Stealing or Intuitive Consciousness?


Throughout my lifetime, I have found it quite curious that cultures - ancient cultures with no possible connection to each other - have developed artistic expressions that are quite similar.

Huichol Indians of Mexico weave Ojo de Dios - a similar weaving is practiced by Tibetan monks. Patterns in Navajo and Turkish rugs are amazingly similar.

Europe and Asia were connected and influenced by trade, but the ancient cultures in America pretty much developed in isolation. And yet these similarities exist even though until relatively recently (if current human migration theory is correct) there has been no connection between the people living on the Eurasian and the American continents since before the last ice age. (Weaving was developed in western Asia long after.)

Throughout history, we have given credit to certain individuals for significant discoveries - electric lights, heliocentric solar system, evolution, telescopes. But the fact of the matter is that these happen to be the individuals who simply have received credit for these theories and inventions. There were others working on the same problems at or near the same time, coming up with the same solutions and they were often unknown to each other.

I have come to believe that as humans we share what I call "intuitive consciousness".


I bet you are wondering why I am telling you all of this stuff?

Because I had a very surprising - almost mind blowing - experience happen to me over the holidays.

Many of you may remember my Iceland Advent Tree.

I had been influenced to create the tree by reading about the fact that in Iceland there are no evergreen trees so the early residents would cut down Rowan (Ash) trees, remove the limbs and then reinsert them in the trunk to resemble the branch pattern of an evergreen. When I first heard of this practice several years ago, I began trying to work out how I could make a simple tree to honor this tradition.

The full story of how I came to make the tree is here.

With the help of my sweetheart and a scary sketch of what I wanted to achieve, the final steps of the journey took place among the labyrinths of shelving and racks at our local Home Depot.


We came home with our purchases and went to work! Basic construction can be found here.

And then I posted! On Monday, November 7th, 2011!

Five days later, One Pretty Thing featured this project! Forgive me guys but &%$!#@&*?#

AND it was originally published on Lowe's site ion 12/09! Forgive me again! #@&?%$#!!!!!

Cross my heart - I NEVER, EVER set eyes on this tree before! But the similarities in construction and materials freaked me completely out!

Seriously, if this tree had appeared after mine, I would have been entertaining the thought that maybe the designer had been "influenced" by my tree. But clearly not. Nor, for that matter, was I influenced by Lowe's tree.

And get this - the construction - using the threaded rod so the branches could be folded flat - came from my sweetheart - who believe me does NOT spend any time looking at craft blogs - or online retail sites - even those involving tools! (He IS however, a brilliant engineer and worked out the design so he would not have to find room for a 18"x28" box in the garage!)


Having finally recovered from the shock - this beautiful tree appeared!

The idea didn't come entirely from Karah's imagination, she was influenced by this tree  while trying to figure out how to make a Christmas Tree using the natural materials at hand. (She lives on an island - lots of driftwood!)


Not long after I published this tutorial for Napkin Cuffs made from tooling foil, I found this tutorial for something very, very similar on Martha's site! And I am pretty darn sure Martha didn't find this idea so overwhelmingly brilliant that she just had to make them too! (And for the record, I have huge respect for Martha so no mean comments please.)

My point! Simply that two completely unconnected minds when searching for an answer to the same "problem" can and sometimes will come up with very similar solutions.

And while there might be the temptation to accuse another of "stealing" our ideas, the reality is that we don't actually own "our" ideas - they are simply a part of the collective intuitive consciousness.

Now, if I went over to Polka and Bloom, copied a pattern and then sold it or presented it as my own - THAT would clearly be stealing. But if I had never even heard of Carina or seen her work, and came up with a very similar design, then that would be the collective intuitive consciousness at work.

So - human intuitive consciousness! What do you think? Possible? Probable?

What a very interesting

What a very interesting discussion. I just Googled the topic and was led here that way. I wasn't sure if the term intuitive consciousness was a valid term. Jung actually wrote about this and called it syncronicity. I read a little about it while also reading a bit about noetics.

I became curious about the possibility of a connection between coincidence and intuition and decided to explore the idea that rather than a rare coincidence here and there, what if this intuitive consciousness is actually collective and underlies many aspects of daily life and is, in fact, not so rare at all and that, perhaps, we simply can't see it clearly... for a variety of reasons.

So... the term, "intuitive consciousness", came to mind. Where did that come from? I've never read that before, nor heard it spoken. That term was the start of my exploration, which led me to your site only minutes later.

I can't help but agree with your assessment at the start of your story... mind-blowing!

