A member of the Muscogee Creek Nation in Florida, Townsend grew up in the Everglades. An artistic grandmother inspired him as a child to carve tikis and totems out of palm trunks. As he grew older, he started scribing Native American designs on shells or “folapvs” (foe-la-pahs), for tribal elders. He says, “Shell carving turned out to be a full-time job, and now I live and breathe it every day. It’s all consuming.”
Dan Townsend is a life-long student of southeastern cultures and practices the art of shell engraving, an ancient and beautiful tradition. He has traveled to many archaeological sites and viewed countless museum collections doing his research for the shells that he carves. He is truly carrying on an indigenous art form.
Today, Dan Townsend has created hundreds of unique replicas and personal interpretations of Native American design that are based on artifacts such as ornaments and ceremonial objects that have survived the ravages of time in the Southeast.
Presumably, he is the most widely recognized contemporary shell carver.