SMALL WORLD PASSION
By Mardi Ford
Observer Staff Writer
In the yard there are still pots of petunias and a mix of garden tools scattered about.
As the fading autumn sun sends one last beam across the face of the young man raking leaves, Don Hagey leans over and says, "He was a gift from a friend in the business. We've been told he looks just like our son."
The small doll dressed in overalls is fated to labor over those itty-bitty leaves until winter comes to the large glass case.
He is just one component of the miniature world Don and Adrienne Hagey have created in and around a two-story blue dollhouse displayed on their front porch.
The Hageys proudly share their talent, their passion and their business. The miniature world under glass sits on a stand outside the front door of their own two-story, blue house in Cove. At night, the lights in the dollhouse come on.
"Kids just love it," Hagey says. "In the past, we've had field trips from the schools here to see it."
Today, the dollhouse is decorated for fall, but soon Adrienne Hagey will work her magic, and Christmas will come to the little world under glass.
"It changes with the seasons," Don Hagey says. "Adrienne brings it to life."
A few of the furniture pieces Don has built, some things they have purchased, and some, like the doll who looks like their son, have been gifts from other miniature makers they have met through the business, Hagey says.
The couple continues to add to the setting. It has grown and expanded over the years, just like their business Mt. Fanny Cottage Crafts.
"It all started with this," in his hand Don Hagey holds a simple wooden doll he made in 1968. The 35-year-old doll, built before Adrienne figured out how to make jointed movement in wood, is simply dressed.
"She's pretty precious," Hagey grins. "It's not true that real men don't play with dolls."
Hagey tenderly sets her down atop a small glass case filled with furniture he describes as primitive. He says he made the furniture before he knew anything about scale.
"I made these when I went to the ice," Hagey says. A retired U.S. Navy veteran, Hagey recalls the year he spent in Antarctica in the late 1960s. There wasn't a whole lot to do "at the bottom of the world," he says.
"I had done a little miniature work after that first doll," Hagey says, "so I figured I'd try my hand at duplicating our dining room."
In 1969, Don was transferred to San Diego and his family, which had been living in Vancouver, Wash., moved down with him.
Adrienne joined a miniature club in San Diego and Don continued to focus on supporting their family of nine.
In 1972, Hagey was assigned to Akutan, a remote naval base in the Aleutian Islands off the Alaskan coast. Once again, there wasn't a whole lot to do for entertainment and, once again, Hagey turned to making miniatures during his free time.
In 1974, Hagey finally retired after 25 years in the Navy, and the couple moved back home to Cove where they had originally met. Don went to work for Eastern Oregon University until his job ended in 1991.
Through the years Don spent working, it was Adrienne who was the driving force behind the couple's continuing involvement with miniatures. Don worked at designing and building furniture, but it was sporadic, based first upon his military career and then later the years spent doing "a lot of different things" at EOU. It was actually Adrienne who set up their workshop in a small, unused garage behind the house.
Just as it should in a woodworker's shop, the scent of freshly skinned wood reigns supreme in Hagey's workshop. Here they have organized a bench for him and one for her with a sander, a router, a table saw and more in between.
Adrienne does the finishing touches the painting and details. Don builds the furniture. For wood, Hagey says he works mostly in maple, black walnut and cherry.
"I don't use the exotics so much," he says, "but sometimes I'll throw in a little alder or beech."
Hagey says most people have no comprehension of what goes into making a detailed piece of miniature furniture. He works in 1/4-inch, 1/2-inch or 1-inch scale, as well as the miniscule 144th scale where 1 inch equals 12 feet.
Hagey makes his own jigs and templates. In addition, he has customized and modified many tools over the years.
"I don't think that's anything exceptional in the business," Hagey says modestly. "You have to figure out ways to do what you need to do."
To make his own doweling for table legs and chair legs and spindles, he customized a router by turning it upside down and attaching a long piece of round, metal tubing to the top.
Hagey begins with a long stick of wood he cut to 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch he calls square stock. It looks something like an untapered chopstick. He forces the square stock through the router and out comes a tiny little piece of doweling.
Depending on what scale he is working in, that tiny, little doweling is then pulled by hand through a draw plate until it is teenier little doweling. He can continue to pull the piece of wood through smaller and smaller holes in the draw plate until what once resembled a chopstick now looks like a very long toothpick.
Once the doweling is made, Hagey will turn it on a lathe and shape the design. The process to make a single table leg or chair leg is time consuming, sometimes boring, Hagey says, and painstaking. It is, however, work they both enjoy. They're a team.
"There wouldn't be a business if it weren't for her," Hagey says proudly. The Hageys are living their version of the American dream.
At this time in their lives, they are both active, enthusiastic and busy. Their business has made them new friends all over the world. They work together at a home business they built out of a hobby. And although it will never make them rich Hagey laughingly says his wages are about six-and-a-half cents an hour the business pays for itself. They fund their supplies, tools and the travel they love.
Several months out of the year, the Hageys' home is a 26-foot Arctic Fox trailer they pull behind them. Zeke and Henrietta, their house cats, go along for the ride.
Last year the Hageys traveled to shows in Canada, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, Colorado and Arizona. Twice, in the past few years, they have been able to go to Tokyo.
They usually spend the winter at home in Cove rebuilding their stock.
"It's cooler to work in the shop in the winter anyway," says Hagey. In early March they'll be off to Seattle for a show and then down to New Orleans for another. While down south, they plan to make a side trip to Florida to spend time with an old friend.
They are always excited about what is coming up next and look forward to the next show.
"We're having fun," Hagey chuckles.