from abusive households.

Another inspiring design project included in Sappi’s book is from designer Amy Wang. She took it upon herself to educate Americans about the metric system through eye-catching and informative design.

It seems like a small issue. But America happens to be one of only three countries in the world that hasn’t adopted the metric system. As the book explains, “using a measurement system other than the international standard has caused inefficiencies in education and manufacturing, and put U.S. businesses and labor at a competitive disadvantage in the global market.”

Through a number of media -- including bus shelters, painted trucks and electronic taxi billboards -- Amy has begun making Americans more fluent in the language of meters, liters and grams. One of my favorite of Amy’s ideas is a public bus that bears the message “13,600 kg, give or take 45 sleepy passengers and a few leftover morning papers.”

I highly recommend downloading a .PDF version of 10 40 1 on the Sappi website. It’s a stimulating and inspiring read.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Touchy Decisions

It’s well known that sensuality is a powerful force behind human decision-making (it’s a core principle of the Lovemarks approach), but even I was surprised by a recent article in the journal Science. According to the study, our sense of touch is affecting us in ways that we would have never guessed.

Among other things, the study found that certain sensations have a dramatic effect on our social judgments. For instance, “heavy objects made job candidates appear more important, rough objects made social interactions appear more difficult, and hard objects increased rigidity in negotiations.”

This is only the most recent in a string of findings regarding how sensuality affects our judgments. Wired recently reported that “studies have shown that kids are better at math when using their hands while thinking. Actors recall lines more easily while moving. People tend towards generosity after holding a warm cup of coffee, and are more callous after holding a cold drink.”

These kinds of discoveries validate some of the basic thinking behind Lovemarks, while also revealing how little we all really understand about the inner workings of the human mind. It’s an exhilarating field of inquiry, and one I’ll be watching closely over the coming years.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Turning Lives Around

One of the biggest lessons to draw from the recent economic downturn is that education matters. I’ve always believed this, but the recession has made it much more obvious. Finding a job is harder than ever all over the world, but it’s especially hard for those without a degree.

In the United States, the unemployment rate among people without a high school degree is a staggering 14 percent, according to the most recent numbers.

Those without the opportunity to educate themselves often get caught in a nasty, lifelong cycle of poverty, violence and crime.

I was one of the lucky ones. I got exited from school at 17, and if it wasn’t for a handful of people who believed in me, taught me and inspired me, I wouldn’t have faired very well.

When you look at your life, you may see that a few people other than your parents were crucial to getting you to where you are now. These mentors gave you a vision – a glimpse of a brighter future you may not have seen for yourself when you’re 17 and still trying to find your way in the world.

And for those who are not born into the best circumstances, mentors can be crucial to living a fulfilling, successful life.

This is the reason why I support programs for at-risk youth. In these challenging and volatile times for young people, mentorship never mattered more.

The focus of my support is “Turn Your Life Around” (TYLA), an Auckland-based trust which works with youth identified as at risk of offending. These are young people on the cusp, as I was, of heading down that dead-end path.

TYLA was started 14 years ago in the Avondale neighbourhood of Auckland, New Zealand. Today it is a collaboration between the New Zealand Police, the government, and local communities.

The program has been a big part of my life for the past decade or more, as trustee, mentor, and fundraiser. My daughter Bex used to work full time for the trust, and now represents me on the TYLA board.

Most of those in the TYLA program have had a rough start in life. They’re usually from unstable homes and have either been involved in, or are capable of, crime and various other dysfunctional behaviours.

They come to the trust between the ages of 10 and 16, and stay in the program for up to five years or more. Each young person is given an ongoing, tailor-made support program designed to contend with their particular set of circumstances.

Because youth development does not happen in isolation, TYLA also works to support families and caregivers, empowering them to take an active role in assisting their children in making good choices. TYLA also works collaboratively with the police, social workers and schools to help ensure good outcomes.

Ultimately, the goal is to assist these young people in completing high school, and then help them on to higher education or employment.

Since it started 14 years ago, it has helped hundreds of young lives. And the trust is poised to extend its reach into other New Zealand neighborhoods. But this requires capital, so it is actively looking for funds to help achieve its mission of helping young people turn their life around, one choice at a time.

The links between poverty, illiteracy and crime are well-known. And breaking that cycle is an enormous challenge. TYLA is not a quick fix, but intelligent early intervention when young people first come into “the system” can make all the difference.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Creative Cover

I love creative ideas that seem to have been starring us in the face all along. Those “why didn’t anyone ever think of that” breakthroughs give me a real buzz. Cliff Francis calls this “surprising with the obvious.”

Here’s a perfect example of that kind of lateral thinking. While still studying at USC’s School of Architecture, Tina Hovsepian came up with the idea of Cardborigami. It uses origami – the traditional Japanese art of paper folding – to create durable, inexpensive shelters out of corrugated cardboard.

