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charles and ben prowell woodworks arbors
READER CORRESPONDENCE
prowell woodworks

writing to charles prowell

Long ago, when it was fashionable to offer letters of recommendation to prospective patrons, the artist accumulated a portfolio of references that were as vital to his working career as the work itself. And if there happened to be, among those references, a King or Queen or member of the royal court, one stood a good chance of plying one's trade for a reasonable stipend that, in turn, allowed one to continue plying one's trade.

To continue plying one's trade. Isn't it odd to consider a career in this light? As a privilege. In the old days one carried a photo portfolio when arriving at a patron's home and from that portfolio, they reviewed the possibilities and departures. This in building up a patronage one family at a time until there were about 30 families in the San Francisco / Marin County areas who were considered the core of Charles' career.

It's been 25 years since Charles stood with a potential client and reviewed a portfolio, and a dozen years since he possessed a standard business card. There is a catalog, replacing the old portfolios, but with hundreds of products now and designs changing and modifying as often as the wind changes, the catalog itself seems pointless.

One thing that doesn't change is the sheer enjoyment of interacting with those who call and write in and the few Ben and Charles have been privileged to meet in person.  Maneuvering their way through the process of insuring customers are rewarded with what's right for them and their property.  Once inside this process, customers are forever remembered. The lasting social graces of being rewarded with their patronage .

Now and again they will write in with kind words. A few write who have no intentions of making a purchase, but feel a need to simply reach out. And a few--perhaps the most enjoyable--write from a perspective of having parked themselves on the site for weeks, foraging deep into the nether reaches of the web site.  Some--far too many actually--wrote in regarding an elaborate treehouse once posted on the site.  The Treehouse has since been removed, for this very reason, and yet we've included a few of their comments below for no other reasons than they seem to fall within a tone-of-voice or airy stratosphere apparently relegated to lovers of treehouses. There are also a number of other areas once on the web site that have since been removed.  What fell under a heading titled "Pointless Pastimes', buried deep and not so easily found and have nothing whatsoever to do with the Prowell products.  These are occasionally referred to below by those with an intrepid curiosity and an appeal for humor.  Perhaps someday we'll re-post these offerings, as the loss of their resulting correspondence is certainly missed. Read until you are bored.

GENERAL COMMENTS (in no chronological order)

On Aug 9, 2016,
Hello Fellas. I was looking for minutiae on the correct size for gate posts. I found your description of installing fences lyrical. I was so happy I think I laughed out loud. I just wanted you to know how appreciated your knowledge and delivery are. You made my day. Maybe my week. Carry on.
Best, Melissa

Thanks Melissa for taking the time. Your letter made me smile. So we're even.


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Jan 5, 2000
Do your gates have a re-sawn face? Is it more typical of a typical clear cedar fence and gate to be a little rough? Are your gates acceptable looking for a nice finished front entry to a house?  I apologize for so many questions the last few days.  We're just having trouble making up our minds.
James

James,
A re-sawn face is something you will have seen commonly. I would imagine all carpenter fences are of re-sawn stock. Slightly rough, as opposed to sanded smooth like a tabletop. Our gates and fence panels however are not re-sawn.  They are surfaced and identical on both sides. As to whether the gates are acceptable to a house entry. . . well James, I am not aware of any homes whose general aesthetic and economic standing has been denigrated by a Prowell gate. I would imagine it works the other way. Now enough of this re-sawn talk. You're letting the pragmatist walk all over you. If the gates move you, if they affect you in some pleasant way, then it's as simple as imagining that pleasantry repeated every time you enter or leave your house. So if you have an argument with Ms James and you leave the house in a huff and get to the gate and through the gate your attitude suddenly changes, softens, and you turn back, and going through the gate a second time you're left as sappy and soft as a puppy and because likely it was Ms James who insisted on the gate in the first place, she'll be standing at the doorstep, tapping her foot on the landing with her hands on her hips calculating the cost of having gates scattered everywhere.


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Sept 18th, 2008
Charles,
Sending along a photo of the gate that I thought you might appreciate.  Showing the remnants of last week's Hurricane Ike, where our fence (not one of Prowell's, unfortunately), and half the garage are completely missing.  And yet your gate remains standing, practically unscathed.  Amazing!
Bill

Tyler, TX

Unbelievable, Bill.  And thank you for sending these along.  They would make for great marketing, toward those crazy enough to actually live in a hurricane zone.   On another note, I am truly sorry for what losses you have sustained and wishes for a speedy recovery.
Charles


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On May 3, 2010
We live in Seattle and do all of our own woodworking and construction on our house.
We are currently building a fence with new gates and were looking at your site for inspiration.
We LOVE all the pictures with the superimposed monkeys and people-figures (and even the one of you with the nose glasses).
Plus, we really enjoyed the interludes of quotes and images of you working. Great style! You can tell you're really living out your passion - your work is AMAZING - and we're so glad you shared how much fun you have with it on your web site. Just wanted to say thanks and let you know that we really enjoyed your site.

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On Dec 15, 2016
Happy Holidays from Minnesota. Your product is holding up beautifully. This will be the 5th winter since it was installed. Thanks for featuring our home on your fence website
Lin and Dick Bleck



Hi Lin and Dick,
Thank you for sending along the seasonal photos. I think this may be the first as such with site photos showing both snow and Xmas ornaments. Seeing these and we/re surprised no one has done this before. Crystals and peace wreathes and garlands and one gate in DC decades ago where we designed an accessible frame with the gate to allow the homeowner, a landscape painter, to display seasonal paintings. But until now, no ornaments.
Holiday cheers to you
Ben and Charles


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December 10, 2009 3:39:14 PM PST
Dear Charles:  Remember me?  You  made the Craftsman porch swing for our Coronado home several years ago.   We still love it!    I thought you would enjoy seeing this lovely note I received recently.  See the attached scanned copy.  I can relate to the writer, because that is how I felt when trying to find "just the right swing"!
I will give her your info and I just bet you will have another customer!
Stephanie



Hi Stephanie,
It's always nice to see your name in my in-box.  Although not something that happens too often, actually.
How nice to have someone take the trouble to write a note and leave it with you, and that you have passed it along.  I hope we do hear from her, as it will be a continuing link to you.



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Sent in May 2007
Wow, you're designs are fabulous.  I can't wait until I make enough money via garage sales, selling my husbands old golf clubs, bowling balls and, well heck, my husband, to be able to buy a garden gate of yours.  They are things of beauty, to be sure.
The road trip story made me laugh out loud . . . am anxiously awaiting the next installment.  PLEASE keep writing, you are a much needed breath of fresh air!!!!!!!!!!


--Garage sales, bowling balls, golf clubs, and husbands; I'll be waiting forever.

 

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June 26, 2007
Your site is truly wonderful. I live in Los Angeles but was born and raised in Sebastopol. I stumbled across your site it looking for gate designs to steal ideas from for one I'm making myself. This is a funny question, but I just thought I'd ask: Are you single?
Your a handsome guy with creativity and a sense of humor and I ask because my Mom (a very attractive, sweet, fun lady ) lives in Sebastopol too! If by any chance you are single and looking I've would love to fix you two up !
Write me back if you'd like more details.
Best,
Tanya


--Dear Tanya
I just realized that I never got around to answering this one.  But now that I have, I am at a loss for words.

 

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May 21, 2014
Hello Charles,
Our gate arrived yesterday in great shape -- no shipping damage at all. The packaging was very good. We unpacked it and placed it between the jambs for sizing and it fit perfectly. The gate looks very, very nice and is obviously well constructed -- thank you so much.
Gordon and Stella Chamberlain
Decatur, Georgia

Hi Gordon and Stella.
Good to hear everything arrived on time and in one piece. We're looking forward to some photos of the final installation. A few days ago Ben and I were having our lunch break. He was reading yet another catalogue on rock climbing equipment and I was doing a crossword and he says as if talking to the wall that wouldn't it be nice if the world were populated by chamberlains.
Who?
Chamberlain. Georgia?
Oh
If the whole world were like them, it would be a different world.
Very different. Better.

June 6, 2014
Hello Charles and Ben,
First of all, thanks for your very nice comment. We were going to reply as soon as our other fence project was finished -- we thought in a few days following your message -- and here we are just now at that point! Dealing with this other vendor and their supplier has been a comedy of incompetence and errors of epic proportions. I don't really intend to start a "mutual admiration society", however, on a scale of 1 to 10 this other group would get a 0 and CPW would rate an 11. It's ironic that we've encountered two such diametrically opposite qualities of people in the same time frame. We wish that all craftsmen and suppliers in the world would be like CPW!

Have a good weekend,
Gordon



_ ______________
July 1, 2005
First of all, what a great website!
The most complete website with some of the greatest designs I have seen, including, accessories, technical data, and care, thanks so much. I have read your very complete installation instructions, and for the life of me, I can not seem to picture how I should go about the installation.
I may be over my head on this project, but I thought I would ask an expert before calling one of your local installers to my Thousand Oaks
home???
Thanks for one great website of some beautiful wood work by a true craftsman.
Happy holiday, enjoy.
Jeff
Thousand Oaks Ca.

 

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On Apr 7, 2010, at 11:36 AM, Ted wrote:
Hey Charles,
My wife wants a fence, and so I am looking around the Web for ideas. So far yours are the coolest, and I like your site so much that I'm going to mention it on my blog at Remodeling Magazine. Would you have a few minutes to talk about your designs and your construction methods, maybe? That would make it easier for me to steal your ideas, hrrm hrrm, I mean, it would make my blog more interesting.

Seriously -- your designs remind me of traditional indoor wainscoting -- I think my riff for my blog is going to be about how in California, where the weather is so mild, people tend to blur the distinction between their house interiors and the outside world, but then they need to make their fences more substantial in order to set apart their outdoor space as still a private space. So you get a formal fence, but with sort of an "outdoor room" decorating thing going on too, not just a blank wall. Type of thinking. California does have some really cool fences (and decks and gardens) -- I noticed it last fall when I was visiting my sister in Fairfax, north of San Francisco.

But from the standpoint of actually building something for my wife, myself, I am curious about how you evolved the way you put these things together. I see where you had a story in Fine Homebuilding back in the previous century -- I haven't read it yet, but I'm about to. I think she wants to buy one of yours for $80,000 (my wife does, not my sister), but I told her I could do it for $75k if she will fly me out there to watch you doing it first. And we can use the difference to sponsor an African child.

Anyway, if you are interested in a conversation, let me know -- I would enjoy talking with you.

Regards,
Ted


Hey Ted,
Interesting letter.  It must seem odd, but blogs are something I've yet to experience.  My patience Online is almost nonexistent.  Maintaining and posting revisions to the web site for 17 years takes up 99% of my allotted allowance in that arena and as a result I've grown to avoid browsers like the plague.   
But I'm back from a couple weeks of traveling and if you were to pose questions, I'll make an honest attempt to answer them and we can explore what's worth exploring. Charles

 

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006 1:21 AM
Thank you for your entertaining website. You do beautiful work. I wish I could commission your group to build my fence on my modest estate, south of SF. Alas, your quality of work would stand out like a work of art announcing my high tone tastes to my neighbors.

This would get in the way of our chats as they focus on HOW MUCH DID YOU PAY? I'm just looking for regular, run of the mill fencing but was wondering what you would do for a dog house? I'm imagining something akin to the treehouse, something that would charge up my Spanky to want to run and play in his own house (and leave mine alone). Just a thought and feedback on your web-page.
Marie Ochi-Jacobs


Well, Marie, not always a bad thing to announce the state of your tastes to your neighbors, and as a result possibly, with this new change of high-class events-- the turn of conversation will veer away from last night's telly to , say . . .the opera, or whatever high-class folks discuss with their neighbors.

So Sparky needs a charge and preferably one of his own and not your own house. Will he be inviting local Sparkettes to his new home and are you okay with this? Or will the new doghouse require sound-proofing.
Charles

 

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January 13, 1998 8:06:15 PM PST
Hello
Just stopping in to say that your work is extraordinary
Kristina

 

______________
Hello!
I just needed to tell you a few things . . . First, your Fence #1 is just the fence I have been dreaming of. However, my budget at this time is strictly, as you say, "JC Penney". But I will wait and save until I can build a "Sax" fence similar to your Fence #1. Do it once and do it right is my motto. Second I had to tell you your FAQ section is fantastic. It is the first and only FAQ section that I have ever read purely for entertainment purposes. Thank you!
Sandy

Hello Sandy.
You'll be happy and hopeful to know that I am working with a large production shop in Massachusetts in an effort to hammer out an agreement that will allow us to offer the fence-lines in volume at what I hope is a more affordable cost. They would come on board for the sole purpose of these volume fence orders and I'm crossing my fingers that it develops toward the desired end of making Fence #1 accessible to those who may not appear on Forbes 500. But it's a lot of work. On my part. Cajoling and charming and contriving and negotiating and I'm utterly exhausted and so today, I'll play golf.

FAQ. I should return to read that. Not something I've done since it was composed. But reading something already written is counter productive when that time could better be spent writing something new. This morning six new things were written, in my inestimable boredom, and all of which continue this wretched addiction to words.

The first thing written, as a proviso to certain bay area patrons:

"And of course the standard we-forgot-to-mention up-charge for east-bay patrons that states, in very fine print, that if delivery falls on a day when there is a shooting in either Oakland or Richmond, a 22% combat fee is added. If the shootings result in fatalities, the combat rates double. If there is a gang war, in full bloom, and the UPS driver must penetrate either Richmond or Oakland to access Berkeley, fully armed, the up-charge is a discretionary sum arrived at pretty much by how the papers play it up and how the Prowell Woodworks staff reacts to such playing-up from the country-bumpkin safe-haven distance of rural S'ebastopol, where there was once a shooting back in the 80s when Edgar Edgar and his son Edgar Edgar Jr went dove hunting in the Laguna behind the Ford dealer and their one shot ricocheted off a no-trespassing sign to carom off the side mirror of a new F-150 and eventually clean through the front tire of little Adlai Mean's new tricycle and you'd a thought it was a gang war, given all the hullabaloo. People over-reacted--hippies mostly--and they boycotted the Ford dealer, who had only the one truck to sell anyway, and had lots of meetings and basic hippy effrontery that resulted in modifying the sign posted on Hwy 116 to

WELCOME TO SEPBASTOPOL
A Nuclear Free Zone
A Land Mine Free Zone
A Drug Free Zone
A Dove Free Zone

 

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October 2008
Living in Houston, and wondering if you have had any feedback from customers on your fences and how they hold up to hurricanes.

