It doesn’t take long to see that something unusual is going on at this 5-acre spread in Dade City.
The topiaries at the front of the property are a dead giveaway that creativity has found a home here.
There’s a horse with a mane made of vines. Three mushrooms squat beneath giant oaks. A dolphin leaps in mid-flight. And a baby elephant, complete with a water-hose trunk, serves as a giant planter.
These are just a few tangible examples of Cindy Seifert’s imagination at work.
Walk out behind the artist’s home and you’ll find a butterfly garden, with plenty of winged creatures hanging out.
She’ll show you where the herbs used to be, before the butterflies gobbled them up. And, she’ll guide you to a bush, where caterpillars are munching away — preparing for the time when they’ll become cocoons and later emerge as winged beauties.
Glance to the rear of her yard and you’ll see a garden shed that looks like an old-fashioned wood-plank building.
Ah, but appearances are deceiving — Seifert’s shed is made of plywood, painted to look like planks.
Step inside her office and you’ll find more examples of Seifert’s works of whimsy. There’s a carousel figure and some caricature sculptures.
And, poke your head into the basement and you’ll find a classroom, where Seifert has begun offering classes for women and children.
“What they learn to do is think like artists. They learn to identify shapes,” she said.
Her students learn to recognize how objects of everyday life are made up of various shapes.”
“Everything,” according to Seifert, “is made of shapes.”
The artist is also passionate about nature and teaches people how to design their own butterfly gardens.
Her classes are $20 an hour. It typically takes four one-hour classes to learn how to design a butterfly garden, said Seifert, who is actually self-taught.
“I’ve been creating art ever since I was a very small child,” said the woman who grew up in Ohio. “My first paying job, I was in third-grade. My girlfriend’s father commissioned me to paint a picture for their dairy farm, a cow’s picture. After that, the dairy farmers hired me to paint pictures.
“I was able to make a sizable side income.”
She later worked as a commercial artist. Now, she creates sculptures, murals, portraits and other works. She does much of her business online.
Seifert became interested in creating topiaries after making carousel figures about 15 years ago.
“There was an art show at the Northdale Library, the original location down in Tampa, and I brought one of my carousel figures in,” she said. “The response was overwhelming.”
As a result of that show, Seifert was commissioned to build some carousel figures for the children’s area at the library.
“The topiaries are actually built off the blueprints I created to build the carousel figures,” Seifert said, adding she doesn’t use pressed molds or prefabricate her works. “Everything is handcrafted. I design everything, blueprint everything.”
Seifert decided to start offering lessons so she could share her knowledge and her love for art and gardening. She calls her classes “Lessons from Cindy Seifert Art Gardens.”
At the moment, she has just five students, but she believes she’s been called to create the program.
“I think that God puts us here for a reason — to share our knowledge, and I think that it is a privilege,” Seifert said. “God has given me stewardship of all of these things here in my life, — to be able to not just cultivate a garden, but to cultivate minds.”
For more information about Cindy Seifert, her art and her classes, visit www.CindySeifertArt.com, or call (352) 588-3832.