As a landlocked, Georgia-raised child, Casey Garvin was drawn to the waters of Sullivan’s Island. It’s where her family spent birthdays and family vacations — on boats or at the shore near Station 7 where her aunt lived. “It’s kind of magical,” says Garvin about life on Sullivan’s. “I’ve always been an ocean baby and my brother, and I used to spend all our time exploring and finding shells. ‑ at connection is really meaningful.”
Mixed in those shells she and her brother would find were the occasional shark’s teeth, something that piqued her interest at the time, but didn’t manifest as an obsession until she returned to the Island to live during her graduate studies for speech pathology.
It was her training that really drove home the wonders of fossils. Studying anatomy and physiology — especially things like the palate and the teeth or the skull — gave Garvin a scientific skillset used to scope out prehistoric treasures. While that’s usually enough activity for the average leisurely beach walker, spotting the fossils, for Garvin, is just the beginning. “It was one of those things where I happened to see one, then I started to see them everywhere. I guess I got addicted quickly,” she says. “Studying anatomy for speech, now I’m noticing the differences like, ‘Why does this one has serrations and this one doesn’t? This one is pointy and has bicuspids, but this one is curved and jagged.’ Just that interest in what is it and really wanting to know. That’s my favorite part — wondering what it is, identifying them.”
So, Garvin, well, dug in. “‑ e more research I’ve done, the more resources I came across.” says Garvin, who even joined the Palmetto Paleontological Society and works with fellow members in her search for knowledge. She and the president of the society, Ashby Gale, spend hours sorting fossil finds and identifying items that Garvin recognizes enough to grab, but still has questions about.
Almost two years ago, Garvin made her first jewelry pieces using found fossils. “I got a lot of compliments and friends saying, ‘I want one!’ So, I started making a few and then people were contacting me out of the blue saying, ‘So and so had a necklace on.’ It just stemmed from that.”
Today her jewelry line, Foxy Fossils, mixes prehistory with a glint of glam finding new ways to incorporate fossils and sharing her obsession with the world. Take her Vert bracelets for example. Each highlights a shark vertebra and the bracelets have a magnetic clasp, making it an easy-wearing conversation piece. She also looks to contemporary design and incorporates fossils where others would put ne metals, like her bar-style necklace that’s made with stingray barbs. “I’ve got so much good feedback from people, so it’s been really encouraging and positive,” says Garvin. Local shoppers can find Foxy Fossils at farmers markets and boutiques, but her online storefront has meant that Charleston’s prehistory is on the necks and arms of those as far away as Sweden and Sheffield, England.
For Garvin, seeing her work on others is thrilling, but fossil hunting will always have its own rewards. “I love being out on the water, being outside, being in the creeks and stuff , there’s something about it — I feel whole I guess.”
- Margaret Pilarski, Photos by Steve Rosamilia