By the way, I love your FAQ's and agree with others that you should write a book. Perhaps not a reminiscence of building a business (which would be of interest mostly to boring MBA types), but something of a cross between Douglas Adams' work and a travel log. Even if you have nothing much to say (which I doubt), it will be told with an extremely enjoyable wit.
Kara


Kara,
I cant really say how the panels will hold up to 140 mph winds. We stand by them for life, barring the obvious distractions such as meteorites with an uncanny likeness to bing crosby hurling down upon your house, or the front bumpers of a bulbous SUV. Or a boat buoyed by flood waters.

The building standards of Houston are like those of Vegas and Phoenix and Orlando. Three cities I tend to avoid. With Houston being fourth on that list. Markets that are simply against my architectural grain.  And yet these places,Houston among them, in spite of my objections, continue to place orders.

Book: Folks assume I have oodles of time. That I play golf and body surf and ski and take daily naps followed by a daily swim and have my afternoon coffee with a crossword puzzle downtown and in the evenings read voluminously, all to fight off a nagging boredom.  When the truth is that I am a working man.  I work.  Writing is not work.  And writing a book even less so. 
Charles

 

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Hi Charley,
I hope you are doing well and still building beautiful gates.  Our next door neighbor had a new fence put in and the builder asked if our gate was a Charles Prowell gate!  It still looks great, but needs a little cleaning and oil, or something.  Hope to get to it this summer.
Take care.
 Robin


Hi Robin,
How wonderful to hear from you. How nice that your neighbor's contractor recognized your gate. You belong to a club, of sorts.
Charley

 

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July 2, 2007 3:57:41 AM PDT
Hi Charles,
While browsing the Internet for couple of garden panels I came across your "works of art". I cannot call your products fencing for they are beautiful pieces of functional and decorative outdoor art.
Now the problem and solution....
I live in Massachusetts and the closest you come to us is Chicago.
Have you thought of expanding to the East Coast? There is a market for your products (I still want to call them "art") here!
Alexandra


Thanks Alexandra.
We just lost our east shop a few months ago, as he found himself head-over-heels in love with a woman who happened to live in Portugal and decided to throw it all up in lieu of love and move to Portugal. As a consequence, our east commissions have dropped dramatically, although the only advantage to the location (Baltimore) was a smallish break on shipping. I had also looked for a long time to secure a facility in Massachusetts, taking an apt in Andover last summer and Fall to this end. but what i discovered is that this is an area dominated by boring colonial architecture and vinyl fences and not a good recipient for Prowell designs. It was also a shock to me, Massachusetts, from the tranquil existence of Northern CA Sonoma County to the dense traffic and high RPM of that area. The sharp disparity between the affluence of some areas and the almost old-world factory mentality and economy of the rest of the state. Believe it or not, it was my first experience of having ever seen an actual factory building, and although they were all long-ago boarded up, the culture of these little towns seemed rooted by generations in this factory culture. It was both fascinating, and depressing at the same time.

So, regarding your fence. Get yourself in the hopper for the Chicago
shop; the cost of shipping/crating is minuscule compared to what you're going to spend anyway on the panels themselves.

 

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June 28, 2007 8:06:24 AM PDT
Mr. Prowell,

Beautiful work; one gets the impression your fences are a piece of furniture that just happen to be fences. Even in pictures it's clear they're not the usual fence.

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June 2, 2006
Dear Charles,
Thanks for your ideas on the porch swing.  How do we proceed?
Steffanie

Dear Steffanie,
I am thrilled by this project. Offering subsequent patrons a modified style suitable for a scene right out of To Kill a Mockingbird. So we would press you for photos.
Charles

July 19, 2006

Hi Charles,
I enjoyed the reference to To Kill a Mockingbird! I spent every summer of my childhood visiting my grandmother in Ohio. Most nights we had 7-Up floats while swinging on the old porch swing, talking to the neighbors - soon I'll be able to do the same here on Coronado Island! I think you will have several subsequent patrons wanting this swing design. I have been searching for such a swing for 6 months - new or antique, and there is nothing out there! I even have an architectural salvage firm in Pasadena keeping an eye out for me!
Steffanie

Steffanie,
We'll get started and I'll have the fellas wearing slightly disheveled cardigan sweaters and a somewhat distant, weighty bearing to themselves all to invest the swing with something of Mockingbird's Atticus.
Charles

Jan 18, 2007, at 2:22 PM

Hello Charles - Surprise - the porch swing is FINALLY being hung today! It should be up when I get home from work today!! I will send  photos shortly. I am very excited! It had to be drilled through a stucco arch, up into a supporting beam,  etc. and my contractor finally had a few days to send out his exterior carpenters.
p.s. He was very impressed with the design and construction and may refer some clients to you. (Lorton Mitchell Custom Homes - Coronado)
Steffenie


Yippee! And I'm glad to hear it's being installed with all the safeguards to insure a long life span.
A photo 1) of the swing in place ,2) of the swing and the porch to show it's natural setting,and 3) one of yourself, in your swing, appearing contemplative and dreamy all at once and I promise we'll put that one on the site. You'll have legions of anonymous admirers.
Charles

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November 6, 2003 5:42:24 AM PST

I JUST BEGAN WORKING WITH WOOD. PLEASE SEND ME YOUR BEGINNERS CATALOGS. THANK YOU.

Dear Jacqueline,
I'm afraid I don't understand. A beginner's catalog? I do not run a school or apprenticeship here. I am a practicing woodworker.

 

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April 26, 2004 8:11:49 PM PDT

I have a chain link fence with metal posts set in concrete. I wish to replace this with a wood fence. Can I bore out the 4x4 posts to go over the metal posts and reuse them? If so, how much of the metal post is required for stability?

Thanks
Dave Rose

Good Lord, Dave. Are you serious? First of all, where are you going to find an auger bit long enough? How are you going to drill a straight hole? The 4x4 will check and crack once you have a hole through the center, and how can you adhere it to the metal post. You better bite the bullet and jack-hammer out you metal posts.

Charles

 

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March 14, 2007 4:24:40 PM PDT

Hello,
I live in Australia and have just done a Google search for gates.
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your site. There were lots pictures to look at.  The gates are all beautiful.
It was nice to see such a well thought out web page.
Thank you and have a nice day.

Gillian
Ballina
New South Wales
Australia

Thank you, Gillian.
I only wish we could ship a single gate affordably to Australia, as it would certainly warrant a trip to oversee its installation.
Charles

March 17, 2007
Charles if we win the big Lottery this week, I will ORDER one from you and when you install it, I will fire up the BBQ and throw a few Shrimp on the Barbie. Guess we both would like for my ticket to be the right numbers.......

Have a nice day
Gillian

 

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Charles,
Congratulations on the pictures of your beautiful gates and fences being selected for what appears to be a very lovely book. Its great to see our gates included. Thanks for sharing!!
Best Regards,
Robert

 

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May 3, 2007, at 1:24 AM

Well Mr. Prowell,
I just spent the last hour or so looking at your beautiful work on your website. Just amazing!  I really admire your talent. I am a lighting designer and have bookmarked your site to show one of my clients. Anyhow just thought I'd let you know that you have one more fan.
Thanks for the wonderful pictures!
Valerie Ash

Thank you, Valerie, and a pity how a single hour serves only to break the surface, to cull you into the nether-reaches of a 700-page entreaty given as much to design, as a life lived.

Lighting design and a whole host of needs come to mind. My fascination with light and how the physics of it confounds me. So many new products these last couple of years limited because neither myself nor any of those in the various shops are lighting designers. I wish I knew a lighting designer. I wonder how one meets a lighting designer. Where do they hang out?
Charles

 

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Dear Mr. Prowell:
Built a new house in Oklahoma and have a brick pillar very much like your G-20.  Looked and looked for help on a gate.  Got nowhere, then, your web site.  Couldn't believe it.  Initial reaction was, wow are these beautiful, then decided they are works of art.  Every now and then one discovers a truly superior product, and your gates are definitely superior works of art.  Magnificent work sir, I keep this site on my favorites, just to peruse your gates.  The work is so good it affects me like a great painting.
 Thanks
 Greg.

Greg,
Unfortunately, I spent the formative years between 6th grade and 10th grade in Oklahoma City, moving from our beloved Illinois farm to this strange land which I never did grow fond of. Fortunately we returned to southern Illinois before I was damaged beyond repair.
Charles

 

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May 27, 2005

Looked at your work and I think you are one of the greatest
Kevin in Atlanta

Thank you, Kevin.

 

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Sept 2, 2008

Oh Charles,
Your poetic sensibilities are over the top, but greatly appreciated.  We peaked in the crate today and as anticipated the screens and gate are works of art. So beautiful - they will have a happy home here.
Andrea Francesca of Reno


**Note:   A series of gates and decorative panels were shipped to a residence in Reno, NV in 2008.  With the shipment en route, Charles sends the following note to Andrea Francesca of Reno:
"She sits on her porch in the biggest little city in the world, staring into a sky as blue as a cerulean swatch, waiting. As it draws near, she can smell it, sense it, and when it arrives at the FedEx dock across town the anticipation threatens her. But she waits, watching her clock, waiting for their call to schedule the arrival at her home, and that night she doesn't sleep, overwhelmed with the fritters of being united with what is rightfully hers."

A year later Charles made a trip to Reno, to play golf and photograph the site of the above project, and attend a dinner party at the same address that night.
In attendance was a the hostess' mother, a woman of 88 from Prague who spoke of living in Prague when Hitler arrived, and compared this to five years later, when Stalin arrived.  Also present was another women about the same age who spoke of her and her husband who worked on the Vegas strip in 1954 as a Spanish dance act, and years later, performing in Havana in 1959 on the night Castro came down from the hills to overthrow Baptiste.  Oral histories at their very best.

 

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March 28, 2005

Hi. i saw a beautiful garden gate in my cottage living magazine. it was on page 53. it was the middle picture on the right side of the page. i didn't see this gate on your web site. i would like to know if i could purchase one like this. thank you .

I know nothing of Cottage Living Magazine and must confess that the gates occasionally appear in various publications without anyone from that publication bothering to give me a heads-up. 

 

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March 20, 2005

Charles,
Very, very impressive. I live in Penngrove, have been a carpenter for 16yrs, but have never seen nicer gate and fence designs
Greg

 

TREE HOUSE INQUIRIES
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**Note:  We have since removed the treehouse from the Prowell site.  One can only imagine, but the amount of emails regarding this treehouse far far outweighed all the other products combined.   Why is this?  The simple odd-ball comments, but also requests to design and build treehouses from all over the world and to include a 4-star Four Seasons in Indonesia who wanted 12 single-room treehouses set in the mangoes with counter-weighted lift and all the amenities that would warrant 4-star prices.  The Treehouse was a labor of love, and remains in working order somewhere within Sebastopol, CA. a good 15 years after its completion.

 

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Thursday, March 18, 2004
I would like to live full-time w/ 2 cats in a treehouse, somewhere in Northern California. I don't have land yet. I don't need a big house. Do you build them? Is this doable? How much will it cost?
Betty


Dear Betty.
Is it the law, or Texas, that has you opting out for this fantasy life? In Northern California, we do not do Bush, and the law, well . . . the law bends like straw in a hurricane. Life in a treehouse would put you more or less squarely within the median expectations.

Oh, your question: No, probably not. It is doable, and permits are available, but designing and building treehouses is, for me, something more of a pastime that an occupation.
Charles

 

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July 19, 2004 6:26:36 PM PDT

I found your site while looking for a cool tree house for my 4 1/2 yr old son.  He loves Swiss Family Robinson. Wanted to let you know,Very impressive tree house!
Carole Carole

Carol,
A s a kid, I was in love with the movie Swiss Family Robinson. I thought if I could manage a shipwreck, and enough tools and supplies, I  would be close to heaven. So nice that there are still boys out there with a similar vision.
Charles

 

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October 4, 2004 10:22:42 AM PDT

Dear Mr. Prowell,
I came across your work on the internet. You are an artist with wood,   and your work is a pleasure to the eye. Loved the tree house. Thanks for the visual delight. Sincerely,
Tiiu

Thank you Tiiu,
It is odd how many acknowledgments I receive on the treehouse. A playful, rather funky little project that seems to have caught the fancy of so many visitors. The treehouse itself has become, over the years, a haven for budding young hormones with the neighborhood kids as they move through their teen years. What they do up there---well, I don't want to know what it is they do.
Charles

 

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October 8, 2004

Dear Charles,
Glad to hear the treehouse is being put to good use. I guess treehouse fantasies never die. It's nice that in this day of technology and fast track living, some things continue to inspire a sense of child-like wonder and longing.
All the best,
Tiiu

Tiiu,
Well, just so much response on this silly tree house that I've composed reasons why.

Why a treehouse appeals to both young and adult alike:

1) Elevation.
We like to be raised from the day-to-day goings on. Not as in a second story house, where the second story remains connected to the real world by a ground floor, but suspended and cantilevered over the ground and often with the only access controlled from above. Here, we have a retractable ladder and a counter-weighted carriage to provide us with a true sense of being beyond reach. Perhaps today more so than ever, surrounded by cell phones and internet and all the various forms of staying in touch and keeping informed, there is an appreciation for being out of touch.

2) Whimsy
The playful architecture of a treehouse departs from the more serious grounded surroundings of everyday life. Things are done differently. Rules are suspended. (Thatched roofs. Tree limbs penetrating through the floor,. Turret ceilings. Functional and multi-purpose furnishings and interior design more similar to the escape-mode of a sailboat or an RV.)

3) Inventiveness.
Together, the above features combine to inspire a departure in behavior and thought. You don't take your laptop to work on the annual sales spreadsheet, but more, perhaps, to write a story, or a poem. You paint, you play card games, you meditate, you smooch, you read, you think. You escape.

 

____________
September 24, 2005

CHARLES, DO YOU MAKE SKINS FOR SIDE BY SIDE FRIDGES (CLEAR PINE?) OR AN IDEA FOR A LAGUNA BEACH, CANYON TREE HOUSE IN 1972 BUILT BY A BOAT BUILDER. RESPECTFULLY, ANNIE AND DAVE
ANNE AND DAVE

Dear Annie and Dave,
Let me see here, you are asking for fridge face plates in clear pine. These, as I recall, are simply 1/4" pine plys cut to size. Surely someone more local to you can manage this.