These shelters are water and flame resistant and surprisingly sturdy. They also fold flat and are easily transported to places where large numbers of people need temporary outdoor shelter. These include the urban homeless population and victims of natural disaster.

What I love about this idea is that it uses principles and materials that have been around for ages to solve a problem that has long lacked an adequate – and cost effective – solution. This is the very definition of creativity.

Creations such as this really stimulate my optimism gland. They remind me of the power of well-meaning creative people to improve the world in ways large and small.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Color Commentary

According to the Lovemarks philosophy, generating strong emotional responses requires Mystery, Intimacy and Sensuality. This has been well-established, but using these tools to inspire and provoke is hardly an exact science, as I learn time and again in my business.

Images and ideas that seem like sure things sometimes fail to seriously resonate with people. While other seemingly commonplace ideas, sites, sounds and images can have an unbelievable emotional effect.

A recent study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology proves this point perfectly. According to the study, women in the United States, Germany and China find men wearing red more sexually attractive. Despite the dramatic differences in these cultures, this reaction to red-wearing men was quite widespread.

Andrew Elliot, the study’s author, has a hypothesis for why this might be:
"In chimpanzees, the highest-ranking male turns more red quite dramatically during a competition for primacy . . . it's a clear status indicator. Females view that, and they go out of their way to mate with the highest ranking male available."

Probably best to shop about now . . .

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Saatchi & Saatchi’s 40th birthday is being celebrated today, and I couldn’t help but think about the next 40 years. There will be close to 10 billion people on the earth, and we will be challenged in ways beyond our imaginations. Resources will be totally stretched. I believe the human spirit has the resilience to make progress and achieve goals. In 1970 the founding spirit of Saatchi & Saatchi was “Nothing Is Impossible”. This attitude can inspire every human situation.

Here are three ways we might get to 2050:
  • Be outrageously ambitious. Progress relies on unreasonable people setting unreasonable goals. Be enthusiastic, exuberant, and enraged at the status quo.
  • Generate world-changing communications. Whether you make it, sing it, or sell it, your brilliant idea needs to communicate with compelling engagement. Start with Love.
  • Execute relentlessly. Ambition crumbles when the actions don’t deliver. The last detail totally counts. 99% is not enough. Emotion leads to action. Make things happen.
Here’s to 2050.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rethinking Talent

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the idea of “talent.” What got me started on this subject was Susan P’s recent comment here on this blog. (Welcome back, Susan! Glad to have you contributing again).

As Susan puts it, “talent can be found in extraordinary and ordinary places if we choose to be completely open about what talent actually 'is'.”

So, what does it mean to be “talented” or “gifted” or a “genius”? David Shenk has an interesting take on the issue in his recent book The Genius in All of Us. Although it sounds like a self-help book, it’s actually an incredibly well-researched meditation on the nature of human talent.

According to Shenk, the traditional view of talent as a “gift” that is somehow given to us through our genes is both simplistic and outdated. Genes mean very little, considering that, as Shenk points out:

“genes are constantly activated and deactivated by environmental stimuli, nutrition, hormones, nerve impulses and other genes.”

In other words, our genes don’t guarantee anything.

He also goes into great detail about the hard work and focus that some of the most talented people in history – including Mozart and Michael Jordan – put into developing their skills. His finding is that talent has less to do with the “gifts” that nature has endowed us with as it does with environmental and behavioral factors. That is, most of us aren’t destined to be talented or untalented. It’s something that happens over time, due to conscious effort and environmental stimuli.

The inspirational upshot of Shenk’s research is that “few of us know our true limits, that the vast majority of us have not even come close to tapping what scientists call our ‘unactualized potential.’”

This is exciting news, and hopefully it will inspire many of us to work harder at developing our skills. Too often I hear people label themselves as “not gifted at math” or “not artistic” or “not creative.” According to the research cited in Shenk’s book, we can’t let ourselves off that easy.

As someone who leads a creative organization, I know quite well how much environment effects ability. It’s my daily goal to create an environment where everybody people can unlock their creativity.

Throughout my career I’ve seen some of the most “talented” people fail to perform, and I’ve also seen some blockbuster ideas come from people who were labeled “not creative” by themselves and those around them.

Susan is right that, if we broaden our understanding of talent, we’ll start seeing it in unexpected places. The truth is, we’ve all got unbelievable potential, it’s just up to us, our mentors and our leaders to tap into it and put it to good use. A tall order, to be sure, but one that’s definitely worth the work.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Smiles That Shelter and Shine

"Every time you smile at someone," Mother Teresa said, "it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing." By that measure, there is surely no more loving and generous purveyor of the human smile than Koji Mizutani.

Mizutani, a native of Nagoya, Japan, decided in his mid-40's to cut back on his work as an art director for a large ad agency and dedicate his life to unleashing the unreasonable power of smiling. The Merry Project was born.

