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Tucson pumpkin carver is showing off his mad skills on Food Network’s Halloween Wars this month

Matt Harper on the set of Halloween Wars: “The highlight of the show, for me, was getting a little bit more attention or notoriety through the pumpkin carving. It’s a really fun thing that I think more and more people should try.”

Courtesy photo

Matt Harper on the set of Halloween Wars: “The highlight of the show, for me, was getting a little bit more attention or notoriety through the pumpkin carving. It’s a really fun thing that I think more and more people should try.”

What started as a seasonal hobby took Tucson's Matt Harper to Food Network's Halloween Wars.

Harper, who works as vice president for a software company by day, has found his calling in carving intricate designs into pumpkins and other gourds with his spare time.

That hobby has blown up over the last few years, with Harper's art growing more and more detailed.

A quick glance at Harper's Instagram page shows the extent in which he delves for his carvings, featuring everything from a Medusa-like snake-wrapped skull to a man with a cigarette in his mouth.

Harper, who studied art in college, said the hobby took on a life of its own, after he found interest in creating 3D designs in the Halloween mainstays.

"This is a full-on hobby. It's turned into something cool because it is a unique thing to carve, a neat thing to do. But yeah, the origin was just like anybody else: carving jack-o-lanterns at Halloween," Harper said. "And then I have an art background from way back in college and I had to put it aside and I had a family and all that stuff. And about four or five years ago, picked it back up."

Harper's exploits caught the attention of the Food Network, which put him on a team of Halloween decorators who are competing in this year's Halloween Wars. Harper survived the first show, which aired on Sunday, Sept. 29, episode, but he was tight-lipped on the details of what the rest of the season holds in an interview with Tucson Weekly.

The show, which pits contestants against each other to create the most unique Halloween-themed items possible, was a once in a lifetime moment for Harper and his family.

"What was really fun was getting to know a lot of the other artists," Harper said. "Tucson is jam-packed with artists. I mean, just loaded. And to even be in the same breath as some of the local Tucson artists is just an honor. And to me, being around some of these hand-selected national artists was really inspiring."

Harper's wife, Mindy, made the trip to Los Angeles with him for the show's taping. She said watching her husband's television debut in person was a great experience.

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo

"We would watch the show, and we have three daughters, because we would watch Halloween with them, like, 'Oh my gosh you are so much better than these people,' or at least as good," Mindy said. "Our daughter is the one to really push him over the top to send pictures. He is very humble about his work."

Harper is hopeful that the exposure will help his artistic career to flourish, as his talents run beyond mere gourds and assorted other vegetable-related carvings.

"The highlight of the show, for me, was getting a little bit more attention or notoriety through the pumpkin carving. It's a really fun thing that I think more and more people should try," Harper said. "It's a strange way to build your art portfolio, to be on a competitive show like this. But if it ends up getting me a little bit more notoriety, then that's great. But just to be a part of the Tucson art community is probably the most exciting thing."

Mindy said Matt's latest exploits are no surprise to the family, as he is constantly on the move, either doing artwork, playing music or helping with local causes.

"First of all, I'll say he's a man of many, many talents," she said. "I'd say he's kind of like a modern renaissance man, because he not only be sculpting pumpkins he's also a drummer in a band in Tucson. He's a swimmer. He's a member of a few philanthropic groups around town. Plus, I don't know, he's just always been very creative ever since I first met him. He does have a lot of creative outlets, which I think is fantastic."

More by Christopher Boan

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