asking for trouble

Factory Tour

So, last weekend I got an email from Etsy Marketplace Integrity, which obviously wasn’t going to be good news. In a long and incomprehensible message it was apparently accusing me of….something, involving novelty and commercial items. Given the ever more bizarre list of possible Etsy law breaking categories (novelty love note pills?!), I replied asking for more information on what exactly I was doing wrong.

I was then told the questionable items were my Bunny Squares Notebook and my Cakeify phone charm (so apparently, the Bread Slice charm was okay…), plus given a list of 15 questions to answer about how I make my products, where I buy my supplies, who else helps me etc. I also had to send my outsourcing receipts, photographs of me, my work space, my raw materials, my tools and supplies, my handmade process, the final products and my design files. Amusingly, they all had to include a handwritten note of my username and the day’s date.

shipping day

The shipping department at Asking For Trouble Inc., where me and my team pack your orders from a shoebox of supplies while sitting on a duvet.

This was all very annoying for many reasons. Some of the information is already in my Etsy About page, showing how I make stuff and who I am. Also, the bizarre singling out of two products that are no more or less handmade than 90% of my products. That I wrote a blog post for Etsy in 2009 where me and Claire picked our favourite kawaii tems on Etsy, which was illustrated with my Bunny from the notebook!

But the main feeling was bemusement, which I’m sure you, dear blog reader, can join me in. Of all things, wanting to know more about me, my workspace, my design process and my products! Anyone who reads this blog knows more about me than you probably ever wanted to. There’s 5 years of date-stamped blog posts and Flickr photos out there showing everything I do in tedious detail.

Progress. The pancakes are being difficult - might need a trip to B&Q.

The production line, where literally TENS of products are assembled by tiny trained rabbits.

I realise that probably someone reported my shop and I might have brushed this off as Etsy just launching into standard enquiry mode but it would have taken all of ten minutes of research into my profile, sold items history and linked blog/facebook etc. to see that I am clearly one person working in my house with a history of making and designing and a group of well-used original characters. Plus, you know, all those actual completely obvious Chinese resellers on Etsy that are left undisturbed despite the best efforts of sites like Regretsy. When are they all getting their 15 questions to answer?

Anyway, after sending an enormous email of ever more ridiculous proofs, I received an reply on Tuesday which noted they were “glad to learn that [my] items are handmade!”. I still don’t actually know what I was being accused of but at least I now have the Etsy handmade stamp of approval. At the end of the day, I should probably be flattered that my characters and products look so professional, people think they were made by a big company rather than an individual.

A few closing items:

I sure am glad I spend my money promoting and advertising my own shop instead of my Etsy shop. Shopify have never questioned my products or my hipster credentials. And in case Folksy or DaWanda users are feeling smug, both of those sites have previously asked me to remove products they don’t consider handmade enough (though in a much friendlier way). Seriously, if you take one piece of advice from this, it’s to promote your own website that you have control over and can sell whatever you like on. And if you’re buying, maybe take the time to check if the seller has their own site too.

This whole ‘handmade’ label is really getting unhelpful. I don’t blame anyone looking at my Bunny Squares notebook and thinking no way did I make that myself. Because I didn’t. I designed it and had it made to my specification. Making Etsy sellers classify their products as either handmade, vintage or commercial when listing doesn’t tell the whole story. I’ve said this before, but where do you draw the handmade/independent design line – a zine printed by a local printer, a self-published book using a site like Lulu or Blurb, a book written by a maker published and distributed by a major publisher? Most ‘handmade’ marketplaces allow all three.

I had big plans to take some hilariously over the top photograph of myself to send but, OH THE IRONY, lacking any employees to help me, I could only take a grainy iPhone pic. It does feature the date in the form of a calendar I designed and a Cakeify that I stitched with my own hands. And some raised eyebrows.



Hello! I’m Marceline Smith, the designer and owner of Asking For Trouble. I create illustrated stationery, accessories and gifts using my cute characters inspired by Japanese kawaii. This is my business and personal blog where I write about my creative doings, inspirations, travels, Japan trips and daily life. Read more »

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All text, photos and illustrations are © Marceline Smith 2007-2024 unless credited otherwise. You may repost my images with full credit and link. However, do not reproduce full posts without my permission or use my images or writing for commercial purposes. Thank you!


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