It's there when you enter the Red Room in "Twin Peaks." It's there when replicant-hunter Rick Deckard sits down at his piano in "Blade Runner." It's a lamp with a shade in the shape of Saturn, but it's also more than that. It's a glowing thread between the normalcy of my world, the shadowy, entwining secrets of "Twin Peaks" and the visionary future dystopia of "Blade Runner."
One prop unites two famous works, stretching across film and television and time. It may not be the exact same lamp, but it's definitely the same design.
My search for the art-deco Saturn lamp started with some googling, where I found the glass lamp is attributed to a maker that manufactured them for the 1939 World's Fair in New York City, though there are also some later reproductions floating around. Details on the lamp's origins are sketchy, but they came in various colors, included frosted clear, green and pink.
The lamps are rare and they can also be very expensive thanks to their notoriety within the "Twin Peaks" and "Blade Runner" fandoms, as well as with art deco and World's Fair memorabilia collectors. A recent listing for a replica lamp on eBay had a starting-bid price of $645 (£495 AU$830). That priced me right out of the market.
I resigned myself to never owning a Saturn lamp, instead focusing on The Lamp from another place." The post included a photo of a glowing Saturn lamp and a link to the Thingiverse 3D-printing files to make your own. My Saturn lamp quest reignited like our long-lost Agent Cooper's love for a damn fine cup of coffee.. And then in June, I stumbled on a Reddit post in the "Twin Peaks" group from a user named Richy_T, titled "
The lamp's history, pop-culture connections and relatively simple shapes are what attracted Richy_T to the project. Richy_T used OpenSCAD software to build the shapes. "So it was mostly a case of trying to get the dimensions from a fairly low-resolution picture of it and then transforming that into the cylinders, spheres and toruses that the lamp deconstructs into. It's not especially challenging but it definitely helps to have developed a knack," Richy_T tells CNET.
I don't have a 3D printer and the original lamps are nearly a foot (30 centimeters) tall, which makes them too big for a lot of hobbyist-level printers. First, I checked with online 3D-printing service providers, but then turned my eye to local options where I found Jacob Ondra, CEO of Sandia3D in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ondra was happy to take on the strange request of printing off a Saturn-shaped lamp replica. He says the most challenging print he's ever done was a life-size human body model that required nearly 1,000 printing hours, so the lamp was pretty straightforward.
I went to pick up the lamp and Ondra handed it to me in a box containing the base and the two-part planet shade. I peered at it. "It's a lot smaller than I expected," I told him. And it was. I had mis-read the specs on the 3D plans. Unphased, Ondra said it was no problem to scale it up and reprint it to match the size of the originals. About a week later, I picked up the new lamp, the "Twin Peaks" theme playing in my head.
Sandia3D printed the final lamp with an Ultimaker 3 printer that could handle the size of the pieces. It's made from a crystal-clear plastic filament from FilamentOne that comes out with a frosted effect, which was exactly the look I wanted to mimic from the original glass lamps.
I ordered a set of small green LED string lights online. If you happen to have an electrician around the house (or enjoy soldering), then this next step is easy. I attached the bottom of the Saturn piece to the base, secured it with hose washers, threaded the string lights up into the sphere and let the electrician attach a new, longer cord onto the string-light controller. The top goes on with double-sided sticky tape and a little silver paint brings out the accents.
I fired up the lamp on a Sunday, shortly before a new episode of the 2017 return of "Twin Peaks" on Showtime. It glowed a bright green as familiar characters flitted across the screen.
Prop collecting and making is about connection. It's about having a piece of a fictional universe that brings you closer to that world. The Saturn lamp is a slice of "Twin Peaks" and "Blade Runner" made real. It's best when seen from the corner of your eye, where its frosted green glow hints at both a neon-soaked sci-fi future and an otherworldly place where spirits speak in backward riddles.
(Disclosure: Showtime is owned by CBS, CNET's parent company.)
Solving for XX: The tech industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about "women in tech."
Life, disrupted: In Europe, millions of refugees are still searching for a safe place to settle. Tech should be part of the solution. But is it?