Something about a 1972 tree house, presented to me in a sentence so butchered and ill-conceived that I can make no sense of it whatsoever. The tree house exists and you want ideas for embellishing what exists? The tree house itself, if it exists, must be interesting, as boat builders are a breed apart.
Charles

___________________

 

. . . More GENERAL COMMENTS

___________________
March 10, 2005 1:58AM PST

Looked at your gates, casework, etc.  Really, really nice work!  Also read your interviews.  Your interviewer, Guy Beiderman, seems to be missing some gray cells... many, many gray cells.  (Just my impression.)
 
Nothing else.  Congratulations to you for very fine craftsmanship and wishes for much prosperity.  I'd enjoy meeting and talking with you... about gates and doors and mantles.. other stuff too.  Over coffee of course.  But I live in Oregon (near Ashland.)  Still, if you should find yourself around here sometime, give me a call.  I'll buy the coffee.  A muffin too, if you like pumpkin/chocolate chip. 
 See you (hopefully). 
Matt
 PS -- Just curios.  That picture of Frank Lloyd Wright.  What's he reaching for in his pocket?  A tape measure?  A gun?  A muffin perhaps? 

Well Matt, one man's gray cells are another man's golden eggs. Biederman's talent, I reckon, lies in the tomfoolery of a misguided genius that manages to have me saying things I might later regret, or deny.

Always on the lookout for coffee/cookie company and went to Ashland two summers ago for Shakespeare that put me to sleep instantly and forced to walk the streets of a town suffering from fatal quaintness.

Frank Lloyd Wright, like Somerset Maugham, lived and worked into his 90's and claimed to be 'active' to the end. Whereas Maugham returned to Switzerland every year for a blood transfusion he was convinced was responsible for his 'active stamina', Wright, on the other hand, was forever searching for the inspiration of a hard geometry. But for billiard balls, as he simply liked how they rolled; this made for easy pickings, as we often walked down to Palace Billiards after a long day of hard geometry and he systematically overlooked the purpose of the game, far more fascinated by the how they caromed off the cushions than anything to do with pockets,
Charles

 

__________________
March 10, 2005 2:12:04 AM PST

Geez!  I just realized I forgot to mention Bucky Fuller!  What a guy, huh!  Amazing man.  I once attended a lecture of his at the U of Washington.  He spoke for nearly six hours.  Not one single person left even to go to the bathroom.  Gawd!  I loved the guy.  I took him literally when he said all of Nature was constructed of equilateral triangles.  So I invented a unique kind of Mobius Band... made from nine equilateral triangles.  It does strange things.  Played with it for seven years.  Didn't tell anyone.  Then one day some guy on Johnny Carson is demonstrating "Executive Playthings."  One of them is my Mobiius!  Said it was discovered by some guys at Princeton.  Bullshit!  I found it first!  So it goes.  Fame and fortune--lost forever.

Had a good friend many years ago too, who was Fuller's Western Region World Game Conference Director (back in the early seventies... my hippie days).  My friend since died.

As I said, just forgot to mention this in my first message.  No big deal.
 Matt

Oh yes, an amazing man . . . who never showed up for class and when he did wouldn't take questions or hardly even talk to his lowly students and if he inspired you it's probably more because you were absolutely desperate for someone to lead you somewhere, anywhere.
Charles

 

__________________
March 9, 2005
Awesome designs.  Wish I were rich and could have you do my fences and gates.  have to go with the mundane.  Thanks for something to shoot for.
Louise
"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough"

Thank you Louise.
I like your signature motto. I wish it were possible to do it right the first time. But life is fraught with mistakes and reactions to mistakes. Maybe resiliency is the best motto.

 

_________________
March 8, 2005
Mr. Powell -
As a longtime fan of the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, you woodwork is the best I've found that matches the spirit of his works.

 

______________
Charles,
Just to let you know, my contractor read your installation guide and found it to be the best all around instruction on putting in and staining a fence he has ever come across.  Just thought you would appreciate hearing that.
Oh, and the gate and fence are getting all sorts of compliments from the neighbors.
Bob

Thank you Bob.  That your contractor actually read it--this in itself is a milestone. 
Charles

 

___________
November 6, 2004

I came across your website looking for ideas for a gate.   Your work is simply amazing. You are very talented.
Thanks for the inspiration.
Tracey

Thank you Tracy. Where would we be without inspiration. There is always something or someone to show us an otherwise unknown dimension.
Charles

 

____________
Hello Mr. Prowell,
 I want to thank you for your website. Your designs are proof that fences and gates can truly be works of art and craft. Your work has inspired me in my own thinking about fences and gates for my property.  We'll certainly be ordering soon, just not sure of the combination of gate/fence panels yet.
 Regards,
 Joel

Thanks Joel, and good luck with your projects.
Charles

 

_____________
June 2010
Hello,
My name is Bella. My dog-parents love your company's fence panels and gates. They are young professionals buying their first home. While we are not poor (they feed me high quality food), they are not able to afford your fencing given their need to fence in an acre of land for me to roam. However, please consider contacting them with a price quote and pictures should your company have a sizable array of seconds or a canceled order that is built but not paid for. They can at least afford to fence the front part of our house with such nice fencing and should the order be big enough and the pricing competitive enough they would consider more. Thank you for your time and help with building me a beautiful, safe environment. Feel free to contact them here.

Signed,

Bella

 

_____________
October 19, 2004

Hi There,
Just a quick note to let you know how much I wish you were situated in Sydney, Australia as we desperately require a couple of gates that are of your standard.
Love your work. Your workmanship is unbelievable, keep up the great work.
Regards,
Marcel

Marcel,
We occasionally receive similar notes from those in Europe. As it stands, we can ship to both Europe or Sydney at about the same cost to ship to NY. The departure is that it is approx 30 days rather than 7. But since the scheduling is approximately 6 weeks out anyway, an added month seems less of an issue.

Now of course a gate in Sydney would surely at some juncture require a follow-up trip to inspect the finished installation that would allow the trip in itself to be written off as a business expense, with a night at the Opera House a necessity to ponder in depth the details of the project.
Charles

 

______________
October 2, 2004

While browsing the Internet tonight, I stumbled across your site quite by accident and spent an hour marveling at your creative genius and tremendous output.  Your writing is superb, too.  You are a true Renaissance man.                   
A new fan, Sylvia Hatfield

Sylvia,
Clearing out old emails this morning and coming across this which shows no reply was ever sent. I apologize, as I look to answer every letter that arrives. Thank you for the kind words and I am pleased you found the site an enjoyable stop. Perhaps even more surprising, that you stumbled upon the writing. I so seldom receive any feedback on this so it's good to hear something.

 

_____________
On May 6, 2004, at 7:37 PM, Mike Hendershot wrote:
Hi Charles,
I own Greenwich Fence Company in West Greenwich, Rhode Island and would like to discuss with you some of your work and ideas.  I'm fairly young(23) and really trying to get a niche in my area as the best at what I do.  Using mass produced, pre fabricated fence panels is not really my thing and I hope this attitude will help me build my business.  Your designs are truly spectacular and no one can touch the work you do.  I laugh when customers tell me that Walpole Woodworkers is the best.  No way.  Mortise and tenon joinery, custom panel fluting and functional fence design is where it's at.  I predict that I will be designing some of the most functional, beautiful and stable wood fences in the years to come.  Write me back when you have a chance, I know you are busy.  I tried writing you before and never heard back.  Hopefully I can talk to you and get some ideas and guidance from a true pro.
Thanks
Mike Hendershot
Greenwich Fence Company

Mike,
My apologies for not writing back to your earlier letter. I try to make a habit of replying to all so imagine it somehow slipped away..

You sound like someone committed to a career somewhat more rewarding than what most of our competitors experience. How can I not be drawn to that conviction? The gates and panels were not an overnight acquisition; there were the years with call-backs and costly re-designs and all resulting in various amendments to the methodology to eventually arrive at a product that not only stands up on delivery, but for years to come. I receive so many inquiries regarding the procedures and techniques on the gates and panels (this week an offer from somewhere back your way from a homeowner wanting to commission a number of drive gates and pedestrian gates and arbors and with that investment would I be willing to explain step-by-step the techniques for the panels so they can hire their carpenter to replicate this over 450 running feet of fence-line. Unfortunately, I had to defer on the offer.

Your talk on design and business and the art of our shared interest, however, is certainly welcome.
Charles

 

______________
Hi Charles.  Thanks for reminding us of getting pictures to you.  The post caps are the crown jewels of our new fence and gate.

Ed Rawlings
(The above refers to the Prowell two-tiered post caps, as well as Charles' endless pleas for site photos.)

Ed,
Crown Jewels?   Isn't that a PBS mystery series?  But it reminds me of our family silver, which was buried just outside Charleston as General Sherman got closer and closer.  It was recently donated to the Charleston Silver Museum, where it was on display in the main hall, for one whole week.  And then stashed away for eternity in the basement.  Had we known, well maybe it would have stayed in the family. 

 

________________
Just wanted to commend you on the quality of your work.  The gates turned out beautifully.
Terrific!
Don, Architect
Nadel Architects, Inc.

 

_________________
Sept 17, 2004

Just want to tell you how much I've enjoyed your website.  Your work looks impeccable and your designs are just incredible!  Thank you for providing such beautiful photos and for inspiring me to buy a Prowell fence other than a run-of-the-mill fence.
Nancy

Nancy,
Nice of you to write and I'm glad to hear you have enjoyed the site
Charles

 

_______________
Dear Mr. Prowell,
I saw your website and am wondering if you would be interested in taking on an apprentice. I am a highly motivated and creative individual looking for an apprenticeship with a local woodworker. Please see my resume and contact me at any time at: xxx-398-2383.
Sincerely,
Valerie

Valerie,
Possibly. 
Charles

 

________________
August 30, 2004

Good Day to Everyone,
 I’m Hanna from Mauritius Island,  Just drop to say u that the web site is fabulous and the gate model is out of imagination.

Hello Hanna,
Very nice to hear from someone in your corner of the world and very kind of you to write with a few gracious words about the web site

(*Note: Our Hanna from above continued to write in intermittently, practicing her English.  We are so very sorry to report that she succumbed to cancer less than four months after her original email, listed above.)

 

____________
August 23, 2004

Mr. Prowell:
 
I just thought I would send you and email and let you know how much I appreciate your thought and sense of design when it comes to fences and gates.  I am a Landscape Architect who works mostly on commercial projects but I know a few very reputable high end residential designers who I will pass your web address onto. 
 
I am not sure where you have studied or draw inspiration from, but your attention to detail reminds me of Japanese garden design.  I placed a link below  to a very good site which has numerous Japanese gardens, it give you an idea someday. 
Kylde

Dear Mr Kibler,
Thank you for your kind words. I followed the link you provided and spent an enjoyable half hour here, making a number of mental notes for future considerations.
Regarding inspiration: My own past draws primarily from a heritage of a father/builder; a grandfather/ furniture-maker; a mother who was a fine artist/ illustrator; an uncle who was an architect; and five years at Southern Illinois University studying architecture, art, and eventually design, under Buckminster Fuller. Somehow that all gets thrown in the wash, as you surely know, to whatever it is that defines us presently.
Best Wishes
Charles

 

_________________
July 2, 2004

Oh charlie- the gates are incredible- what a work of art they are!!! we are truly happy and don't you worry, you will get lots of pictures. we have cleared away the tree that was in front of the house, unfortunately it was in the way of the driveway and we could not pull the car in because of low hanging rather large branches, so the gates will take center stage! i cannot wait! we will be moving in a week from Thursday and expect to get a lot of compliments on our gates. we will be sending lots of people your way. i can't thank you enough for getting them done so quickly, i am soooooooo happy!!!!!!!!!!! ------- annie

 

______________
April 4th, 2011

Hi Charles,

Peanut butter man here.  Last summer you were kind enough to help me over the phone with my own project here in Lexington, Kentucky.  You were very helpful. In fact I was really impressed with customer service and your technical assistance, knowing it was just a homeowner who couldn't afford your products.  Enjoy the peanut butter.

John
HSE Coordinator
J.M. Smuckers, LLC

Hi John.

You sent me four jars of peanut butter.  Arriving in the mail today from someone who in all honesty, I cannot remember. Finding your email address on the attached card and wanting to thank you and glad to hear your project went smoothly.  I should add that although my preferences for peanut butter vary, my jelly does not.  it is always Smucker's raspberry preserves.  So congratulations on working for such a great company.

 

____________________
On Dec 3, 2011, at 8:51 AM, Mike Spinosa wrote:

Dear Mr. Prowell:*I am researching some best methods for constructing an exterior gate for my back yard and I found your website and felt compelled to write you a note.

While the methods you employ are way beyond my capability level I have to thank you for making the information available.
Your website is well written and It did exactly what you hoped it would do:
"And yet, hopefully, you've enjoyed yourself and the bar of your own sightedness has been raised in a manner that has served to excite you. Inspire you."
Thanks again for a great experience!!
Sincerely,
Mike Spinosa

Thanks for taking the time send along a note. Good luck with the gate and if you find yourself whistling, well . . . that's not a bad thing

Charles

 

_____________________
July 6, 2004

Hi Charles
 I am currently looking for several items including driveway gates, beds, mantles, and other  furniture.
 I have looked on your site and like the items I have seen. How do I go about getting a price for buying and shipping some of the items to the UK. Do you have a general price guide, or do I need to specify each product?
 Look forward to hearing from you.
Regards, Debs

Debs,
It is currently practically impossible to secure an order. If you persist, however, we will get you prices on the specific gate your prefer, as well as the mantle and bed, etc. Plus shipping once an order is established.
Charles

 

____________________
July 1, 2004

Hi Chas,
looking for inspiration for my mother  in laws gates and wasn't sure if i would find you again. I live in the San Diego area and sent you pictures of the gate i built for my house, ...but, doesn't everyone send you pictures of "their gates"?  How could you remember?
But your work is so wonderful. I wish that I lived next door and that I had your fence to gaze at rather than the ones that I look at. My mother in law lives across the street so that is why I want something "friendly". We are having her home renovated and I have to pic out stucco, paint and trim colors, I want something rich and classy in this old 50's neighborhood,,,i just don't want to make a mistake, Any suggestions on colors?  I am leaning towards a rich grey-brown with taupe accents and white.
 
