What is the deal with Dunwoody High School?
We already know about 1992 graduate Ryan Seacrest and his success hosting “American Idol.” Then there was Kip Pardue, from 1994, and his football scholarship to Yale (and his starring role in “Remember the Titans”) and, later, Vivian Bang, who would appear with Jim Carrey in “Yes Man.”
The school seems like a nursery for show business over-achievers. Count in their ranks Clint Harp, Class of 1996, who has become, perhaps, Georgia’s best-known woodworker, next to Jimmy Carter.
With a supporting role designing and building furniture in the hit HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” Harp, 41, demonstrates not only show-business skills, but real chops as a craftsman.
He writes about the art and science of joinery in his new book, “Handcrafted: A Woodworker’s Story,” and will speak about stardust and sawdust at the Cobb Galleria during the first two days of the Atlanta Home Show, which runs March 22-24.
Harp didn’t overlap with Seacrest, but he heard about the budding star from his older sister, who reported on a certain “cute guy” at school. “Clearly that didn’t work out the way she wanted it to,” he said.
What he remembers from his high school days is the harmonious atmosphere created by principal Jenny Springer, who found a way to make all races and ethnicities feel at home. “There was a bond between all of us that you wouldn’t expect in the South,” he said. “I cannot ask for a better high school experience.”
After a career selling medical equipment, Harp decided he didn’t want to be a salesman any longer, and tried focusing on woodwork. A meeting with Chip and Joanna Gaines, and an invitation to build furniture for their television show, made that dream come true.
In a conversation from his home in Waco, Texas, Harp talked about his relationship with Chip and Joanna, and the qualities that make for good television.
One of those qualities is charisma, which his HGTV colleagues have in good supply. “People always ask is he (Chip) just as goofy and funny in person? And the answer is, yes, he’s even funnier when you sit down and have lunch with him.”
Another is perseverance. “I tend to get a vision and I push forward, despite what might be in my way; I keep pushing at it. Because of that the two of us hit it off right away,” Harp said. Of Chip, he added, “He creates a momentum, an energy that you can rally around. When he hears ‘you’re not supposed to do it that way,’ Chip’s (reaction) is ‘I don’t care.’”
In one segment of “Fixer Upper” the Gaines’ couple transformed a house that became home for Clint and Kelly Harp and their three kids. Harp said he loves the house, but after the show “blew up,” the house became a tourist attraction. “We’d be playing in the back yard with the kids and I’d see people taking pictures, or knocking on my door on a Sunday afternoon.”
They moved nearby, but kept the house as an Airbnb. “I’m thankful that we have still in our portfolio a house that was on ‘Fixer Upper,’ that Chip and Jo worked on. It feels like you own a piece of art: a Van Jo.”
Lately Harp has branched out. He’s got his own DIY series, “Wood Work,” and his new book was even blurbed by that other great Georgia woodworker, Jimmy Carter. (His grandmother, Ann Callaway Martin, was a long-time volunteer at the Carter Library, and, earlier, a volunteer on Carter’s campaign.)
“I’ve got to tell you, talk about someone who has made an impact in the South in a great way, and helped change the course of the sad trajectory we were on, it’s him,” said Harp of Carter. “I couldn’t be more proud of having his name on that.”
If You Go:
The Atlanta Home Show
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, March 22; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, March 23; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 24. Clint Harp speaks at 1 p.m. Friday, March 22 and at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, March 23. $8-$10; free for ages 12 and younger. Cobb Galleria Centre, 2 Galleria Parkway. 800-395-1350, atlantahomeshow.com.
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