Ned Kellogg's Dollhouses
By Mary Kaliski
"By now I must have cut over a million shingles," Ned Kellogg muses. "And I've made thousands of dollhouses in the last twenty-two years." He cannot even calculate the tons of slate he has dragged home from upstate New York to cut into perfect miniature flagstone and how many forests of white pine he has cut into siding.
"There is a machine that cuts shingles but it makes them all the same thickness; I prefer this because I can cut them randomly which is the way shingles should be." Ned demonstrates with his chopper, a kitchen knife attached to a board, his hand moving faster than the eye can follow. Within seconds he chops a block of wood into dozens of shingles. "I bought this knife over twenty years ago for a dollar and it's still perfect," he said. Ned, a humble man, is pleased with the simplicity of this tool that allows him to transform ordinary timber into miniature lumber.
It is only fitting that Ned's workshop sits in the middle of an old Victorian town that has changed little in the last obe hundred years. His shop, with its wide planked floors and low beamed ceilings, bows grudgingly to the twentieth century and is a seemly host to his architectural works of art.
"We have been here for a very long time," Sonia Kellogg, Ned's wife and partner, said. "People come from all over to look at Ned's houses." The late Charles Kuralt's crew paid a visit and filmed Ned for the On the Road Series, shortly before Kuralt died. Through the years the dollhouses and their creator have been featured on ABC-TV, and local stations WLIW and WPIX. Articles have appeared in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. One of his dollhouses was featured prominently on the soap opera Loving. It was used on the series to represent the longing of a delusional woman. "When that character died, the dollhouse went off the air too," Sonia said.
It is difficult for Ned and Sonia to remember how they were propelled into the miniatures business. Sonia recalls the springboard as a dollhouse for their elder daughter, Valerie, but Ned likes to think of it as just fate. "There was no rhyme or reason. It was just meant to happen and it happened. It really wasn't planned. One day I said to Sonia, 'Do you want to have a miniature business?' and she said, 'Okay.' It's amazing."
Ned feels that throughout the years he has put a lot of determination and energy into developing the kind of house he can be proud of. Although styles he makes range from thatch-roof cottages to San Francisco town houses, all strictly reflect life-size architectural replicas. When I have a chance to stop working, I can't." He favors 3/8-inch Indonesian pine for his structures, will use commercial components if they fit his needs, but hand crafts windows and doors if custom sizes are required. Ned is also meticulous about full-size craftsmanship. He made the fireplace mantels, armoires and headboards in their real home. In "real life" outside of miniatures, Ned and Sonia are oratorio soloists. They met in adolescence while Sonia was studying voice with Ned's mother. "The minute she walked into our apartment I was taken with her," Ned said. "And I with him. I thought he was very handsome but I didn't want him to know." Sonia laughs. They have rarely been apart since then. While Sonia continued to study music, Ned earned a doctorate in basic sciences, but did not pursue anatomy and physiology as a career. Music was too much of a draw.
Throughout the years both Ned and Sonia have been soloists with the New York Philharmonic and at Carnegie Hall. Sonia was also a soloist with the Little Orchestra Society and the couple has done several premiers of Benjamin Britten operas. One of the highlights of their musical careers occurred during a performance of Haydn's Adam and Eve. "At the end Ned kissed me. The crowd loved it and our two little girls were looking up at us from the audience," Sonia recalled.
I wasn't comfortable with the concept of devoting my life to trying to make it in music," Ned continued. "But the dollhouses keep me going. I always have houses I want to do."
"I love all his houses and hate for him to sell one," Sonia said. "Whenever he does, I always want him to make another like it. I miss them."
And, since Ned "can't stop working," there will always be more dollhouses. His next project will be another San Francisco. He is also planning to do a water mill and maybe a stone town house. Pretty soon, he'll have to up his tally to two million shingles, then three, then four.
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