Hope everything has been fine with you. Keep making the world a delightful place to look at.  thanks
 
honestly basking in the light of your talent and genius I stand,
 
sissi  

Sissy,
My apologies but the name calls up only the faintest recollection. Unfortunately, i don't hang on to old emails much longer than three months. Are you asking for advice on colors? I'm afraid i don't recall the house or the pics you may have once sent, so I am of little use to you on this. And please don't bask in the light of anything or anyone but your own talents.
Charles

 

_________________________

See attached picture of gate that we would like to find out what it would cost to have made.
Thank You,
Lois

Lois,
We are into an arena of ethics, which most Americans seem to have lost track of beginning somewhere around Reagan's first term. You have sent us a photo of a gate, with the logo of it's original fabricator stamped in the corner.  We will not quote on this, and the ethical approach is to commission this from it's original fabricator.  

 

______________________
Dear Charles,
I would like to know if a cat can climb these fence panels.
L.
Lisa

Lisa,
How would I know, for goodness sakes? What size cat? Are you harboring lions in captivity? 

 

___________________
On May 5th, 2010,
You may wish to correct the spelling of "information" several places at the end of your website. It may well compliment the precision exhibited in the writing that precedes it. Thanks! -

Jim

 

________________
August 1999
Beautiful work, I have been building fences for 12 years and have never seen such great work,   

Thank you for the kind words 

 

______________________
May 15, 2004, Alexandria Hobbs
Charles,
The crate arriving yesterday . . . I am stunned..
Wow...stunning gates ...stunning designs. you are quite a craftman. absolute genius...fantastic...beautiful..amazing.


Dear Alexandria,
One might assume you've composed the lower passage with a thesaurus in one hand and an alter in the other. And yet I'm flattered and will begin my day, this Saturday, buoyed by your kind words.
Charles

 

______________________
May 10, 2004
Mr. :Prowell,
I’ve been looking at your amazing work on your website. I’ve never seen anyone make a gate or fence with such beauty and creativity. I’d like to know, is cedar your primary choice for gates? Do you dislike redwood for a reason?
Thank you.
Pamela Mahon
"The wisest men follow their own direction."
-Euripides

Pamela,
Thank you.
My aversion to redwood is drawn primarily from it's environmental standing, in addition to the fact that my shop is flanked by two favorite friends: on one side a lovely palm tree with its fronds silhouetted against the blueness of the sky, and on the other side a 600-year-old redwood rising so far into that same sky that it seems to transcend it's earthly origins. The Redwoods, in my town, are the treasures of our heritage.  They've been around for thousands of years.  As trees, and not gates.
Charles

 

__________________
On Mar 31, 2010
Dear sir,
            I just spent the last hour looking at your craftsmanship. These are absolute works of art and I am amazed at the diversity of design.
           
                                    Regards, from a fan,
                                                David and Nancy Swetz

Hi David,
Taking a moment to see you're just out of school, and transplanted from Mass to SF with the timing of a terrible recession.  In school at Southern Illinois, where I suffered under the tutelage of Buckminster Fuller, I also finished in a recession (1972), and debated right up until the week before graduation on whether to relocate to SF or Boston.  Both being areas with a patronage that could appreciate and support innovative approaches to design and craftsmanship.  Obviously I chose SF, and the odd thing is my youngest son has just moved to Boston to begin his 2-year program at North Bennett St in Fine Woodworking and reports after two whole months that he is never returning.  Hmmm.  We're off to visit him over the Easter holiday.

But I remember something he taught us back then--Fuller-- about the talent, and the bits and pieces of inspiration drawn from others that feed that talent and eventually round out a recognizable, or signatory look.  How it builds from bits and pieces drawn from others and bringing them together like a scrapbook.  How that scrapbook segues into the concept drawings and if you had graduated in the boom years, there would be absolutely no time to develop this.  Spending an hour on a site such as Prowell's in the heart of a recession is, I think, exactly what he was referring to.  
Charles

 

__________________
April 2008
I am designing for Holiday Inn and Hilton and many more..
Please send me a catalog..
Thank You

CPW products and designs are in constant motion, while the work itself is approached by single veteran craftsman. Providing the designer for Holiday Inn etc with product quotes in line with global vendors is asking too much from us. We are not manufacturers and therefore seldom enter into the competitive circles of supplying our products to chains and the comparative costs of out-sourced manufacturers.
Charles

 

 

_________________
On Tuesday, April 20, 2000, Rachel Ramirez wrote:

Mr. Prowell,
I have spent many an evening gazing at the beautiful work you do via your website.  I have a list of questions to ask before proceeding forward.  A big step for us, but we are committed on your work.  Should I call or write?
Rachael

Thank you Rachael.  Whatever you're most comfortable with, the phone or email is fine.  I'll be here.
Charles

 

___________________

Mr. Prowell,
Just wanted to thank you for your excellent craftsmanship on my two pedestrian gates. They came out great. Currently I'm the envy of the neighborhood because I decided to not go with the standard vinyl or rod iron gates. Once again thank you for a job well done, Hopefully I can drum up some business for you.

Gates did arrive in Honolulu via boat and the hardware showed up Friday (4-16-04) regular mail.
Dennis

 

____________________

Hi, I just had to take a moment to tell you what a wonderful website you have to show your absolutely beautiful products!!! Wonderful design, construction and imagination. Bravo. Anita

Well thank you, Anita. I am always surprised how visitors take the time to extend the pleasantries of a simple kudo.
Charles

 

______________________
From: john@ . . .
Subject: Designer garden gate #203
Sent: May 14, 2010 7:12:46 PM PDT

I really like this gate, being a fellow wood worker, not quite as good as you, i understand the time and effort that goes into a piece like this. While surfing around the web last night i came across this web site (http://www.artfactory.com/gates-wood-and-iron-solid-wood-and-wood-and-iron-c-122_124.html?page=2&sort=20a) which strangely was selling the exact same gate as the 203? even the pictures on the web site were the same as yours. Maybe I am wrong and you have given them the rights to copy your work?

Someday I hope to have one of your pieces, one day, keep up the great work.

Thanks John. Very kind of you to pass this on.  The photo you refer to is most definitely a photo copied directly from our web site. Of course we have not authorized anything regarding #203 so I made a call to this company, The Scottsdale Art Factory, and pretended to be an interested buyer and was told it was one of their most popular gate styles and that it had won the ASID award for 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, etc.  I asked, in my most humble voice, what exactly ASID stood for and the salesman (who informed me he was an architect and an lawyer and a woodworker) said he wasn't actually sure, but that it won all those awards. I then asked if I could see it, as their site mentions a showroom in San Francisco, but was told that showroom was temporarily unavailable and to see it I would have to travel to Scottsdale, AZ.  And it was then when my salesman, an architect/lawyer/woodworker, mentioned that if I paid in advance I would receive a 3% discount. 

By the way, ASID is Association of Interior Design.

 

_______________________
On Jul 23, 2011, at 4:35 PM, Lynn Richards wrote:

Greetings Mr. Prowell

I'm not quite in the mood to send a shamelessly groveling story just to get a deal on a great gate. But on the off chance (and because your website proves you have an appreciation for the off chance) I thought I would start this email and see if it took me, or you, anywhere. And if I had a lot of money, I would just buy a gate - something simple, like # 4. But having spent several hours on your website I feel like I need to submit a shamelessly groveling story, in hopes that I will win one of your beautiful gates for a song (which is about what I can afford but I would never subject you to my singing. That would be neither good nor fair. ) And I would pick the African mahogany because I love the gate and the wood and the story. And we need a gate. And it would be loved and used as the good gate that it is.

So after sitting here for some minutes, I realize there's really no reason I should get your gate. I do have some great stories but so does everyone else. I love good work that is infused with heart but so do a lot of people. I do good work and have survived tragedy, but really, that makes me lucky, not entitled. My heart is good most of the time but there is always room for improvement.

So in the end, if you don't find a home for your beautiful gate, I could pay for the wood and the shipping, knowing full well it's the spirit and the hand that made it in to what is so beautiful and that I am offering you nothing for that. And so you are not offended at the basement offer, I really don't have the money to buy your gate, otherwise I would just buy one.

Great website, beautiful work and pretty funny too. I like the little people sprinkled throughout.
Thanks
Lynn

Hi Lynn
Overlooking this letter, which was flagged and them summarily buried in the In-box.

A mistake, as it is a perfectly sublime letter. Better, far better than what I normally see and once again 'm left wondering why is it that no one seems capable of writing a coherent sentence anymore, much less a string of them with enough dallying around that it reads as if you might be playing hopscotch, barefoot. There's a couple of neighborhood girls down the street, about 10 or so, who skip everywhere they go, and lately they've been learning to whistle. So they skip and whistle past the house several times a week and there's something effortless in how they look to be managing this feat. Every neighborhood should have someone who skips and whistles. And every reader should have a correspondent who writes with your easy whistling style.

Your letter deserves it, and I wish I could offer either the #203 or #202 (both African Mahogany) for the cost of the wood alone. But I cannot.

But as a small and insignificant consolation, I just want to thank you for whatever part of you is capable of writing such a beautiful letter. I've read it now half a dozen times and what makes it so readable is how clearly your voice can be heard, as if you were sitting across the kitchen table. The nuances and humor and a brain that seems to be working on all cylinders. I'm smitten with brains like that.
best regards,
charley prowell

 

______________________
Mr. Prowell,

Thank you for your lovely reply. Thinking of your neighborhood girls skipping and whistling made me smile throughout the week. Be sure to tell them to keep it up, and that it is very important. And one day, when I can afford it, I hope to buy a gate from you

Thanks again for your kind words, and wishing you all the best.

Lynn

 

___________________
Hello,
 I’ve been searching for fence panels or even a fence design like yours for years!  Do you have a distributor in Canada?
 Thank you.
 Carole Saint-Laurent

No, and while I'm on the subject; shipping to Canada should be as simple as one state shipping to another.  But not so.  The US has made trading with Canada so wrought with legalese and extraneous paperwork, in addition to untold tariffs and duties, that only the persistent, such as yourself, are candidates for American goods.

 

______________________
I was browsing your website and found all items "Artistically Beautiful."  May the Lord continually bless you to build, exhibit and share your magnificent works of art!
Bless you,
~NJ~

I think this must be a first.

 

_______________________
Hey Charles,
We finally completed the landscaping and other accouterments around the gates, so I’ll take one this weekend and send it along. Note that the gates survived our Hurricane Ike. Trees all around snapped like twigs. To give you an idea of the forces we had, the Sun Valley latch holding the double gates together was bent like a banana,
Yours,
Elliot

Hi Elliot,
Just wondering if there is any chance of a few photos of the completed gates?
Charles

 

_____________________
Hi Charles,
I am surfing the web looking for fence/gate ideas. Just thought I'd let you know I love your work and am impressed by your web site. Your web page is one of the best I have ever seen. It really works for you and the customer. What talent to be proficient in the oldest and newest tools known to man.

Allan,
I guess I hadn't thought of it quite that way before. The oldest, and newest. Neat!

 

________________________
July 11, 2003
Hey Chas
WOW!!! That is all i can say. Your work is absolutely incredible. Just wanted you to know that your work is greatly admired. I love to look at your web-page.
Have a gr8 day
Jeff

Well Jeff, I'll classify this one as a 'raving review.'
Charles.

 

________________________
July 2, 2003
Wanted to thank you for sharing your beautiful gates on the web. They are gorgeous!  We will be finishing our landscape in a month, or so I'm lead to believe., and then ready for your work as a final touch
Carlos.

Thank you, Carlos.  We'll be here.

 

_________________________
May 30, 2003

Hi Mr. Prowell -
Your gates are beautiful ! I found your website on a internet search for “wood gates”. Yours are by far my favorites - and well made too and your website is great ! Do you think cedar is okay for a southern Florida climate?  it is very humid here.  If so, we are ready to order #33, which I love.
Connie

 

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January 31, 2003,

i am in awe of our amazing work. my name is Matt and i live in Laguna. i build outdoor structures and have recently been messing with a plunge router. do you ever need help? i would love to visit you and to learn from you. you are doing all the types of work that interest me. your work is spectacular! i am a photographer and wannabe woodworker. i have done some shop work for a contractor in Berkeley building cabinets. my father is a landscape designer and i have built many thousand feet of fencing, typically boring, but some cool designs. a couple of other interesting structures. anyway, if you ever need a hand i have a flexible schedule. i would assist for free just to learn from you. i don't currently have a computer so if you want to reach me please do so at 555 488 9560  thanks, Matt

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Hi Charles,
The gate was installed today and looks even better than I had imagined -- it seems to add a sparkle to the house. I can tell you that if I ever move I'll seriously think about taking the gate.
Talk to you soon.
Robin

 

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December 11, 2002

DEAR CHARLES, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! I HOPE ALL IS GOING WELL.I SAW MY PICTURES ON YOUR WEBSITE AND THEY REALLY LOOKED GOOD. THE BEFORE AND AFTER SHOTS !!!
P.S. I AM CONSTANTLY GETTING COMPLIMENTS ON MY FENCE AND GATES. THANKS,
DAVID

 

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December 2, 2002
Hello! I am a carpenter here in rural NJ and stumbled across your Webster. Just wanted to take a moment to write and express my appreciation for your work. Great designs and your execution is super!

Steve Rodemer
All Square Carpentry LLC

Dear Steve,
Thank you for the kind words. That you are drawn to the web site tells me you're something more than a carpenter. Perhaps a carpenter of note.
regards,
Charles

 

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August 16, 2002

I just visited your web site and it is gorgeous, just like your work. Excellent designs, information and photos. I wish I could afford to have a fence put in by this company. The fence would probably last longer than my brick house! The people in California should appreciate your efforts. Congratulations on your talent.
Teresa
Knoxville, TN

Teresa
I too wish there was a way to provide our products at a price everyone could afford.

 

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June 25, 2002

Hi. My husband & I live in S. Cal. in a small Craftsman bungalow, and I just wanted to tell you that your fences are really beautiful.  We have just completed a two year remodel and are now ready for a long-awaited Prowell fence.
Have a good one.
Karen Cini

Karen,
Thanks for the photos.  A lovely home and grounds and I am honored to be a part of the final presentation.  We'll have your drawings posted within a week.
Charles

 

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June 13, 2002

Your company must be very proud. I am so impressed with your designs. Your work is the most beautiful I have seen. I would love the bowling ball arched arbor. Unfortunately that is impossible at this time, but I shall keep Charles Prowell Woodwoorks in mind, and direct people to your company.
Sandy


Thanks, Sandy Always nice to hear such lovely comments. The bowling balls will wait
Charles

 

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July 19, 2005

Your work is beautiful. promise me you will live a long and healthy life. I cannot buy one of your tables today, but hopefully, maybe as soon as next year, I want to. Thanks again for the information. take care,
David Flanagan.

