“Original” Ideas: A Tale of Inadvertent CASEing

I don’t have a brand new project to share with you today – instead I want to tell you a story that I think will make you smile. We all have so many similar experiences with creating our paper crafting projects – and I’m sure you’ll relate to this fun tale.

There are very few original ideas in this world, and I proved that yesterday – inadvertently.

I often start planning my cards days in advance of when they show up on my blog. It’s not uncommon for me to have pieces of cards laid out on a side table, waiting for the right element to bring the card together. As I started to play with the Flowering Desert stamp set for the very first time earlier this week, I stamped the saguaro cactus in Call Me Clover on Thick Whisper White. That’s when it struck me that the cactus looked like a human body with two arms. How cool!

Since it’s close to Valentine’s Day, I have lots of hearts on my table, so I thought it would be fun to complete the “human frame” and add a sweet Melon Mambo heart. Here’s a look at the card I shared with you yesterday:

Flowering Desert, Amazing Life, Stampin' Up!, Brian King, Valentine's Day cardIt’s a simple card, but you can see why the heart is a perfect element on the cactus, right? It’s cute, right? I was so happy with my “completely original idea.” Such a fun card that came together organically! That’s until THIS picture showed up in my text messages first thing Friday morning:

Mary Fish's cactus card, Stampin' Up!That’s Mary Fish’s saguaro-with-a-heart card from December (click on the picture to see her post from December). Want to guess who sent me the link to this card? Yup, it was Mary Fish – and the text was followed with a phone call.

That’s when this story gets interesting…

Cut to earlier in the week…I was so happy with the way my idea came together – so much so that I worried I might have seen this idea somewhere else. It felt so familiar. Did a previous Stampin’ Up! stamp set have a cactus with a heart? Was there a sample with a heart-embellished cactus in the Occasions Catalog? I looked, but my search came up empty.

In a casual conversation with Mary, I mentioned I was excited about the card I’d made – my simple Valentine’s Day cactus was sure to be a hit. I asked if she had ever seen a cactus with a heart on it. She responded, “I really like the idea.” Phew – maybe my original concept was a good one. On Thursday night (after I had edited my photo and written my post) I texted the photograph of my card to Mary to share it with her (we often share sneak peeks with one another during our creating time). She responded, “Sweet!” Not one mention that I had ripped this idea right out from under her while giving her zero credit for the idea.

Am I a Joker?!

So why, at any point, did Mary NOT tell me that I was thieving her idea? Apparently I am known for being a “joker” and have a history of being “naughty” – can you imagine such a thing?! Mary thought I had been “jerking her chain” all along by “intentionally” copying her sweet card. She thought I was playing a joke on her, and she opted to play along by NOT playing along.

There’s Something About Mary

While no one wants to get “called out” by one of their heroes (and one of their favorite people in the world), Mary was so gracious about my barbaric (and unintentional) plagiarism of her adorable card. She was so supportive and kind about it – and we both laughed lots about the mix-up.

Here’s a little excerpt from our Friday morning messages:

MARY: [link to cactus card]

BRIAN: Whaaat?! So I straight-up copied you, and you let me do it?!

MARY: I thought you were jerking my chain…Frankly, I love it. Who cares?

BRIAN: I care. I’m a plagiarist with no shame!

MARY: I’m laughing out loud. You are one of the kindest, most talented, most generous, handsome and selfless people I’ve ever know.

OK…maybe she didn’t actually say that last line, but Mary didn’t mind that I copied her cactus idea. Truth is on her side, too, since I was the last person to leave a comment on the card she shared on her blog more than a month ago. While I still would have gone with this card on Friday, I would have definitely given her credit for inspiring me to make it. I would have acknowledged that the card concept is a CASE of Mary’s.

What is a CASE

When we CASE (Copy and Share Everything or Copy and Selectively Edit), we find inspiration in a project – theme, color combinations, layout, products used – and create our own project by making changes to make it our own. When CASEing, it’s important to give credit to the original designer – it doesn’t take away from your project at all. Follow my instructions for CASEing, but (as evidenced by this story) don’t look to me to be an example. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by today!


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  1. What a great story, Brian! I’m laughing out loud! Love your honesty and owning up to not giving Mary any credit. Mary is very generous and so are you. Both cards make great Valentines. Enjoy your day!

  2. I have done this myself too, not on purpose. I guess sometimes things sink into our brains but not our memory. That is my excuse anyway!!!

  3. I’m confident there have been many hearts on saguaros in the past, BK, and your heart is angled slightly higher. It’s always an honor if I influenced a project in any way (even inadvertently).

    And, of course, I should have added that last sentence to the text. Doing so now . . . .