Yes Pam, definitely possible,

Yes Pam, definitely possible, and always probable. Very interesting and fun post! I've always know it as Collective Consciousness, and fully believe it happens very often!
It's happened to me with a design for a pinkeep just recently.
I often think...why should not some of our great minds come up with similar ideas from time to time at or around the same time? The thought that only one mind/person could have an idea ever, seems very impossible to me! :)
All those trees are fabulous! x

p.s. Congrats on your successful crochet project! Well done you. Just about all things are possible, yes?

I have had this occur with

I have had this occur with many of my lesson plans that I do for school art classes. I will invent a super fantastic lesson and a month or so later there it will be in a magazine or on tv. At least great minds think alike!

Hello Pam, what a great post!

Hello Pam, what a great post! This is something I've thought a great deal about too.

I think that in today's fast paced interconnected online world, it's really hard to not be affected by trends. One of the reasons it's good to step away from the screen and gather inspiration from other places.

As you wrote, you can gather your inspiration way off the beaten track, and still find that someone else did too, at the same time!

Sometimes I think we need to remind ourselves, that the idea of originality became an ideal in the Western culture in the 1800s. Prior to that, the ideal was to work within an established tradition and be a good craftsperson within a set structure. Today we want everything to be new, new, new and original, but how often can true innovation really occur, and are things really better because they are new?

As you can see, your post inspired thoughtfulness. Thank you!

Kate!  I love that thought! 

Kate!  I love that thought!  "Step Away From The Screen" to find inspiration!  Don't you think that if we all are only finding our inspiration online we are going to find ourselves reverting back to the 1800's and regurgitating the same stuff over and over and over?

So you brought up something I think about often.  I am very happy that through Diane I have been introduced to a part of the online world that relies on it's own hearts, minds and muses for creative expression.  It doesn't have to be new but it must be authentic. 

Thanks so very much for your

Thanks so very much for your thoughtful response, Pam!

YES I agree with you, I think that the online world is both opening new frontiers for us, giving us new possibilities, and at once narrowing down our creative inspiration, making us keen to be accepted in our online circles, and - like you put it "regurgitating the same stuff over and over and over".

Also love what you said about "It doesn't have to be new but it must be authentic."

Glad I found you via Diane who I also find very clear, warmhearted, bright and inspiring!

What a great post, Mom - and

What a great post, Mom - and I'm loving the comment discussion!

Here's another intuitive consciousness experience I've had - I came up with these:

...And my friend Patricia came up with these:

We had never discussed paper hearts, or any remotely related subject, and we came out with these at nearly the same time.

I agree with Erin - the outright stealing happens, too, and that's both unoriginal and wrong. But honestly, I suspect that those cases are relatively few as compared to the number of times it's just a matter of coincidences in intuitive consciousness.

Ideally, we're all always moving forward with our development as designers. In this age, I don't think anyone can expect to make money from the same idea indefinitely. Nor should the appearance of similar ideas automatically constitute a threat, as infinitely segmented as audiences are becoming.

Wow Diane!  thank you so much

Wow Diane!  thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here!  I wish I had your talent for presenting an idea with such clarity.

I especially agree with the thoughts expressed in the last paragraph.  Beautifully stated!

The heart you gave to me hangs from my chandelier all year long - I love how it spins in even the slightest air current.  It would be perfectly logical, if you and Patricia had been introduced to Danish paper art, that you would have come up with this idea of 3-D hearts.

Ooh, good post, Pam! So

Ooh, good post, Pam! So thought-provoking...

First, you should check out this beautiful tree:

Second, the Science Channel series "Through the Wormhole" will blow your mind. Specifically there is an episode on consciousness and it covers the idea of collective consciousness and the variety of theories and tests that scientists are running to test it and other ideas like the sixth sense.

Third, like Eleanor said about the zeitgeist, I think it's only natural that people being influenced by the same ideas and moods in the same time periods would come to many of the same conclusions. Every time I think I've thought of some new genius idea I google it pretty extensively because half the time, it's already out there. Happily, half the time it isn't. ;)

Our collective knowledge and wisdom continues to grow and unfold and we all stand on the shoulders of giants. And the unfettered ability to share on the internet has made the giant exponentially taller. :)

Oh Elizabeth - thank you for

Oh Elizabeth - thank you for adding your thoughts to this discussion! I found the PosibiliTrees this past December!  They are just fabulous! And this one you linked to is my favorite. 

We do watch "Through the Wormhole" but have missed that episode apparently.

As fascinating as I find the fact that people sharing common cultural experience develop similar solutions to a given problem, I am even more fascinated by the fact that ancient stone age cultures living in complete isolation from each other (ancient Americans and Europeans/Asians) would come up with similar design solutions in weaving and pottery. 

We do indeed stand on the shoulders of not just giants but all mankind actually!  Contact between peoples living in Europe and Asia fostered the flow and development of new ideas and new ideas built on more new ideas.  Due to relative isolation, the Americas experienced a different path. Innovation occurred at a much slower rate.