We'll be here, David
(**Note:  The above refers to one of our trestle dining tables.   We removed the Prowell Home Furnishings from the web site in 2008.  Because we were commonly scheduled out on our furnishings approximately two years, we have simply dropped the line.  Which is a shame because it includes hundreds of original designs of the highest order, and yet not an order the profit margins of a normal business.  We will return with this at some juncture, but most likely as a stand-alone web site and not part of the current Prowell product line.)

 

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October 10, 2005

Charles,
While researching builders and fence designs, I came across your website and I can only hope there is a craftsman of your caliber in Durham, NC. I was amazed by your designs and impressed by the thoroughness of your website. Although it is logistically impossible for you to build my fence, I wanted to congratulate you on a fine site and thank you for the ideas you provided.
 Best regards,
Scott
Durham, NC

Thanks Scott.
We ship to NC frequently. And most projects are designed by way of sent jpegs of the site and specifications to almost any site plan. Don't give up so easily, Scott.
Charles

 

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Oct 10, 2005

Dear Charles, We live in Boulder CO. We recently bought a home here. There is a new fence on our property. While driving around I spotted a fence that I love. We checked with the owners and it is one of your fences. In your photo gallery it is #13. I certainly would have bought a fence from you, but since the fence is new its not an option. But, ours is not stained or sealed yet. This fence is beautiful grey with hints of pink and blue coming through from the wood. Would you be able to tell me what stain was used,and did you do it or a local person. The house was recently sold so the new owners do not know. Thank you in advance, Suzanne Carrington

 

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November 16, 2005

Absolutely beautiful work! I must have looked at every page and love the creative and playful presentation of your website.
All the best,
Bernie Wire

Thank you, Bernie. The result of too many idle hours spent tinkering when I should have been in the shop, working.

 

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Dear Charles,
I have been perusing your web site for several weeks, admiring your work when I stumbled onto the Pointless Pastimes.  I absolutely laughed out loud over the Road Trip. The funniest thing I've seen in years.   And the Contributor's Garden is unbelievable!  I love how throughout the site there are these wonderfully delectable comic reliefs, like the Gate Checklists.  And the Impostor series.  What fun you must have. 
Lori

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July 6, 2007 4:10:49 PM PDT

Charles,

I Have recently bought the residence next door to Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House in Chicago.  This would be a fantastic opportunity to showcase your products and get some excellent exposure and wondering if you would consider discounting with this in mind?
Can I go to your Chicago production facility and touch and feel your product? The guy around the corner did a courtyard with a (parking) pergola, double drive gate, and ped. gate. It looks pretty good. Stained a whitish grey. Older local architect designed. Prairie looking. Finished two years ago…Frankly, beginning to show some wear in the joints even though there is almost no use of the drive gate. I want to see and touch the product to verify that it’s beefy enough.
Mike

Hi Mike,
As a rule, I keep the public from the shops. Not because we're guarding secrets of the trade but because these are woodworkers working, and not so geared for dealing with the interruptions associated with a showroom or a sales staff. We do allow folks to pick up their projects at the shops, rather than incur the expense of delivery, as well as satisfying what to many is an opportunity to shuffle their feet in the sawdust of the shop where their work was made while asking all the questions they want. To some, this in itself is an experience, but the fellas are not answering questions or selling anyone on the merits of a Prowell product.

So I must treat you the same as I treat everyone everywhere. You either know the difference between our product and the guy down the street, or you don't. If you're uncertain, then the guy down the street is the way to go.

If we proceed, we're still waiting for a decision on the design proposal sent along, as well as the two corner tie-ins as either brick columns or wood posts or Prowell Columns.

Charles,

1) You don’t have to treat me like every other customer.
2) While you discourage it, according to your web site you will make exceptions
3) I won’t buy your product until I’m satisfied that it’s as good as it seems. I require that I see it and touch it. I wouldn't’t buy anything for even $2K, anything – a watch, car, suit, house, boat, tree etc without first seeing it and touching it - much less a fence for $16K.
4) I don’t really care a wit about your production facilities. I’m not interested in a tour or and education.
5) I will come alone to offset your fears that I’m stealing your methods.
6) What’s so hard about seeing and touching your product? It might be exactly what I looking for. Why should I reinvent the wheel unless of course I could do it for half the price?

As you may recall, I grew up in Woodside, CA. and my wife is from Tiburon. I have a sense of carpentry. My fine motor skills suck. I’m a finance MBA. There should be many examples of your work out there. Can you give me some addresses?

…you know what? Fuck it…Keep your fucking product. You’re an arrogant prick. I’m not good enough for you. Save your bullshit song and dance. I’m not interested.

***Well, we'll pick it up and carry on and while maintaining the edge required for dealing with the rare Problem Child, nevertheless give some consideration to the accusation of arrogance as a less than appealing characteristic and nothing to be proud of.

 

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Feb 26, 2008, at 7:12 PM
I am a home owner in the process of building arbors, stringing wire, along with standing picket fencing. I came across your web site and was blown away with your product line.
 
The level of craftsmanship and beauty succeeded in lifting my project and thinking to another level. Great site!  

Well I reckon how there are levels of inspiration to all of us, but available only to those who walk with their eyes on the bend and not the ground at their feet.  So good luck.
Charles

 

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March 15, 2008 6:45:43 AM PDT

I just saw your new projects using plastic rods and you continue to amaze me. You were/are my inspiration to start in the gate building business here in Long Beach.

I have admired your work for many years and I couldn't wait any longer to tell you how impressed I am with your creativity and workmanship.

Thanks,
Lee

Well, thanks Lee.  For not waiting any longer and for the wonderful photos.  The house is absolutely gorgeous, as well as the recognizable gate and fence.  But also the white house next door looks to have some interesting architecture.  I think I appreciate architecture the way I appreciate people, in all their varying forms and styles.

 

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February 7, 2010 4:49:19 PM PST
Dear Mr. Prowell,

What an amazing website you have. Your work is that of a true craftsman. The best work I've ever seen.
I am simply awestruck.

Does your company ship to Canada.

Best regards,

Enrico Patafie

Thank you Enrico.
I
s Canada the one to the north, the civilized country with the National Health Care plan?
Yes, we ship to Canada. There are various duties/tariffs that are paid by the consignee(you), but otherwise the shipping cost via UPS Freight is the same. Your project would ship from either the Portland or Chicago shops, depending on what part of Canada you reside.

Charles

 

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On Mar 9, 2010, at 1:30 PM, Bill Barnes wrote:
You have a terrific web site and your products are beautiful. Your web site is interesting and very easy to get through

Thanks Bill.  Nice of you to take the time to send a note.

 

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On Oct 21, 2010, at 11:01 AM, Thomas Turcic wrote:

You have a very good and easy to use web site, and I even appreciate you dry humor-
However, you have defeated my efforts to discover the type of wood you use and I see no choices given. I have no doubt it is there somewhere, but I am recovering from hernia surgery and can't sit here any more searching.

I am interested specifically in Garden fence #3. We are planning to use it to screen a couple of ground level HVAC condensing units serving an 1888 Landmark Chapel on Roosevelt Island (Chapel of the Good Shepherd). The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved that design. Just dying to know the species and resulting potential longevity.

Hi Thomas,
Regarding surfing the web: You have a plausible, medical excuse for the amount of time you're willing to expend. My own excuse, however, has less to do with anything beyond a lack of patience.

Roosevelt island. Anything Roosevelt is currently of great interest to me, as I just finished The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, and starting the 2nd in that series: Theodore Rex, and awaiting the final in the series, due to be released next month. I am neck deep in teddy.

The link to Wood selections can be found in the same box as a number of other useful links, which is scattered throughout the site. Such as on the Site Page. But also here <http://www.prowellwoodworks.com/gate/-wood.htm>

 

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On Nov 12, 2011, at 3:30 PM, Jonathan Parra wrote:

Charles,
Looked at your website and just wanted to say nice work.  Also that you are a hater. Do you know what that means. It means you spend time  pointing out what others could do better when you should just be focusing on yourself. I was interested in your comment in the driveway gate section about turning your head when the contractor shows up with the skill saw. I work as a General and the comment didn't bother me it's just that my mentor, (also a general contractor) blows doors on your designs. All around you would get ruined.  We have a shop as well as skill saws and you should have a contest with us on who can build a better looking and functioning piece. What do you say. You're the best right?

Hi Jonathan.
You've written what reads like a fairly angry letter. But in reading it through and mulling it over, I think you've stumbled upon some humbling truths. Reading through the text you refer to and seeing that I am guilty of what I'm being accused of. Because I deal with so many contractors, spread all over the country, and for decades and decades, I am confronted time and again with how the level of workmanship and shortened apprenticeships have changed the trade from what it once was. The countless projects that are shipped and bungled on the other end by licensed contractors who simply don't have the experience or the knowledge or the tolerance for what should be a level of workmanship that's an accepted given. A trend that began in the mid-eighties and was furthered by a generation opting for tech careers in the boom 90's and gradually culminating in a blight of qualified tradesmen in the field. I don't expect these installers to be designers or artists or businessmen or woodworkers, but I do assume they are competent, reliable, and accountable. Because the majority of them I come into contact with fall short of this, we finally quit offering referrals or accepting their letters and calls to be listed as referrals in their local areas. We do this now only in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I have personal relationships with the contractors over a period of years and that makes a huge difference.

But more importantly, you had the courage to write an angry letter that was drawn from a undeniable truth. Calling me out on a small-minded characteristic or personality flaw that was allowed to leak onto the page following, I would imagine, a bungled mishap on a site somewhere that had the homeowners complaining to me about a site installer who I had never met or even spoken to or even referred. I have edited that text and everywhere else that shows this not-so-good side of myself and am reminded that there is enough hate in the world as it is. Corrections and adjustments in character as we age that are often, and thankfully, pointed out by absolute strangers.

So, in a twisted rebuttal, I believe I'm thanking you for making the effort to write what was on your mind.

 

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We'll close with portions of a correspondence that is surprisingly common. A commission in Chicago, Illinois that leads us on a labyrinthine, Kafkaesque route to what in the end is a finished result. A dalliance of quirky likenesses that catapults into something more akin to vaudeville than an inquiry into commissioning a work.:

 

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On Apr 20, 2007, at 5:54 AM, Hope -- wrote:

Hi Charles,

Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me on Wednesday. Here are the pics I promised.

Just so you know we purchased the house 2 months ago, red and aqua paint included. That'll change. It's a 1928 Dutch Colonial but I included a pic of the front living room b/c the fireplace masonry has an art deco flair. Most of the walls are finished with an original Spanish plaster effect and the mill-work appears to be walnut or mahogany, something with a natural dark color (we think.) I painted the walls a Mediterranean white so the room definitely has a Spanish/Med. feel (especially with the arched windows.)

My preliminary idea is to have a gate and fence just behind the bank of windows running across the driveway. We're having the entire driveway pulled out from that point back all the way to the garage (we have alley access.) What I envision is, after you enter through the gate there's a lush courtyard area - so the gate sets the stage for a beautiful surprise awaiting our visitors on the other side. We want the gate to be pretty solid most of the way up with "windows" at the top. The gate could replicate the shape of the bay windows? What do you think? Judging from your impeccable work and beautiful designs, I trust your instinct 100%.

Lastly, what's your average time to complete a custom gate/ fence?

Looking forward to your response.

Hope L--

On Apr 23, 2007, at 10:17 AM, charles prowell wrote:

Hope,
T
hank you for the photos and the general measurements. You have an approximate quote.
These can either be picked up at the shop on Wolcott, or delivered for $225.
Lead time: Production of your products would be scheduled at 3-4 weeks.

ps: I loved the house. Absolutely gorgeous. So much so that I found myself browsing the neighborhood on the web. I have always stayed at the Write Inn in Oak Park when in town visiting the shop on Walcott, and more than once considered just taking an apt, as there's no place quite like Chicago and it's neighborhood hamlets.

Charles

On Apr 23, 2007, at 1:54 PM, Hope L-- wrote:

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! --Here's what I determined over the weekend based on a lot of "you stand here and point to 4 feet on your. OK. Now five," and "Will it look weird if..." We also determined if we center the gate on the 16' width, the gate would be skewed off-center of the remaining driveway and would not lie in a natural place for the walkway on the other side.

Possibly you'll have a creative way to avoid the extra 1K I just added to my extravagant gate idea. This whole gate idea looked like a good idea in theory!

Thanks again,

Hope

On Apr 23, 2007, at 5:58 PM, charles prowell wrote:
Hope,
Yes, a rough sketch from you, and then a follow-up call would be best.

On Apr 24, 2007, at 5:48 AM, Hope L-- wrote
Hi again,
I was informed last night that you had left a phone message on Saturday. I had no idea you had called. Wow, that was really nice. It's a little difficult for me to have any type of normal conversation on the phone b/c of the kids (we have three, ages 5, 3, and 1.) My mother-in-law is coming here today to help out, so I'll give you a try. What's the best time for you?

I do want to clarify that I imagined the three fence panels would be constructed as fence panels with the proper fence dimensions and would merely mimic the gate, not replicate it. I noticed you do do that with a lot of the gates/fences shown on your web site.
I'll be in touch,
Hope

On Apr 24, 2007, at 10:32 AM, charles prowell wrote:
5, 3, and 1. It's a wonder you have time for anything, much less a landscaping project and a new house to settle into and the new culture of the Midwest (not the true midwest--for that you must travel south, to southern Illinois referred to by us natives as Heaven on Earth ). Chicago to S. Illinois is like Paris to Provence; we grew up on a farm with a meandering river and grits and the ya'll's of a decidedly southern culture situated amidst the rolling hills of a world no one else was aware of. Certainly not anyone from Chicago, who had no more license into the area an an SS officer in Provence.

But your mother-in-law is coming to the rescue and on a day where I'm leaving at 10:30 (PST) for a site in Belvedere and then onto the Oakland Hills of Montclair to meet with a certain Debbie Reynolds who ordered a gate last year and who wants to re-design her sprawling backyard around Prowell and with whom I've had this intriguing correspondence and as a result, promised to make a site visit. Altough her project was handled by an architect, and she has previously ordered products from Prowell I have not as yet spoken with her. She's an older woman, 70's or even 80's I believe. She mentioned in last week's letter that she was busy this week with a boat show and I have to wonder: Is this the real Debbie Reynolds, from Singin in the Rain? Hired for a personal appearance at a national boat show the way she accepts personal appearance fees for certain events in Vegas and elsewhere (I've read). It's possible.

