The Cuban Collage Crisis

A couple of weeks ago, two of my collaged notebooks were removed from sale in my Etsy store by Etsy admin. Why? Because within the hundreds of stamps collaged onto each cover, was a single, used, vintage postage stamp from Cuba. And the USA (where, of course, Etsy is based) has sanctions against sale of any (quite clearly, literally any!) items of Cuban origin. This is from the email they sent me: “Etsy’s policies prohibit the sale of items sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) at the US Department of the Treasury. OFAC prohibits any transactions involving items of Cuban origin.”

Of course I understand that Etsy is just following the law, but it does seem just the tiniest bit extreme that a single little postage stamp (sold from a different country) could be cause for any kind of unrest. Challenge: can you pick out the Cuban stamps within these two collages?

Contraband collage notebooks, featuring Cuban (sssh!) stamps
Contraband collage notebooks, featuring Cuban (sssh!) stamps

To be fair, I should reassure you that Etsy staff has not individually scoured the collages on each of my notebooks to identify any potentially law-defying stamps! In each of my item descriptions, I list the countries of origin for the stamps used (where I’m able to identify them) – because I know from craft fair experience that people like to buy a notebook with stamps from a place they have been, or where a friend is travelling to, or where they have always dreamed of visiting (etc).

Well, I could have been naughty and re-listed those two particular notebooks on Etsy, removing the Cuban reference. But my rebellious streak has instead chosen to embrace the Great British Marketplace (where no such similar sanctions exist), in the form of Folksy. It’s nice to reach out and be a part of the broader, worldwide Etsy community, but it’s equally nice – and also kind of warming – to be represented on a site that highlights only British crafting. No-one can make me choose one or the other, but in terms of Cuban stamps, Folksy definitely wins!  The two Etsy-forbidden notebooks are currently available here and here.

As it turns out, I don’t actually have a huge number of Cuban stamps. They’re definitely not as common as the other South American countries in the large batches of stamps I spend my ‘leisure hours’ sorting through. However, I do have a small collection, so rather than sneaking them onto Etsy collages using subterfuge, I’ve created a brand new ‘Cuban Collection’ of pocket notebooks (with a new numbering sequence), which will be Folksy-exclusive.

Cuban Collection, 'Contraband' Collage #1
Cuban Collection, ‘Contraband’ Collage #1

From this point onward, each time a Cuban stamp finds it’s way into one of my collages, it will only be available to buy on Folksy. On that note, here is the very first ‘contraband’ collage of my new Cuban Collection:

More to follow!

6 thoughts on “The Cuban Collage Crisis”

  1. Artist Nick Bantock also had some of his pieces removed for the same reason. Ridiculous. I love your solution – Cuban Contraband!

  2. Goodness! I had no idea they were so thorough! They must have a search alert for any mention of Cuba or Cuban. Beautiful notebooks! I’m sure they’ll find a good home with a Folksy buyer. 🙂

  3. Your books in your shop must have been flagged by someone. Someone probably zoomed in on your books and saw the stamps. That’s the only way I can see how they could be noticed. What bothers me is that when you see all the copyright infringement that goes on in Etsy, it’s truly amazing how blatant that is and nothing seems to be done about it until a demand for a take down is ordered by a company. Somehow, it doesn’t seem quite balanced.

    1. I had specifically mentioned within the description that Cuban stamps were included (alongside the other countries), so I’m sure Etsy has ways of searching that content for specific keywords. They probably do random spot checks or something. Either way, I’m not taking offence at it. But yes, when there are so many breaches of copyright which are blatantly ignored, there does seem to be a bit of an imbalance…

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