  4. I see so many ideas of cards made by so many talented people all the time. So when I’m trying to create my own I wonder if it comes from a sample I’ve seen or is it one of a kind. It’s hard to remember all that we have seen. You and Mary have a great relationship and I love how you support each other. You both inspire me to be creative! Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Awww…thanks, Robin! You’re right – there are so many great ideas out there, and it’s hard to know when one is your own. I’m so happy to inspire you to create – that’s what it’s all about. ♥

  5. Too funny Brian! Both cards are great!

  6. Well, you know, “Great minds think alike.” That’s the “case” here.

  7. Dont be at yourself up, Brian. It was an honest accident & a compliment to Mary. Great/creative minds think alike. Maybe your who she saw as she created the card & it just stuck with you. At least you have credited her now. & she did add sun shine to hers. Both cards are great. Just a wise old Grammy, that enjoys your creativity.

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Dianne! I appreciate it! Mary and I had a lot of fun with the back-and-forth commentary after this happened. My brain picked up the idea but made be believe I’d never seen it. So happy to share – especially with kind people like you.

  8. Brilliant minds think alike! And that saguaro just begs for a heart!

  9. Thanks for sharing that story. Sounds like something I would do….kinda like opening your mouth to insert foot. lol.

  10. So nice to know that you are human Brian! Two great cards by two lovely people!

  11. I laughed so out loud at this post…my family just came in to see what is so funny! I just said one word “Brian” and they shook that heads at me. I do agree with the last line from “Mary”!

  12. Brian, such a great story to share. Not to worry, I still love your card and you despite the obvious plagiarism! 🙂 And Mary’s graciousness shows that stampers are a sharing, generous community! Plus I have to agree with many of your commenters, great minds think alike!

  13. This is a wonderful post! We are all influenced by what we see….and like….on other people’s cards…..and I love that Mary played a joke on you! You two rock!

  14. Mary is such a lovely lady with creativity that is beyond description. She is also a caring, loving and generous lady. We are all lucky to have had the opportunity to view her blog. She did something for me when my daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer that I will forever be thankful for. I’m 100% sure you didn’t realize you had copied her design and also 100% sure that she is thinking you didn’t realize she had done that design before you. Two wonderful, creative, loving and kind people that I am so fortunate to have dealt with.

    • She and I are good with it and had a great laugh. I may have been a little ego-bruised, too, to find out that my idea wasn’t my idea. Thanks for all your kind words, my friend! I couldn’t agree with you more about Mary – she’s amazing.

  15. Brian, this is just too funny. I am sure there are Many more original ideas out there that slip by!
    When I was a Little Girl. I made a rhyme “I scream, you scream, we all scream for Ice Cream”. I was soooo very proud of myself. Years and years later and much older I heard someone else say “MY” rhyme”. boy did my parents have a good laugh.

    • It’s totally the case that we often think of things that others have already thought of. In our cases, though, it seems our exterior worlds left impressions on us that gave us these ideas. ♥

  16. It happens. I was so worried about posting something similar to someone’s else’s in the challenge since you said “original ideas”, but it’s hard. You think you’re coming up with an original but when you read blogs, Pinterest, etc., you’re never really sure If it’s an original idea or if it’s inspired by something you’ve seen.

    • There is always that thought in the back of my mind – did someone else make this combination, too? We are all working with limited supplies, so it happens. ♥

  17. In all the time I have been following you and Mary, never have I witnessed any intentionally uncredited CASEing, by either of you. Even any remote similarities of projects only prove that you have similar design sensibilities~and you’re working with the same materials, after all. You are both the most generous and gracious of artists and bloggers. We ALL get such inspiration from you. Thank you for being such a talented, ethical and encouraging role model.

    • I pride myself on coming up with original ideas – maybe that’s why this bruised me so much. 🙂 I’m so happy to share with amazingly kind people like you, Linda! Thanks! ♥

  18. Your story and explanation was hilarious. I find myself shaking my head, knowing how easy it would be to do just that. Thanks for sharing your funny story and giving me a laugh….I do love the card by the way…so creative…so one of a kind! LOL Glad you can laugh at yourself…keeps the blood pressure down.

  19. I pride myself on being original as much as the next person, but really, is there ever an original idea when it comes to making crafts. Even knitters follow a pattern. I think most of us are inspired by cards that we see, and even if we don’t have a copy of it in front of us, it’s in the back of our mind someplace. I will never fault a person for copying something, and not even realizing it. It’s just great when you copy it from a best friend without even knowing it. That’s funny!

  20. Oh my gosh! The two of you are cracking me UP! What a funny story, and the fact that I know both of you, makes it even funnier! This is a prime example of how much fun this craft is! I mean, c’mon! How many other places can you actually copy someone and they laugh it off? And, are genuinely honored that you did? Love BOTH of your cards ! 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Bobbi! I’m still a little startled by the whole situation – was SO proud of my idea. 🙂 We had a lot of fun with this – glad you did, too.

  21. Love the story, you and Mary are very gracious…creative minds often remember (think) alike. The true fun is you both laughed about it!

  22. I prefer Mary’s x

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