Felines abound in woman's life and her work

Teacher: Carolyn Seabolt's students at Westminster High are always looking for a cat in her art, and they usually find it.

January 02, 2000|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Cats dominate Carolyn Seabolt's home -- on the walls, on shelves, in curio cabinets, as a screen in front of the wood stove, on pillows, in her jewelry box, in the kitchen, and of course, her work studio.

Only two are real -- a longhair black cat, Sheba, and a Maine coon cat, Heidi. The rest are ceramic, wood, on plates and mugs, and framed watercolors, batiks, tinsel and mosaics.

"I've always been a cat lover," she said. "I couldn't have one as a child because my dad had asthma, but we had an outdoor cat."

Fortunately, she married a man who likes cats -- and by coincidence her parents finally got her one, a Siamese she named Holly, the Christmas before she married.

"It was the neatest gift I ever got," Seabolt recalled. "Then I got married that May and took Holly, and I've had indoor cats ever since."

Her love of the animals became the focus of her art studio -- Cat Tracks -- that she had built onto the back of her Westminster home about 12 years ago.

An artist and teacher for 30 years, Seabolt is well-known around the county for her art and teaching. Besides hundreds of high school students, she has taught adult education through the public schools, at Carroll Community College and privately.

She has bachelor's and master's degrees in education and fine arts from Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, and 60 credits beyond a master's from Western Maryland College.

"I've never really stopped going to school and learning," she said.

"I've been at Westminster High since 1971 when it opened, and I've seen a lot of changes," she said. "I've had a lot of kids go on to do great things, too. It's really great."

She jokes that her students know to expect cat art from her. "When I show the students something new, they know it'll be a cat," she said. "If it isn't, they'll ask, `Where's the cat?' "

As a teacher, Seabolt takes the time to help students who may not have a natural artistic bent and help them to develop ability in an art form, said Westminster Principal Sherri-Le Bream.

"My daughter is one of her students, and I never thought she'd take an art class because she isn't very artistic," Bream said. "But she took art history, two other art classes and now she's in ceramics with Carolyn. She loves it and is doing very well."

Also head of the fine arts department, Seabolt helped start a chapter of the National Art Honor Society at the school, Bream said.

"It's a very active chapter," Bream said. "Carolyn has done a really nice job of reaching out to the community to show off the students' work, through chapter activities and exhibits."

Sandy Oxx, director of the Carroll County Arts Council, is impressed with Seabolt's ability in so many art forms, as well as her teaching.

"She's teaching a ceramics class for us in January, and I'm delighted with that," Oxx said. "We've shown her crafts here, and we're proud of that."

Like Bream, Oxx noted the quality art coming from the high school students, adding, "I think she's inspired a lot of students throughout her career."

The types of art Seabolt does include silk painted scarves, batik, watercolor, an occasional oil painting, wood designs, ceramics, tinsel, handmade paper, mosaics, shadow boxes and marionettes.

She does other animals and subjects occasionally, "but I try to put a cat in it somewhere," she said.

"Silk painting and batik are my favorites," she said. "Batik goes back to the Egyptian pyramids -- you find it a lot in India, Indonesia and Africa. When I started batik 20 years ago, people didn't have a clue what I was doing."

Batik is "wax writing" on cloth and can be recognized by the veining in the design, caused by the dye thinly penetrating the waxed area of the cloth.

As the cloth is colored in a series of steps, the areas covered with wax resist the dye. Following the waxing process, the wax is removed and the piece dry-cleaned.

"I like to do things nobody else does," she said. "I'll do something one time and that's it, like my silk scarves and batik designs."

She also does commissioned works. Seabolt's art also is fun, like the game box with mice and cheese bits for the checkerboard cover and tic-tac-toe game she made.

"I figure if it can't be fun, there's no use in making it," she said.

When she retires from teaching, Seabolt said, her goal is to open a shop for cat lovers, featuring her cat art.

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