In the interest of your symmetry: The gate with it's specific dimensioned specs is at the center of the drive. To the right I imagine a flanking panel with it's normal dimensioned specs but mimicking the design of the gate, of course. To the left another flanking panels that is the same length as the right flanking panel, thus creating the symmetry of the centered gate and the two corroborating flanking panels. On the far left, the third panel that departs from the others in that it steps to the stone wall and a different length and probably a different layout simply because it needs to step, or integrate itself to the wall.

On approach, to navigate from the association of a driveway surface, the surface is cut with what we'll call a threshold that spans the width of the driveway surface and this serves to separate the function of the drive from the pedestrian-friendly environment of the inner courtyard. The threshold would commonly be stone or pavers or brick that are aligned perpendicular to the run of the drive, as in parallel to the line of the gate/panels with a slight variance or accentuation at the gate itself. A potted or planted plant or shrub to the left and right of the gate on approach and the pot itself can be important, as well as the plant. The pot must flatter the gate/panels and begin the invitation to the inner sanctum.

I love your house! And all those editors who are constantly pestering me for anything new will love your house and if we throw in a litter of babies and toddlers in the dress photo, representing that dreamy Midwestern Americana family, they'll be making offers on the place from all over the country for insane amounts of money and because many of those offers will include the children, you'll be pitted with a decision: rich and childless, or the strapped but happy madonna as the envy of everyone.

On Apr 25, 2007, at 6:34 PM, Hope L-- wrote:
They'd buy the kids, too! What a glorious fantasy: my life - polished, stylized and edited. No one would know about the holes Livi punched, just this afternoon, into the radiator cover screening or the neighbors' eight foot high firewood/scrap lumber pile or the silly addition slapped onto the back of the house or the socks my husband often stashes under the sofa or any of that - just because I happened to have the good taste (and a Mastercard) to put in a Prowell gate? Holy shit.

I liked your ideas. My homework assignment will arrive shortly. I just had to respond. We need to talk about southern Illinois a little more, too. We have a VW Eurovan which we've taken some camping excursions in, mostly to Wisconsin. Going south sounds intriguing.

Was it "the real" Debbie Reynolds?

April 26, 2007 Charles wrote:
I'
m just telling you what I've heard. People get a glimpse of Americana dressed in bows and ribbons and they go a little berserk.
They forget, in DC and LA and NY that architectural gems like this still exist and because they've focused on their careers instead of family, they have lots of dough but no love, as in munchkin type love. Now they've connected with Prowell long ago and because they don't rub Prowell right, they've been out on a waiting list of like 10 years. They call again, pretending to be nice, and the wait is reduced to like 9 years. And in the meantime they continue to hang out on the Prowell site, dreaming, and see this Park Ridge thing and decide they're tired of waiting and get their lawyers on the phone who find the details and they get their finance people together who advise them on ceilings and by now the missus, who is a senior partner somewhere and about 42 and drumming her nails on the finance page of the Times sitting at her breakfast nook overlooking the Potomac makes the call. An obscene offer. House, furnishings, three kids, and of course, the Prowell accouterments. A counter offer from the Park Ridge couple agreeing to all but wanting to take the Prowell embellishments with them and the deal stalls and a few more zeros thrown in and it clinches everything and she calls the switchboard at Prowell right away and says something immature like how to shove the 9 year waiting list and starts lining up nanny's and back-up nannys and surrogate mother-in-laws and year-round kid camps and boarding schools to leave, basically, Xmas eve, Xmas day, Easter, and the 4th of July as the only periods of actual occupation to leave her with oodles of free time to take pictures of herself in front of Prowell stuff and email them to Prowell with snooty comeuppance while the original Park Ridge couple (you) have gone into business elsewhere making babies and more babies and more babies and selling them with new houses and new Prowell stuff for ludicrous sums that finds them with enough resources to one day buy back their original home, and children, and settle in where they left off only extravagantly wealthy and skipping the poopy diaper age.

S. Illinois is sort of a hidden gem. It's so far from anything metro that it hasn't really caught up. I returned a couple of years ago for the first time since leaving Illinois the day after college in Carbondale and was shocked to find homes around 15k that are worth 600K here. But there's no 'there' there. The closest thing is St Louis 4 hrs away and St Louis is a dump. So you have the Shawnee Nat Forest with endless country roads meandering and winding, going nowhere, threading delightful farms and rivers and hills and woods and meadows without ever passing another vehicle. But at a price: No one knows how to read. They don't know what organic produce is. The little downtowns are all boarded up cause they love their Walmarts instead. Most everyone is on the dole. Average per capita around 17K/yr. But the nicest people you'll ever meet, and bearing in mind that Jackson county was the only other county in Illinois outside Cook County that voted democratic in the last election. That's something.

Not the real Debbie Reynolds, as it turns out. She's a sailor, who earns money somehow sailing. How does one earn money sailing?

On May 5, 2007, at 1:31 PM, charles prowell wrote:
Bulletin:

Park Ridge family stalls. Procrastinates. Dilly Dallies.
Nonplussed, or bewildered, with lottery-like opportunity of a rich childless existence, the Park Ridge couple toe a dangerous line.
The Prowell 9-year waiting list looms and lurks like an unabashed ultimatum to the indecisive fence-riding wishy washy huffy puffy proclamations of Hope 'Someday' L--


On May 5, 2007, at 8:07 PM, Hope L-- wrote:
Dearest Charles,

5, 3 and 1 have tortured me this week (has it been two?) Please recall your bulletin and reconsider the 9-year waiting list knowing I've been held captive by three highly demanding, irrational, deranged beasts, and that a stack of close-ups of my lovely home (remember how beautiful you thought it was?) intended for you have been patiently waiting on my dining room sideboard since last Wednesday and also that my nights have been spent mostly awake gnawing on the pieces of this backyard project of mine. I've concluded my success or failure hinges on you. Huffy Puffy" is (sadly) the only untrue descriptor.***Most sincerely,
Hope
P.S. The 17-year Cicadas are coming in the next couple weeks. Were you living here the last time around?


May 8,2007 Hope L-- wrote:
Charles,
I sent some pictures to you yesterday via USPS Priority Mail. It might be time for a phone call so we can hash out the details (and become friends again.) Call me when you get a chance. Yes, I have been majorly indecisive of late.. Like I said in my last email, I'm hoping an impeccable implementation of the front entrance will redeem me. The goods news is my kids don't give a shit how the backyard or deck or gate or fence look just as long as they have a safe place to play, draw, explore, etc. but most of all, they can leave the front door open and let the dog slip out without getting scolded.

I can imagine things have picked up considerably for you in the last couple weeks. Despite my delay, I am anxious to get things going. Although I could say, "Go ahead and fire-off the G-4 gate," I would appreciate your advice and guidance.
Call me


May 8, 2007
My Huffy Hope,

Kids. Kids everywhere. Torturing and pleasing and surprising and snuggling and being charmingly deranged and what a bonus for you that I have a life-long weakness for them, all ages right up through adulthood but nothing quite like the little ones and how it must just trigger something in me that remains a kid. Something stunted, from long ago, that relishes getting down to that level and camping out in that timeless vacuum in an exchange of insane bantering that does more to rejuvenate the batteries than just about anything else i know of. To assuage my threat of the 9-yr-waiting list, I have been busy writing a children's story titled "Waz the Greatest Wrassler in the World VS Tim, the Meanest, Mostest Ferocious Giant Squid in the World" and I'm just sure they'll find it a worthy bedtime story and demand that latest installments are sent without delay. I have to have some pics to go along with the story but it will be ready tomorrow or so for a PDF attachment that can be printed and read and will relieve you of the same old stories night after night. For at least two nights.

Now I see a new letter, and time to hash out things further and yes, things have gone busy of late but no matter how busy they get, it always remains within the scope of my own dictated pace.
I call, now.
Cp


May 8, 2007 Charles wrote:

Yer dangerous. Putting those munchkins on the phone like that. And all of you out on your patch of grass in the pretend Hawaii beach and Livvy coached to say Mr Prowell. You know that I know that you know I know I have no negotiating leverage whatsoever now. Shrewd is the word that comers to mind.

Attached is the Giant Squid children's story


May 8, 2007, Hope L--wrote:
Yes, I have ulterior motives, but those that are directed towards the kids. I want them to "know" you and understand that you made something very special for our family that they need to respect. Any time one of them decides to swing on the gate or thinks about etching their name in it or something equally destructive, maybe, just maybe, they'll think about Mr. Pot or Mr. Growl (Kai's latest spin on your name) who worked very hard to create this functional piece of art. It may sound silly, but Kai does really appreciates hard work, artistry, color, texture, all that kind of stuff, even at five. He's looking forward to your story and is impressed that you build things with wood. He's a fledgling inventor who dreams up amazing creations and gets highly disappointed that me and his dad can't really build a specialized jet plane that can fly him to his best friend's house in Idaho or an elevator that can carry him upstairs to his bedroom or a zip-cord on which he can slide down from his room to the backyard.

And if I have any leverage with you, I hope it allows for an aforementioned visit where you oversee the installation at the "job site" (my husband will be the installer, by the way) and you can enjoy the wondrous cicadas while I barricade myself in the house and, hopefully, you don't think I'm too weird because I am strangely and acutely afraid of bugs.
P.S. I dislike "shrewd" just as much as "huffy" even in it's most optimistic connotation. Creative, I like that better, and wish it were that way.


May 9, 2007 Charles wrote:
Dear Creative,
Wanting the kids to 'know' me. Historically,. I have no resistance to munchkins. Particularly when they have been coached to call using the speed dial. I've been considering making some adjustments to the 9-year waiting list.
The story of the wrestler and Squid needs pictures. I've gone googling images Online for crocodiles and squids and stuff. It's kind of taking some time. My mother was an artist, and an illustrator and I grew up hanging out at her easel getting drunk on the scent of oils.

Mr Pot and Mr Growl. Which one is Kai? Too many munchkins. Just name them #1, #2, and #3. I thought it was Olivia (Livvy), and Anna Stira, and, and . . . and, his name? Is it Kai. My apprentice, who understands the work and rewards? If he shares this interest with me, then pick up a copy of Popular Mechanics and Mechanics Illustrated, where they show you how to build planes from kits and back-pak human flying kits. This was me at five and six.

Bugs. I figure there is to mid-June before the bugs, and further north, the black flies I hate. Here, you may remember, we have no bugs. Bugs don't exist in northern CA. But then there are also no warm evenings.

Sore. Sore knees. #2 son Ben (19) plays basketball like a gazelle. Like poetry. It's better if I retire, but he's begun standing in with a group I play with twice a week for the last 15 years and tonight I guarded him and he treated me like a gnat. I can no longer guard him. And my knees are sore.
Cp
PS: I'll have someone deliver your package from the PO box so that it doesn't get lost in the shuffle.


May 13, 2007 Hope L-- wrote:
Charles,
It may please you to know, my husband (Ted) and I spent all day yesterday focused on the future installation of Prowell goods. The landscape contractor arrives Monday a.m. to begin yanking out the driveway and begin the transformation... This fact, coupled with Ted's enthusiastic response to your rendering, inspired us to hash out all the details. We determined the measurements will be a little different based on a few newly determined factors. We also decided the best plan of action is for my husband to install the posts before the pavers are installed in order to not disrupt them and also to provide accurate measurements to you.

Also... can you think of any way to integrate a mail slot into the left hand fence panel to accommodate a mailbox accessible from the courtyard area. We could mount a mailbox on the front of the fence but that would be blasphemous, yes? My husband likes the idea of the gate acting as our front door (he even wants to put in a doorbell!?) We'll see about that. If your time is limited, for now all I need is your opinion on the gate posts before Tuesday. Ted's taking the day off to install them. Hopefully, your crew at the Wolcott shop can still come through in 3-4 weeks. I'm not too happy about the prospect of these four posts standing guard out front for a month. Aargh. Beauty hurts, as they say...

Best regards,
Hope
P.S. We're anticipating part 3 of "Waz and Tim." By the way, how open are you to receiving literary opinions, keeping in mind they're from a University of Hawaii graduate who took tens years (well OK twelve) to get her undergrad in English Lit?

 

May 14, 2007 Charles- wrote:

Creative hope,
All day on Prowell possibilities. Wonderful. And where were the munchkins during this preoccupation?
A good idea to install the posts first, avoiding any need to cut into the new pavers/threshhold, and to supply me with the dead-on accurate dimensions within 1/16"! Ted must know that I can be reached to help him with this, and that he is not alone and how he should call or write with the slightest question or uncertainty.

Regarding his posts: There is a pictorial on the site regarding setting posts into the grade. A good idea to send him that-a-away.**<http://www.prowellwoodworks.com/gate/postholes.htm>.
Nothing as crude as a post is allowed to contact the integrity of this house which is an architectural temple and appendages, even Prowell appendages, have certain subservient protocols.

Heading off to Menards with all three midgets in tow. What is Menard? One of them box stores? Is Target considered a box store, cause that's where we clothed the boys when they were young, but as far as I've ventured in that direction. I once entered a Costco with a buddy to get a hot dog and I was days recovering from the trauma of that. And I once stood outside a Walmart in Kentucky while another buddy went in to buy something. But this Menard's has the posts you need and no point in bandying my name around in there cause they wont know it. Now if you had an architect involved, or even a fence contractor, you could mention it and they might likely get on their knees and stand to curtsy and asking if you would use your familiarity with Cp to make introductions etc.

4x4's are okay, but already you are veering from the master plan and taking matters into your own hands. The design of the flanking panels and the gate varies only slightly and one of the purposes of the 6x6's flanking the gate is to help announce this portal, as well as providing the gate with a more solid structure as it swings, and requires more stability. But at your gate height, the 4x4's are okay. Not great. I didn't say they were great and that you did really good at Menard. But they're okay is all.

