Editor’s Note: Spanning Clint Harp’s remarkable journey—from a childhood learning carpentry and hard work at his grandfather’s knee, through his struggles to balance pursuing his dreams with supporting his family, to his partnership with Chip and Joanna Gaines and the many adventures and misadventures of filming Fixer Upper—Handcrafted is part memoir and part manual for dreamers. Clint recently answered questions we had about his past, Fixer Upper and his book. Check them out below!
What was your favorite carpentry lesson from your grandfather?
“Do it right the first time, so you don’t have to go back and do it again.” It’s definitely one of those “easier said than done” rules, and I certainly haven’t always achieved that standard, but that rule is always on my mind. It’s like an angel on my shoulder in every situation. When my grandad said those words to me for the first time, he wasn’t even necessarily talking about building furniture. It was really something to be applied across the board. But as it turns out, doing it right the first time when building something is truly the best way to do it. It’s a good way to save yourself from a lot of heartache. And, it just happens to be useful in every other one of life’s moments as well.
Do you try to pass along similar lessons to your children?
Absolutely. In fact, I’ve probably said that “do it right the first time” line to my children so much at this point that they’re probably rolling their eyes on the inside whenever they get the “dad lecture.” In the end, if they can adopt that into their lives, I guess I’ll feel like I’ve done at least one thing right the first time as a parent.
What inspired you to write Handcrafted?
I believe in the power of sharing stories. I’ve experienced the magic firsthand that happens when we find ourselves in someone else’s story, and we realize that we have a lot more in common than we probably expected. In a world where we’re connected more than ever, it seems as though loneliness and isolation are more prevalent than ever before. I believe if we are vulnerable with, we’ll learn from each other and push the human race forward. We have a lot of issues facing us, whether it be on a personal, city, state, country or worldwide level, and I don’t know how to solve them all. But I know that there are people out there who to do something positive and contribute to this earth in a way that only they can. The thing I decided I could offer was a table and a hope that people would sit around it, be themselves and find common ground. But before I could make that decision to jump off a cliff and answer that urging inside my heart to build tables for a living, I had to be inspired. And I was. By songs, movies, conversations and books. I wrote this book because I hoped that someone else out there, who’s inching toward what they see as impossible, might read it and realize they’re not alone, find commonality in my story and be pushed closer to realizing their own dreams of changing the world for good.
Was it difficult to compile the lessons and memories from your life into this book?
I guess it wasn’t as much difficult as it was emotional. When I sat down with my writing coach Michelle and laid out my whole story, I found myself connecting again with moments in my life in a way that I haven’t in a long time. I think a lot of our memories begin to feel like old books lined up on a shelf that we rarely pull down to read. I found that as I pulled down the volumes of my own history, I was greeted with a deep feeling of connection to the Clint of old and appreciated all that he went through and all the people he went through everything with. It was a wonderful, even if exhausting, process.
What was your initial feeling when you quit your job to pursue your dream of being a carpenter?
Like I had cracked a code and found a way to do something that was simultaneously both incredibly amazing and totally stupid at the same time! Ha! I really just knew it was always a risk and came with no guarantees whatsoever of working out. But that was okay with me and my wife! I didn’t want life to pass me by without going for a dream.
How do you feel now that you have succeeded?
On my best days, I feel totally awesome when locked into the truth that my worth has nothing to do with any level of success…unless, of course, that success is tied to the deeply personal struggle of being the truest version of myself possible. If I’m successful at being me, then everything else has a way of falling into place, even if it takes a while. Our business is doing well, we’ve got more exposure than we ever dreamed of, and it could all be gone in a heartbeat. I do conscious work often to make sure I tie my success to something the world can’t take away.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned from Fixer Upper?
The original producers of Fixer Upper always told me “whatever a person or thing really and truly is will ultimately come out on the screen, even to the point of being amplified more than it is in real life.” I think they were so right, and I think it is part of the reason why Fixer did so well. What you saw Chip and Jo doing, what you saw me doing, it was all real. When the cameras came around they basically just caught what was already going on for years. I think that authenticity was so key. Being real has always been important to me, and it’s how I approached writing the book, and I hope that comes across to the readers.
Do you have any favorite memories from working on Fixer Upper?
I have many favorites; it’s honestly too difficult to pick out just one. The first filming session with Jo will always be one of my favorites as it was just so different than everything else we ever did as no one had really found their groove yet. I felt so clunky and weird and like I wanted another crack at it. I kind of sucked, and that’s why I love it! I also love thinking back to how many times I was driving over to deliver for the show just hoping the paint or poly would be dry by the time I got there. And then there were the people. So many fun folks worked on that show, and it was always a blast being around them. In the end, when I think back on Fixer Upper, I really see a whole journey made up of so many different experiences, emotions and memories, and I’m so thankful for all of it.
How have you seen Waco change since you first moved there?
Well, it’s night and day really. The town was on an upswing with more and more Baylor graduates either staying in the city or moving back after years of being away (similar to my wife and me), and that kind of an investment into a city is incredible. So, when HGTV picked up Chip and Jo, it was like pouring kerosene on a small but growing fire. Then it just went nuts. Real Estate boom, check. Small businesses moving in, check. Large businesses setting up camp, check. Infrastructure investment by the city, check. People moving into the city from all over the country, check. Tourists pouring into the city…double check!! It was incredible. And while it isn’t quite what it was at Fixer Upper’s height, things are still pumping right along, and probably at an even healthier and more sustainable pace.
Is there anything people should think about or prepare for before starting a DIY project?
I think it’s always good to have a plan, so by all means, make one!! That being said, be prepared that it will more than likely require you to be flexible as there are always things you either forget or didn’t know about. And let’s not forget the occasional mistake which, although sometimes leads to surprisingly fun modifications to your project, can also set you back on time and materials. So, don’t walk into it with perfection in mind. Loosen up and have fun with it. Be willing to take chances with creativity and it will, if not right away, eventually reward you in the end!
Any advice for the would-be dreamers out there?
Dreaming is part of what got me to where I am today, and what will be a part of wherever I am going down the road. I love to dream and think we are made to dream for a reason. And I don’t think that reason is to pass the time! I think we’re made to believe there is more and to go search for it. Whether it be in our personal lives, our neighborhood, our world, whatever! With all that being said, it’s not all rainbows and walks in the park. Dreaming comes with disappointment; it’s just part of it. But if you take the “disappointments” and realize they are there to nudge you to your ultimate dream, it makes it all worth it. There are many dreams I’ve gone for in my life that didn’t work out! Like, a lot of them. And yet, here I am today, and all those dreams that didn’t come true make all the sense in the world now, and I find myself thanking those past dreams for not coming true.
Clint Harp can be found regularly on HGTV’s hit show Fixer Upper as the dumpster-diving, reclaimed wood-loving carpenter and furniture artisan. He and his wife, Kelly, own and operate their business, Harp Design Co., and star in the new DIY Network show, Wood Work. The Harp family lives in Waco, Texas. Handcrafted is Clint’s first book which is available on HPB.com and at Half Price Books stores while supplies last. You can find Clint on Twitter, Instagram and you can find his business on Facebook.