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Life and Work with Emilee Dziuk and Paul Barnett

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emilee Dziuk and Paul Barnett.

Emilee and Paul, please share your story with us. 
Everything started to come together in 2013 when I met Paul. I had been working with plants and herbal medicine, for several years prior, but when we met, it became one of our shared passions. After a year in San Francisco, we moved to Ojai where we started our own small, diverse, medicinal garden. We took a distillation course later that year and learned more about hydrosols, essential oils, and distillation. We were both hooked. The art and process of distillation mirrored a decade of research Paul had been working on with Jungian psychology and it all just fit. We bought a copper still and started adding hydrosols to the topical line of healing products we developed.

The evolution of the name and business strategy started years before with an earthworks art installation that we did entitle “mistoyo.” ( This art exploration helped us conceptualize the project which later became known as GARA or Grass and Root Apothecary. The project imbibes our philosophy of intention, health, and wellness and working to care for our natural surroundings, wherever they may be.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As with anything, there have been ups and downs which arise naturally in any form of growth. I have a very small but incredibly strong support group around me which helped lead me through good and the tougher times. The most solid advice I received was to just keep DOING. No matter what you are doing, keep doing. Don’t give up, find your niche, find the need and fill it. As a woman, we often get caught up on the HOW rather than the DO. Employ your masculine to keep you in the path of production rather than destruction.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with GARA Skincare – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Essentially, plants have enticed me to work with them, to propagate, to learn, to explore and to share them. Over the years of working with medicinal plants here in California, I have been introduced to many new plants, local natives and rare, unique species which utterly consume me. I am specifically drawn to aromatic plants as they provide a direct pathway to the emotional centers of the brain through scent. We walk around touching and smelling nearly everything in our area and I am continually amazed by the uniqueness and diversity of plants in the Ojai Valley.

Topical products provide direct communication with the body through our skin, the largest organ. If a healing takes place, the relationship between the person and the plant has been established. Our intention is to carefully extract and combine natural compounds to produce potent and lasting results. In the Ojai Valley, the climate permits exploration with many species of medicinal plants, offering a unique environment for discovery. We carefully observe the surroundings in which plants grow, what they cohabitate with and what conditions they prefer, changing as little as possible as we move through the stages of processing. It’s no use trying to outsmart nature.

There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
Be gentle, be patient and just be yourself. Take a step back and work on yourself, before you help others.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Brett Colvin Photography

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