Mail slots are no problem. I agree in that a visible mailbox is like a cyst, and you can work out your catch box on the inside. And a doorbell is cool. But requiring a conduit and wiring set after they have pulled out the old surface and before they lay the new pavers. And running the wire up the post and drilling through said post to mount the ringer plate on the approach face of the post. easy stuff, and i know Ted can do it and maybe Kai will have an invention for what else the doorbell can do, such as opening a trap door in the pavers and dropping unwanted visitors into a chute that send them sliding back out to the sidewalk, or even better, linking it to an embedded MP3 voice-over that can be coded to say or sing anything he wants.

I just left a message at the shop to insure we're okay with the scheduling of 3-4 weeks and figuring Ted should have us dimensions by mid week and then revised drawings and then posting them and then your approval and then over to the shop. oh, and a MC payment from you before any of that. 50% of your total cost, including delivery if you opt for that and another 10K if you decide you actually want to have Cp for lunch but only if you keep it quiet and don't go gabbing to all the neighbors about 'Guess Who's Coming to Lunch', and as you wait for their bug-eyed reaction, tapping your foot and raising yer chin and one eyebrow in the casual insouciance of an absolute snoot who went all the way to Hawaii for a useless degree.

Or is it? I happen to be in great need of an English major right now. Waz the Wrassler' is an aside that was marvelously fun and shows how I know nothing about children's literature other than does it make them laugh and entertain them and have them wanting more? So sure, let's write that together and send it to my agent and see if she freaks out because it doesn't follow the guideline of normal children's book, or freaks out because it is so danged entertaining and different. But we need illustrations, and an editor who knows English and comprehension and who takes a certain pleasure in cutting me off at the knees
Cp


May 16, 2007 --4:45 am--Hope L-- wrote:
I'm emailing before my first cup of coffee in order to finally (somewhat) respond to Monday's message. Today begins as the first of three mornings I drive 40 minutes south to take Kai and Livi to preschool, something I've been doing since late January. School ends Friday for them and since gas prices are outrageous and we don't have a fancy DVD player in the van and someone always falls asleep, I'm happy this stint as a commuter is almost over

The posts went in. The stories I could tell about yesterday. I'm just happy they're placed in a straight line. Any time my father-in-law is involved in a project around the house he gets pissed at me if I "hover" and "watch over his shoulder" so usually things vary from my plan considerably. He loathes any mention at "special order" or "custom" and becomes hostilely silent. Knowing things were going awry, Ted called me over to "fix" an issue. Your guys at Wolcott could have never made minor adjustments to account for the changes. It's rained liked crazy since yesterday afternoon so..

I don't have the measurements yet.
I haven't read any of the attached document (that's based on another excuse)
I won't do either until later today
*Will write soon,
Hope


May 16, 2007--6:34 pm--Charles wrote:

Breaking from my early-mornings asides to consider father-in-laws and remembering an issue somewhere not so different. I think it was Hawaii. The Ruess', a childless couple who both worked very hard, she being a doctor and he being in tech and they seldom communicated with one another, and therefore the details of their installation often got lost from me to her to him, and then to learn that the father-in-law, a retired builder, was 'hovering' over his techie son's awkward laboring. And the comments were passed on, from an old-world builder who in a sense was competing with Prowell, and the friction between tech son and father, as well as between the father and his doctor daughter growing every day. Questions of every imaginable scope arriving every day, from the father-in-law posed through the son down to the doc and then to me and how it was a conversation essentially between father-in-law and myself. A competition, it seemed. Prowell lost on the posts, that were set w/o pea gravel and in solid concrete and were pressure-treated and ignoring the skewed layout for the 4-post arbor that were called out specifically on the drawings and for a specific purpose because father-in-law deemed it too fancy and high-falootin' and who the heck is this prowell fella and what makes him so high-falootin'?

My own father-in-law was the one person on earth who required of me a summoned patience otherwise absent. A Brit, who was also the opera critic for the LA Times. And yet he was my wife's father and for that gift, I went to some lengths to summon the required patience he seemed to demand.

Father-in-laws: We must love them because they are also Grandpa and there is virtually no better way to set the pace of a job like this, to regulate the pace with a tinge of fondness by bringing in Kai. Grandpa cannot resist and he and Ted concoct a problem they cannot solve and need kai's help to solve the problem and they present it to Kai and listen to his offerings and tweak his idea as a working solution but so that it appears to be all Kai's solution and they set themselves to implementing the solution, the three of them, together, and now we have the makings for chucking the pressure of a time-table over the magic of how they've always wanted it to be between them: three generations, working on a common task, outdoors, physical, using their collected selves toward a common end and grandpa becomes more patient and Ted learns from grandpa and Kai learns from his dad and the daughter-in-law allows them their time. Her three men, being men, together.

So there will be posts that need to be cut to length, and the cut-off lengths must be moved somewhere and how do we do that, Kai? Short, smallish cut-offs, but nevertheless, a solution is required. Kai offers ideas because he's that way and they consider it and that night, or at lunch, show him a picture of a pulley and,

'Hey Kai, check this out. Is this what you were talking about, moving the wood with one of these contraptions?' And you buy a little pulley at the hardware store and they all set it up together and figure it out, following Kai's lead, and drag the cut-offs up the drive toward the garage with this wenched pulley that is a fascinating invention.


May 19, 2007, Hope L-- wrote:
Charles,Read your vignettes. I feel like I want to cry. You capture the spirit of children, the sweetness and pureness in them, the loveliness of everyday life so well. Hopefully, your boys appreciate you were so involved in their lives (and psyches) and how much you apparently cherish them. I get so caught up in the daily grind; dishes, laundry, phone calls, emails, patios, gates... If I spent half that time journaling my children's lives - Oh I wish I were a writer! I wish I was compelled to write (which it appears is the case with you.) Yes, you can be a little tangential at times but the fact that you write in a "stream of consciousness" kind of way is exactly why you capture the quiet, intimate details so well. Do you write every day? You're amazingly prolific.

My only comments about "Waz" were that you needed to introduce "Tim" more thoroughly as a character and that little kiddies don't quite understand the concept of writer and/or narrator yet. They do love silly jokes and like to hear their names in the story, that's for sure. I'm a nobody in that world, don't really know shit. The funny things is, I like to think of myself as creative, but at the U of H my favorite parts of Lit. were editing and close analysis. I was a big math geek in high school (partly b/c I liked math and partly b/c I realized there were lots of boys in the math classes!) But, I ruined my brain partying, playing, frolicking. Living in Hawaii was the best, and worst, thing for me. That's another story, for another day. Now I'm a Midwestern mom with piles of laundry in the basement and piles of dirt in the back yard, no time for writing.

And regarding 815 Prospect, the walkway went in yesterday, Ted worked late and he's back at work this a.m (since 5:00!) He's gotta make up for the day off Tuesday. Once he returns we'll get the measurements and get this thing moving again.
Hope

 

May 20, 2007 Charles wrote:
Hmmm. Maybe I should re-read them myself. I didn't realize they were crying material. Not in a sad way though, right? In some other way, such as the fleetingness of children before they're no longer children. So many people don't realize this--how quickly it passes, and opt out for other priorities instead of taking what is essentially only those first ten years and putting everything else aside. Whether the boys appreciate my involvement is unknown, as it's all they know and have nothing to weigh it against and of course the first five years they don't remember much of anything, I'm told. Anyway, your daily grind is just life and much better to stand with them on a patch of grass in the backyard pretending it to be Hawaii than inside writing about it. If you have to choose between the two, live it any day over writing it. Here it was sort of a dual thing with Ms P and myself and the shop moved here at the house for that reason and pretty much a 50/50 deal as parents. We suffered financially, for sure, but not something i remember weighing as this or that, at the time. I do remember that most of my men friends worked all the time back then, away from home, getting a stake, and also I remember thinking of some coupes where both worked, the kids early on going full-time to day care, and a Lexus parked in the drive and vacations to wherever and how something seemed wrong with that. The priorities of that.

Tangential. I do have that issue. I wonder if it isn't what I enjoy most about writing--the allowance for tangents and asides when they strike me as interesting. The non-linear route from A to B and how in many cases, it's along this circuitous approach where the best insights are discovered. In fact, definitely. Straight lines get us there quickest, but the insights of wisdom are not available on straight lines; they're obscured and veiled and a little digging and routing is required. It may cost the impact of a page-turning storyline, dull the impact of a who-dunnit type story, but then the reader may realize it's no longer all about the story but the journey itself. Each sentence. each word. What can be learned, or simply appreciated.

Yes, every day I write from 4:30 to 7:30 for several decades now. An addiction, And currently it seems I'm absorbed with a story about a pregnant woman and a pregnant crocodile both sharing a pond in the southern Florida wetlands, and the "Boys" and "Waz vs Tim" and seeing I know nothing about children's literature and if I think about it like a proper story with formatting etc and introducing Tim earlier and better, then it might lose the frivolity of how it is really just a lark, a hoot, a nutty thing. But still, good comments, and you are my level-headed, creative, wild, competent-minded reader who'll I'll listen to. Maybe.

The project. We are approaching the 9-year list. Your timing is suddenly in jeopardy. A really large project, advance paid, is currently being drawn up. Once the drawings are done, they need to go right into this to meet the promised delivery date. I'm worried you're going to be at the end of that schedule. Ugh.


May 10, 2007 Charles wrote:
Hope,
Thanks for the pics and the sketched layout. Before this gets set aside, I've pulled together what I see here as an ideal solution.
A defining detail with Dutch Tudors is always the muscular window mullions, and so we've carried that over to the gate and panels, separating the lower and upper sections in a manner that keeps with the front windows, and allows us a friendly impression of openness, and yet the lower pickets, at 1-5/8" width x 1-1/8" thickness and spaced at 3/4", are set so that if you are 5-degrees off center, there is no visibility through the panels. And at the distance from the walk, it seemed my first choice rather than introduce a privacy barrier of solid lower planks.

The upper section mimics the grids of the windows, and together it appears to carry over the inherent muscle of the house so our work is an extension of the original architecture. We've also extended the top horizontal rails and mid-rails of the panels in width so we have some alignment throughout.

The gate would normally default at 1-1/2" thickness at this width, and yet it may be an option to consider to have this at 2-1/4", off-setting it from the panels and thinking of swinging kiddies.

You can elect to pick these up at the shop on Wolcott, or have them delivered for $175.

**The Park Ridge project was completed, without encountering the 9-year waiting list. Nor did Hope and Ted sell their children to the highest bidders. The cicadas came and went and during their 17-day presence, our Hope discovered they were seeping into the house through the chimney and at once point, in a state of affectation bordering on psychosis, she barricaded herself in a closet with the door closed and the lights off. And yet through it all, the stages of her project were met and resolved and in the end, something pleasant resulted, and a memory of the process that may even surpass the tangible appreciation of the work itself.

It can be seen on Gallery #3, Fence Style #14, and Gallery #1 Gate Style #9.

 

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On Feb 21, 2012, at 2:36 AM, Neil Chauhan wrote:
Hello Charles, Just a quick note to let you know that we received the panels and everything looks great! We will take some photos of the installation once complete but I know you would appreciate the design of our house so I am attaching a picture of it. Thanks, Neil


Ah gawd, Neil. I love it. I love the low slung wall and how it mimics the roofline eaves. Sicklerville is not an area I'm familiar with. Is the house typical of Prairie revivals in the area? Or is this an anomaly? It's really wonderful and I look forward to the final photos. And what is it those windows all look out upon? For years we had a shop in Ocean City, but alas it's long gone.

Hi Charles, The house was one we built ourselves in 2007 and we modeled it after FLW's Isabel Roberts house. There are a lot of Prairie / Arts & Crafts / Mission details inside the house too. As far as the view goes, our landscaping is still a work in progress but something my wife and I wanted to do ourselves over a number of years rather than have others do it. There is something more fulfilling about watching things that you plant yourselves grow in parallel with your family as opposed to having ready made landscaping installed :-). We saw your website and from then on, there was little thought given to obtaining fence panels from anywhere else. We plan on creating a small bird bath area and the two panels will be between 3 stone covered posts in an L shape with the bird bath in the center and plants surrounding it. I will be sure to send you some pictures once complete. Thanks, Neil

Ah. So you're a Chicago neighborhood fan. The very best city in the country for urban hikes, and particularly Oak Park and River Forest. I know the Roberts house and I last did that neighborhood on a rented bike two years ago, which is also crammed with all these wonderful compounds from the 30's gangsters. The Godfather sort of spreads. This has got to be one of the most idealistic little hamlets in the country, with it's wide streets and canopies of elms and deep front lawns and solid residential architecture. I go to Chicago every year or so, as there is the shop there, and always stay at the old historic little Write Inn in Oak Park, which I love.

I like your approach to your landscape. It's not a horse race, and much much better if it becomes a pastime, over time. But all too often folks want it all done pronto, with a flurry of contractors and schedules and stamped out in what always ends up becoming a stressful experience for the homeowners.

* The above project involves Fence Panel style #19

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On March 2, 2012, Kathy writes:
I came upon your site almost by accident. I am trying out ideas for a simple gate that I can build, but after realizing that your work was above my "pay grade" I was about to move on, yet something drew me in. And in, and in! Your story with the Basement Section, the best run on sentence I have met in a long time.

Your work is gorgeous, illustrations superb and you must be a lot of fun to work with.

Congratulations.

Kathy Hartzell
President, Inverness Garden Club
And general rabble rouser

I like how that reads, Kathy. ". . . yet something drew me in." Maybe it was the run-on sentences, which skimp on the normal syntax of periods that serve, if nothing else, as a convenient place to dismiss the ho hum and the boring, allowing us to move on to new content, elsewhere, with those proper period thingies. Those dots.

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On March 23, 2012 Beverly Russell wrote:
We're thrilled with the panels and gate. All the preliminary planning really paid off, and installation went very smoothly. Brian's suggestion that we tear down the old fence, then install posts before doing final measurements was critical in allowing us to get the design just right. It was not a big project, but a little tricky with the two levels to the deck. Anyway, thanks a lot. We'll really enjoy our back yard this year!
Beverly

Hi Beverly,
I guess the below kudos rates a place in the Prowell Testimonials, which goes on for pages and that I suspect no one ever reads. And who will I write to with my idiotic ramblings now that you'll be otherwise engaged with the endless deck parties of a social gadabout?
Did you meet Ben?

Charley

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On April 16, 2012 Cathy Murphy wrote:

I so really appreciate your support of my work Charles. You are someone who takes this so seriously. You have a great product that will be a highlight of my yard, yet you have a value set and customer service – truly meeting me where I am… that has already resulted in me giving 2 people your name (and website) within the past 24 hours….. Thanks again. Cathy

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On May 24, 2012 Di Skaggs wrote
I'm an architect in Seattle that came across your website via google. I'm strongly considering specifying your gates based not only on the beautiful designs but the responses to the FAQ section pretty much seal the deal. Nothing beats some interesting and fun reading.