I think the intuitive stuff

I think the intuitive stuff happens and, unfortunately, I think the stealing stuff happens, too. Fortunately, I surround myself with people (IRL and online) with whom the only option is the intuitive stuff. (In my experience, "stealing stuff" people aren't particularly clever, imaginative, or hard working.) I like the something in the air theory of invention, but when you think back to bigger inventions, I imagine lots and lots of smart people looked at the then-current situation and the current-advances and wondered what they could do with those input. Lots of garage geniuses, if you will. So, why wouldn't it be the same in the crafting/home ec world? What if a bunch of people read the article about the ash trees and what if a few of those people were imaginative, crafty, ingenuous people (with helpful husbands!) who were inspired? Then you'd have a bunch of people interpreting the same idea very slightly differently. I just thinks it is so fun to see what people do with the "data" we all receive each day.

Erin, one of the greatest

Erin, one of the greatest pleasures I derive from being online is seeing what people do with all that "data" you mentioned! 

When I present a tutorial or simply a "guide to making" it is always my intention that what I present will simply be a jumping off place for creative minds to take the ball and run with it - to some place I would have never thought of!

Not everyone shares that attitude of course, but for the most part it works for me.

I got a huge kick out of your scenario describing the Iceland Tree Fest!  I have thought for some time now that it would be fascinating to present a very specific "problem" to the crafty community and then ask everyone to share their own solutions.  I have always believed there would be no two alike - but now I am wondering!!!

Pam, I've actually thought a

Pam, I've actually thought a lot about this idea. We are so used to trends being dictated to us by industry, by color forecasters and the like, that we are ready to accuse people of stealing when they have the same idea as someone else. I've heard this expressed a lot, especially in science, that an idea was "in the air;" it also comes up in the video game world, where games that have been in secret development for years come out the same year with similar features. I like to use the word "zeitgeist" to talk about it because it seems a little less "woo-woo" (because I don't speak German, probably), but it's definitely a real thing that people are maybe prevented from perceiving well because our current intellectual property paradigm is so ingrained in their heads.

I don't know if you ever saw this serious drama about the idea of "a pendent in the shape of a state with a heart cut out of it." Now as a person who has had a conversation with a lawyer once in their life I know this idea is not copyrightable, because as a person with common sense, OBVIOUSLY jewelry designers with a similar aesthetic might come up with the same superimposition of two basic shapes. But there was some girl who was convinced Urban Outfitters was ripping off her specifically--not the handmade aesthetic, but HER--and then the girl who runs Regretsy had a weird "I'm no lawyer but . . ." post containing the frankly odd idea that if you had an idea on your own but then you find someone else previously had the idea, you cannot legally or ethically make money on it. Whereas from a legal standpoint, the fact that multiple people can come up with an idea independently is what makes it uncopyrightable. There's a big difference between writing "A Tale of Two Cities" and superimposing some very common shapes. (I stopped reading Regretsy once I found that post in her back catalog, actually.)

Thank you Eleanor for taking

Thank you Eleanor for taking the time to share your thoughts.  I really appreciate it so much.

Zeitgeist!  I like that! 

Intellectual Property!  Not Intellectual Property! Lawyers specialize in this stuff! 

Diane once mentioned while we were discussing this topic that more than once she has come up with what she thought was an original idea only to find it a year later while thumbing through a 60's craft mag.  Those of us following the same threads are bound to come  to similar solutions.


I know the intuitive

I know the intuitive conscious thing happens all the time. There's a blog devoted to sweets that I read regularly and we've traded lots of "I swear I didn't take this idea from you, but here's this thing I've been working on and it's looks almost exactly like the thing you just posted" emails. It happens so often (and we have never met nor do we talk about planned work to each other) that I just chalk it up to... if you are going to be working with similar materials and focusing on similar topics (like holidays) then it's not that weird to come up with something similar.

I agree totally.  And with

I agree totally.  And with the internet increasing the chances that people and ideas will connect, this will happen more frequently. 

But it also gives us all the chance to connect (as you and I have) with people that can act as muses for each other!  I love how together you and I can keep building and building and building upon an idea or concept.  I share that with Diane as well. I consider this a gift.

Hi Pam! My husband came up

Hi Pam! My husband came up with the idea of a driftwood Christmas tree many years ago, after walking along the shore and collecting wood. He made it the same way you made yours, but without the beads. He never read a blog in his life, not even mine! The same "intuitive" stuff happens with quilts too!

Mary, I don't suppose we

Mary, I don't suppose we could all be so lucky that you would still have this driftwood tree and would share a picture?

And i quite agree - with so many quilters in the world these days there would be a great many similarities in design.