I noticed Mizutani's work in a recent article in the Daily Yomiuri, which featured the Merry Project's display of 100 "smiling umbrellas" at the sites of the atomic blasts that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki 65 years ago. The umbrellas feature just a fraction of the 40,000 smiling faces Mizutani has captured across 26 countries. If the images seem familiar, it may be because 1000 of his spectacular umbrellas featured in the Opening Ceremony at the Beijing Olympics.

Mizutani seeks out happiness in less hospitable places, too. He made a trip to New York in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and to China's Sichuan Province after the destructive 1998 earthquake. For an artist whose subject is human happiness, it is surely in these places that he finds his most precious and powerful subjects.

His website features a searchable database that allows you to enjoy a wide and varied catalog of beaming faces from around the world. As a photographer, he has a gift for prompting moments of unalloyed joy from his subjects -- and it is impossible not to smile back at the screen as you scan through them.

I love Mizutani's philosophy, which is summed up in an interview with the Japan Times: "Making people happy is what designing should be about." Now, that’s something to smile about.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Game Theory

Over the last two decades, professional sport has grown to be one of the biggest and most influential industries in the world.

I’ve long believed that there’s a great deal that managers and business leaders can learn from examining the unique role sport plays in the global economy – and specifically by analyzing what makes certain franchises economically successful. And yet, there’s a real shortage of research on this topic. Few people are thinking and writing about it intelligently.

Enter Sandalio Gómez, Kimio Kase and Ignacio Urrutia. Their new book, Value Creation and Sport Management (Cambridge University Press) proposes an insightful and academically rigorous framework for understanding the growth of the sport industry over the last few decades. I was asked to write the foreword to the book.

As they point out, “twenty years ago Real Madrid football team had a budget of less than €60 million; today, it is €400 million.” Something is going on here, and these three authors do a superb job of getting to the bottom of it.

I say in my introduction that sport “taps into the deepest emotional feelings of the world’s population, regardless of geography age or demographics.” This is territory that today’s business leaders need to be deeply knowledgeable about, especially as it is in the arena of experiences (rather than products) where optimum value is being created. Emotional experiences like the ones provoked by sport that will be at the core of the successful businesses of tomorrow, which is why it is important to study the underlying forces that govern this vibrant, unique industry.

Gómez, Kase and Urrutia have hit upon an important and overlooked research project, and I hope their work sparks a firestorm of academic investigation into the inner workings of sports franchises.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Portrait of a Hero

A portrait of my deceased friend, yachtsman Sir Peter Blake, has finally found a home at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery. It gives me great pride to have played a role in this momentous occurrence. It’s been a long time coming.

Peter was one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever had spent time with – an unstoppable force of nature if I ever saw one. He was among the most accomplished and fearless yachtsman this world has ever seen.

His achievements are too numerous to mention, but he is best known for breaking the record for fastest voyage around the world (74 days 22 hours 17 minutes 22 seconds) as well as leading the New Zealand team to an America’s Cup Victory in 1995 and 2000. Peter personified “nothing is impossible.”

His life ended tragically in 2001 when he was murdered by pirates while on a trip to South America. At the time, he was conducting environmental research for the United Nations.

The painting, which was unveiled at the NZ Portrait Gallery on August 11, was painted 15 years ago by Dunedin artist James Paton. It depicts Peter accepting the America’s Cup back in 1995.

The Portrait Gallery’s director, Avenal McKinnon, had been looking to acquire a portrait of Sir Peter for many years. When Paton’s painting came to light, it was clear that she had found the work of art she had been looking for.

If you find yourself in Wellington anytime soon, you should pay a visit to the NZ Portrait Gallery at Shed 11 on the waterfront and take some time to remember a New Zealand legend.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sticker Shock

Basil Christensen is a highly talented ex-Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand creative who just filled me in on a very cool project that he’s been working on for his winery, the Christensen Estate.

In order to combine his two passions of wine and art, Basil came up with a truly inspired idea to produce the most extraordinary wine labels you’ve ever seen for the winery’s first vintage: the 2005 Christensen Estate Waiheke Island Merlot.

What’s so special about these wine labels? Well, they aren’t wine labels at all; they’re sections of an enormous 5 meter painting that has been cut up into 1,000 wine-label-sized pieces.

The hardest part of this venture, according to Basil, was convincing an artist to create an enormous work of art, and then cut it to pieces. Fortunately, Karl Maughan understood Basil’s vision and agreed to collaborate with him on the project. Maughan was excited by the prospect of reassembling a painting into an entirely different work of art. (Basil lucked out, as a normal painting that size by Maughan would go for over $60,000!)

Karl’s painting consisted of at least 15,000 of his trademark, hand-painted rhododendron flowers in vibrant reds and purples. You can check out a video of Maughan working on the painting here.

If you’re interested in picking up some of these one-of-a-kind bottles, I recommend you get a box of six. If you do, all six bottles will bear a matching strip from the painting. Also, the box is signed by Maughan, and the set includes a limited-edition print of the original painting. It’s a breathtaking piece of art – particularly after a few glasses of Merlot!