Clint Harp is best known as the genial woodworking guy on Chip and Joanna Gaines’s popular HGTV show Fixer Upper. Harp and his wife, Kelly Harp, cofounded Harp Design Co. in Waco, Tex., in 2011, and now have a TV show of their own: Wood Work, on the DIY Network. PW spoke with Harp about his memoir, Handcrafted (Touchstone, Oct.), which charts his circuitous route to success.
In your book, you cite your maternal grandfather as an inspiration. How did he influence your love of woodworking?
I got his ability and desire to work with his hands, to work with wood. There was a lot of inconsistency in my life when I was growing up, but my grandfather was someone I could trust. The way he dug a foundation is the way I do it to this day. When he wanted to know how to build Colonial-style houses, he went to Williamsburg, Va., with a pad, a pencil, and a tape measure, and took notes. That’s the way I approach woodworking.
Did you always think you could make a career out of it?
I’m not going to say I had the hardest life ever, but I didn’t have a ton of resources. I tried a lot of different things: The ministry. Pharmaceutical sales. Performing music. It was never willy-nilly, it was very heartfelt. When I decided to pursue woodworking in a serious, focused way, I started with just a couple of tools and a company logo my wife, Kelly, designed at our dining-room table, using a free computer program.
You began taking bespoke furniture orders when you started working with Joanna Gaines on interiors. What have you learned from that experience?
At Harp Design Co., we have a philosophy that’s not written down anywhere, but it’s this: mistakes are okay. Handing over responsibility and allowing people to try is essential. The more you do that, the more you unlock that thing in someone’s spirit and soul that says, “I can do this.” We had a pile of reclaimed wood given to us by a local businessman for anything we wanted and we were using it very, very sparingly, worried that it would run out—it was so beautiful. My mother-in-law finally said, “Just use that wood! More will come.” She was right.
You write in the book that your success could disappear tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter. How so?
It’s not all about the furniture, or the tables. It’s about believing that life is an adventure. If I couldn’t be on television, if I couldn’t make furniture, life wouldn’t be over. My personal hashtag is #lovebuildrun: I wake up and try to be the most loving person I can be, I build relationships, and I run, which is also when I do some of my most important thinking.
Design and renovation shows are very popular right now. What kind of influence do you think they’re having on the way people furnish their homes?
People are coming back to their roots and choosing solid wood and solid carpentry. They’re realizing they want to spend money on a table that can be around for a long time. And our clients, and other people, are seeing that they can make furniture, too. I’m just as excited and happy and honored if somebody writes me and says, “Y’all inspired my husband or my wife to make our own table” as I am if someone buys one of ours.