Specializing in greeting cards that connect people to Aboriginal Australia, Dana Garlett’s business Paperbark Prints is an expression of her identity.
“[In] my language, my name is Djida. Djida represents the morning scenes of nature as the sunlight breaks to commence the beginning of a new day. I have a very strong Aboriginal heritage and ties to four different regions in Western Australia, which include Whadjuk (Perth Metropolitan), Nyikina (Kimberley), Minang (South West), and Ballardong (Wheatbelt),” said Garlett.
Growing up as a pastor’s kid, she said, her involvement with church, especially with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, enriched her exposure to the cultural diversity that exists in Australia.
“Through my father’s work, we traveled throughout Australia. From the city to remote communities, to the country, rainforest, and outback. We had the privilege to meet so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when living and being in their country,” she said.
Currently living and working in her birth country, Whadjuk Boodjar (Perth, Western Australia), Garlett explained that Paperbark Prints was born out of COVID-19 lockdowns and a desire to connect.
“Working from home, juggling schoolwork with my son and home life, not being able to visit friends and family, and having social interactions made me think about how I could maintain that connection with others,” she said. “I always find so much joy and happiness when I give to others, so I thought greeting cards would be perfect. [It’s] a way I can minister that brings people together through my designs.”
In a world that can isolate people through modern technology, Garlett said, Paperbark Prints uses old ways of communicating to bring conversations back to paper. Using colors found in nature and minimalistic artwork, her designs are created to be shared with anyone.
“I share God through my creative practice by building a community that strengthens personal connections with one another. That’s a lot like what Jesus did. He brought people together from all walks of life. Sharing aspects of my culture brings awareness and understanding, which is part of reconciliation in action.”
As well as her desire to connect people, her work helps keep her culture alive by drawing inspiration from her family and mentors.
“I think about my grandmother, Coral Foley. She is part of the stolen generation, and amidst all the hardship and challenges she has faced in her life, she still has a strong love for Jesus,” Garlett said.
“Secondly, my grandfather, Greg Garlett, was a great leader, teacher, and knowledge keeper of our family. Through his hard work, advocacy, and fighting for our Nyoongar people, he has taught us how to live in two worlds, balancing culture and modern life. This is his legacy — we still have stories, experiences, and knowledge that have been instilled in me, my family, and passed to our children to keep our culture alive.”
She currently attends Karla Bidjar Aboriginal Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bassendean (Perth) with her family and said that God has opened many doors for her business since it began in November 2020. “This year, we’ll be sharing more greeting card designs for all occasions and looking to add prints and digital designs to our range,” she commented. “I believe God has big plans for Paperbark Prints, and this is only just the beginning.”