Iain Soder swears it was just a joke, that the postcards he designed for a NSCAD course---postcards that set an “I (Heart) Dartmouth” symbol against images of blasted-out craters and smoke-spewing oil refineries---were inspired by the good-natured barbs he and a Dartmouth-based friend have traded over the years.
But Soder’s postcards sparked some controversy a couple of weeks ago when he started selling them at Just Us! cafe on Barrington Street, where he’s been an employee for five years. A customer subsequently shared the images with Zane Kelsall and Tara MacDonald, who own the Dartmouth cafe Two If By Sea and
have trademarked (see correction below) the I (Heart) Dartmouth logo.
“We thought it was a stab at us, for sure,” says Kelsall of the postcards. “I saw a petty addition to the Halifax-Dartmouth rivalry. My first thought was, ‘Why are they doing this?’”
The postcards weren’t a Just Us! initiative, though. According to Just Us! CEO Tom Smith and cafe manager Cherie Dufour, the company often allows artists to post and sell their wares in the Barrington Street location, and Dufour had Soder’s work removed immediately when a customer complained. Neither Soder or the Just Us! bigwigs knew that Two If By Sea had trademarked the I (Heart) Dartmouth symbol, a fact Soder touched on in a letter of apology to Two If By Sea.
Kelsall and MacDonald are satisfied that the postcards weren’t intended as a competitive dig and say they won’t let the incident poison their relationship with Just Us!. Still, they can’t understand how Just Us! management could allow artwork that seemed to disparage Dartmouth---and that used an image associated with Two If By Sea---to be sold in their store.
For his part, Soder is a little sheepish. “I feel quite embarrassed at creating this tension between the two cafes,” he says. “I stuck (the postcards) in the wrong context.”
Correction, 21July6:10pm Matt Semansky writes: Upon following up with Two If By Sea ownership, I've learned that Two If By Sea does not own the trademark for the I Heart Dartmouth symbol, as was initially reported in the article. Although the cafe sells pins and clothing sold in the store, uses IHeartDartmouth.com as its web address and considers the symbol part of its branding, Iain Soder did not commit any legal offence in the creation and sale of his postcards. The Coast regrets the error.