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On Sep 26, 2012, at 2:18 PM, Sydney Minnerly wrote: Charles, Thanks. Everything looks fine as corrected, noting that the slots will be rounded as in the first image of gate #79. What is next step?
Sydney

Thanks Sydney, The next step is to wait. Sit on your hands, whistle, do the daily Chronicle crossword, take long walks, and within a month or so I'll send you another email with the news that your new offspring is ready for delivery.

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On Mar 22, 2013, at 10:31 PM, Linda Mansell wrote:
Just wanted to let you know .. I was looking thru your website at Garden Gates (they are gorgeous!) and I noticed a problem with trying to display "Garden Gate #30"..... when I click on it for more info I get a screen full of gobbly-gook! You might want to take a look at that one.
all the best,
LInda in Healdsburg

Thank you, Linda. All fixed. What would I do without the help of those like yourself. And to have missed out on #30 would be tragic, as Adlai reaches his limit and is about to do something exceedingly foolish. <http://www.prowellwoodworks.com/gate/30_garden_gates.htm>
Charles

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On April 27, 2013
Dear Mr Prowell, I'm sitting in my little farmhouse in rural Quebec, outside of Montreal, my kitty asleep beside me looking like I taped her upside down to the cushion. I need to dig holes and set some fence posts, and have a stack of heartwood in the barn, inherited when we bought the place. I know it's not the perfect wood, but it's all that I got.

So I'm googling this, and googling that, trying to get a sense of what needs to be done. All very practical stuff.

I just want to say, Mr Prowell, that I landed on your website and the course of my day has changed as surely as if an ocean wind suddenly died - dropped flat! - and my ship is now adrift. But I'm not worried. I'm going to sit back and read every single word you have written here. Not only that, I have read so much of it aloud to my partner that she finally put her newspaper down with gentle resignation and said, OK Leila, you can read me everything. My Prowell, your wit, your words, your writing is just marvellous. I am so enjoying every single thing you say. The beauty of passion and poetry is all the more beautiful still when unexpected. If you ever write a book, please let me know. I've got dibs out on the first signed copy. So that's it then. All the very best to you.
Leila Marshy
Quebec, Canada

Well, Madame Marshy, you've written me the most pleasant little letter. The loveliest thing, and in a voice with all the entrails of having spent perhaps too much time digging through the site for the hidden asides that exist for the likes of you. Some written with a meager sense of purpose and having something or other to do with the subject at hand and some that have nothing whatsoever to do with anything at all beyond a compulsion for words and the rhythm of words.

I have visions of your cat and how my own, an adopted kitty at 6 months and now 9 months who insists on splaying himself out on the bed before bedtime, on his back and his big fat belly exposed like a water balloon, absolutely insisting on having that tummy rubbed. He's a character. Recently, after weeks of failed attempts, he's figured out how to climb the tree in the front yard to reach the lowest branch, where he lays perched like a lazy lion watching the world go by and the crows all freaked out that a cat has commandeered their tree and the dogs walked on a leach along the sidewalk going ballistic. His name is Mister Spots and he has stole my heart.

Warm regards,

Charles

 

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On April 3, 2013
Cathleen Shea writes,

Dear Mr. Prowell, Thank you for sharing about your designs on the website. I've visited many times over the past few years to gain inspiration in figuring out how to improve the looks of my front yard fence and gates.

The guys at the local ACE Hardware store taught me about pocket hole joinery which seemed stronger than a basic butt joint and understandable enough for me to execute. I've been happily experimenting with my Kreg pocket hole jig ever since.

My homage to your gates (attached photo) has a ridiculous number of pocket hole screws placed into it, in addition to a boat load of cedar wood plugs mind-numbingly glued into place, then sanded down flush with the back side of the gate. The purpose of the gate is to keep my ever creative Blue Heeler out of the rumpus room/cat room. I figured out how to make a passage way for the cat only and keep the design in balance. I was trying for an Art Deco and Craftsman type style. The wood is cedar from the stack of #2 fence boards in the yard at the local ACE.

I like that you showed the photo of your hand and stressed that after all your years of woodworking you've still got all your fingers. I'm the proud owner of my first (entry level ACE store brand) table saw... birthday present last fall. I tell people who marvel at my bravery... "I count my fingers before work, and after. If I've still got the same number of fingers, I'm doing it right."

Thank you for the affirmation and inspiration to keep finding focus in my life. I'm not capable of traditional jobs anymore due to severe PTSD, but by some quirk of the brain it's opened up a whole creative side that sat dormant before. I just felt compelled to write and say thank you for keeping me inspired and focused on the positive aspects of life... and carpentry.
Respectfully,

Cathleen Shea Lincoln City, Oregon



Hi Cathleen, and thanks for taking the time to write such a memorable letter. I am more than a little impressed with what you've done by means of pocket-hole joinery. I'll confess that I don't have much experience with that. And although it's common with cabinetmakers who often join their face-frames this way, it's seen less often in general woodworking shops. But what a versatile joint, and perfectly adaptable to the panels such as what you've created as a partition. I was thinking the jigs leave more of a tapered hole and wondering how they are plugged. At any rate, you mention the mind-numbing process of that and that has me thinking how so many of the processes in the shop fall into that category. The mind-numbing category and I think, after decades of this, I've developed this compartmentalized corner of my brain that, when immersed in those tasks, I seem to settle into this state that accounts for the only time of any given day when my mind is actually empty. There is something about repetition that appeals to me and has me thinking of when a kid on our farm, one of my earliest chores was to mow the lawn of our sprawling front yard. The endless back and forth, with what I had done clearly marked behind me and what was yet to do clearly in front of me and in the interim this mental blankness, kept from wandering off into an endless daydream by the need to mow a straight line. So to me your pocket-hole process makes for an ideal opportunity to languish on the process and without thoughts of an eventual result. You are lost in that state of process.

A first table saw is such an exciting advancement. Suddenly, the versatility of that and all that it can do with jigs. Ben recently improved our Unisaw by creating a new blade insert with a wood riven, in the interest of safety. It was a simple improvement, but one that will virtually eliminate kick-back due to the boards closing back up on the far side of the blade. I may take a photo of it; I was impressed. So just follow the rules and never do anything that feels awkward and never ever allow yourself to feel rushed or pressed out of your normal pace.

I'll tell you I have almost no experience with PTSD other than what I or anyone knows from a distance. Some friends, so many, actually, of the Vietnam era who have only recently been experiencing this with a delay of 40 years! The economy put them out to pasture earlier than expected and suddenly things from long ago are resurfacing, brought up, I'm told, by this idleness that's such a departure from the years of careers and raising families, etc. They don't sleep, have nightmares, and a few have sought out help. None of them, not a single one of my many friends who were over there, ever sat down and actually told me what it was like. Their experience of soldering. They wouldn't have known how much I wanted to know, and consequently to this day there is this pocket that's never been discussed, in detail.
Warm regards,
Charles

 

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On April 12, 2013
Cathleen Shea writes,

Hi Charles,
People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. This wisdom has been consistent for me. I believe we move through various roles in a lifetime.

My role here -- moved to write a thank you for inspiration gained in your work -- I'm a fan. You've graciously visited all thoughts that emerged and I received something unexpected. An artist willing to share complex feedback. I took two writing classes at the local college... each geared toward honing craft. The feedback: nice; well written; or the inane..."this made me laugh." So much for learning about flow. In visiting with you... not only did I meet a master writer, you've shared valuable master carpenter tips to help my carpentry. Tips suitable to my skill level. I pondered my subconscious the other night. Whether the world ends tomorrow, or not, I'm richer for the gift of conversation with an esteemed man of arts and letters. I continue down my road, pleased with my re-emerging confidence to interact.
Cathleen

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On June 2, 2013
Tim Rein writes:

Dear Mr. Prowell,   I have almost red your hole web site and eye sea that you like too play with words as much as you do working with would. Eye have Ben asked to build a gate and wood like too sea if you wood talk sum shop with me on the phone. Not ON the phone, butt using the phone too talk with.  

Now that I have your attention, let me introduce myself.  I am a career carpenter working in the Atlanta area for the last 35 years.  I do custom residential renovations, woodworking, trim etc. My list of projects is vast but as of yet, I have never built a gate.  I have been commissioned to build the gate as attached.  The opening is approx 16' wide total with two leaves.  I am in the process of doing the structural design work; specs. for joinery, possibility of a metal substrate, etc.  

I would appreciate any ideas or suggestions that you would be willing to offer.  

We share some common heritage in history. My earliest ancestors arrived on the continent in 1658 as Presbyterian farmers, ministers and carpenters.  I mention this simply for charm and flattery. But lest you become wary that I am trying to get too close and possibly steal your construction techniques, let me say with no uncertainty that I have no interest getting into the gate business as a regular concern, and despite the philosophies of Buddhists, Native Americans and of course the laws of quantum physics, I certainly hope that we are not related.  

Any help that you offer will not be sold or used for monetary gain beyond the activities of this lone joiner. All fruits will be dedicated to the benefit and advancement of CarpentryKind.  

If available for a brief, say 20 min. phone consultation, please let me know of a convenient time for you.  

Sincerely, 
Tim Rein 
Marietta, Georgia

Hi Tim,
You've sent off what has to be one of the most inventive and charming letters ever.  I laughed.   I'll be glad to pass on whatever I might know that can help you with your gate project.  16' overall opening will definitely require some steel.  2" hollow tube stock is what would normally be used and such that it lines up with the stiles.  The bottom of the steel frame would be near the bottom of the gate's bottom rail and the top of the steel would split the width of your middle rail.  Although you'll get more load if the steel extended in height to the top rail, bending hollow tube stock to that radius would be hard.  Most often the steel is exposed on the property side, with the gate leaves surface-mounting onto that with four stainless flathead bolts per gate leaf. 

I'll be out of town between late today through this coming Friday on a little hiking venture to Yosemite.  But possibly we can talk after that?  
Best, Charles

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Sept 5, 2013
Jake Smith writes:
How totally rude! Who would put something like this on their website? Especially if you are trying to sell something.
"Probably the least inspiring site photo we've ever received, but it is the only one we have of the Gate style #108. So for that, we thank the efforts of our homeowners in Greenbrea, CA (Marin County)"

Hi Jake,
I want to thank you for writing in with your thoughts on the content to gate style #108. Returning to that page and reading the quote you provided and although it is not written with the same approach to most normal sales techniques, it is in keeping with our own insistence on being both frank and honest. It is not a photo that will inspire our potential patrons if compared to the hundreds of others on the web site.

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August 30, 2014
Salisbury, MD
Johm Wesley Wright writes:

Dear Charles, Greetings from the Eastern Shore of Maryland (Salisbury, MD). I have just perused your website for the umpteenth time. I hesitated to write, but it was the reading (this time) of the FAQ page that prompted me. I can't remember a read equally as informing, refreshing, and entertaining as that! J I have a curse, Charles. I am one of those people with an internal magnet to high end, tasteful things, but with an extremely middle end, liberal arts college professor's budget. I literally LOL when I read the part of the FAQ page that mentioned debtor's prison. I have often told friends that that is where my other half and I could be found after renovating our home. So, I am writing to see if by chance the Eastern Shore of Maryland might qualify as one of those areas (like Mississipi J) as underserved and in need of an artisan boost…in other words, a discount. The Eastern Shore, by the way, should not be confused with our Western Shore neighbors two hours away (DC, Baltimore, Annapolis area) where they have disposable incomes and such. We are fishermen, oyster shuckers and chicken farmers here! (Ok, I'm a singing teacher but I'm just saying…J). What am I looking for? Approx. 72 ft of Gallery #3, Garden Fence #15 (as shown, post caps and all and as high as it could come…no trellises or varying heights, etc. needed)…BEAUTIFUL! It fits the style of my home, which is a 1936 Tudor-style home w/ bungalow/art and crafts features, and would be a backdrop to one of many landscaped areas in my yard, as well as the final link to privacy between us and the neighbors. I realize I am probably way out of my price league, but a guy can dream J. I appreciate your taking the time to read this. It is a pleasure to view your work.
Sincerely,
John Wesley Wright <http://www.salisbury.edu/musicdept/faculty/wright.html >

P.S. I've tried this approach only once before when that high end magnet I mentioned in the beginning was in full force and I ran across a website called historicalbricks.com, a site for purchasing reclaimed bricks and cobble. Knowing that my home screamed for a real cobblestone driveway and would not settle, I pang-fully broke down and wrote the owners…turns out I was the only one from this whole region ever to inquire about their product…it was a successful inquiry!

All the Best, Charles!!

Charles has not replied.

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August 7, 2015
Great Backyards Magazine
Amber Barz writes:

Enjoying some of your web copy--which is a breath of fresh air-- Love this--"Known locally as the Kent Mansion, the property was recently purchased by a bi-coastal family who occupies the residence for two months a year. A residence that once, 125 years ago, was the cornerstone of the as yet incorporated town known today as Kent Woodlands. A cornerstone that had stood empty and uninhabited for 15 years prior to the recent rescue. An improvement, given that the house was dark and ghostly year round, and is now dark and ghostly for only 10 months a year."
Amber Barz
Great Backyard Solutions magazine
Writing and Editing Services, Inc.

Charles has not replied.

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On May 3, 2016
Matthew Lubic wrote:
I've watched, loved and admired your gate designs as well as your craftsmanship for many years now. It's about time I got around to telling you so. I've never purchased any gate from you simply because I've never lived in a house to which one of your gates would add to its architectural style. It's a regret that is simply a part of my life. I wish it were otherwise.

I've taken the libety of sending an architect friend of mine, John Alt, your website. He, like you, also does beautiful work and perhaps you will enjoy viewing some of it as I'm certain he will enjoy viewing yours. >http://www.absarchitects.com<
Anyway, I wish you all the best and a continuing of much success.
Be well.
Matthew Lubic

Hi Mathew,
Nice words and worth mentioning how most of us fail to make the effort to let even the gardener know when his work merits a kindly nod. The social graces of that simple act.
Meanwhile your friend's work is stunning! I sent it to several architect friends who would appreciate his eye and innovation, as well as the scope. Just stunning work. So thank you for that glimpse.

 

 



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