Not What They Seem
The quaint farmhouse was already fully furnished and decorated, but I had never seen it in person. The online pictures only told a speck of the story. When they moved out, the elder couple who built the funky place left all their furniture, their knick knacks, their doilies, and their woodsy, country panache. While kitschy decor gets me every time, I was not sure I could put in my notice at my current apartment and make the leap to move in. I needed an explicit clue. A long time fan of the show, I needed a Twin Peaks specific sign that would tell me that it was OK.
As if moving into a tree-hugged rustic country home wasn’t Twin Peaks enough, I needed a manifested symbol, an object that connected me to the new place via the world of Twin Peaks. The last time I moved from a city to our current pad, I looked for a sign then too. A Twin Peaks indicator came in the form of a neighborhood restaurant called the Roadhouse. Although night and day from the Roadhouse on the show, it did in fact feature live music of local bands and there were eccentric patrons on draft every night. Knowing that the Roadhouse was a five minute walk from my apartment at the time was the universe giving me a signal that it was a place where I could live and still be connected to Twin Peaks.
So now, where was the signal that this modest country home was the next right place for my partner and I? Where was the object that would support the transition? Where was the safety link I find in Twin Peaks that I could take with me to my new digs? Deciding to look at the property in person to see what it was all about, my partner prepared logical and appropriate questions about plumbing and weather, while I just crossed my fingers that a Twin Peaks object would appear and make my choice for me.
The decision came in the form of a collection. “I have them everywhere!” the current owner proclaimed, a proud contentment working its way across her face. She pointed to a lemon balm patch right outside the front door, where a little tin owl statue poked its head out, bannered with letters spelling, “Welcome.“ An owl. Owls. This could be the signal, but I didn’t want to get too excited about the prospect. “You have them everywhere?” I timidly offered. Her reply was swift and excitable,“Oh yes, you’ll see…”
And goodness was she right! The austere, nondescript, country home on the outside was bursting with owl themed decor on the inside: owl placemats, owl framed artwork, owl salt and pepper shakers, owl cookie jars, owl hot plates, even owl spotted towels. The owls were not what I was expecting, but were in fact the “transitional objects” I needed to make this big life change. They gave me the Sparkwood and 21 green light to move ahead, and in this case to take the risk of moving to a new place.
Transitional Objects: A Moment with Winnicott
The safety I feel watching Twin Peaks I can carry with me. The owls, like the Roadhouse, give me a connection, a cord linking the security of the show to reality. In the field of psychology we understand that objects can help us find connection and safety in the world. Oftentimes we collect things or discover objects that we resonate with psychically and may decide to take them with us in order to feel secure. This could be a child who carries their favorite doll or video game with them to school, or an adult who wears a T-Shirt of their favorite TV show or band in order to feel closer to them. Fans of shows or movies may collect objects—figurines, artwork, toys, bobbleheads, games—and engage in an online world of other collectors to share stories and finds. These are all examples of what are known as “transitional objects.”
Renown child psychotherapist D.W. Winnicott (1896-1971), coined the term “transitional object” in his work, observing that children need developmental support moving from their internal world to their external reality, and that this often comes in the form of an object. As they reach milestones in their growth, many children need a link between a parent or caretaker to the big, scary outside world. In this way, objects can help children soothe the anxiety that happens when they are separated from their parents.
Activities such as sleep training, beginning preschool or daycare, or any form of separating from the caretaker, can create terror in young children and infants. At this developmental state, they are not sure when or even if the adult is ever coming back. They are not sure that they can exist in the world without the adults that they rely on emotionally, physically and psychically.
Transitional objects such as blankets, pacifiers, or stuffed animals, symbolically replace the primary caretaker temporarily, and provide a transitory link between caretaker and outside world. Mom might not be able to come with me to grandma’s house today because she has to work, but at least my baa baa (bottle) is here with me, to link me to mom and her milk. I’m scared to be alone at night away from dad, but at least my teddy bear will protect me. I’m overwhelmed going to school, but I have my Molly of Denali lunchbox, thermos, doll and matching backpack to ease and soothe the separation anxiety, loneliness and overwhelm. Transitional objects help children transition from caretaker to the outside world, simultaneously fostering a sense of connection and safety while also cultivating independence from the adult.
Twin Peaks: Collecting and Restoring
In our adult life, we carry “transitional objects” with us in ways we may not even realize, in an effort to feel connection and safety. Readers may resonate with pop culture nostalgia in the form of“transitional objects, especially Twin Peaks fans who, above all else, like to live and breathe this world both wonderful and strange. How bizarre that a surreal TV program from the early ’90s, filled with themes of trauma, incest/rape, and dreamy magic, would be so comforting?
In opposition to these disturbing themes, many elements of Twin Peaks evoke wonder, passion, enigma, obsession, and ease. Cherry pie, coffee and the Double R Diner transport us to 1950s aesthetic simplicity. TP fans visit Twede’s in North Bend, WA to eat a slice of “where pies go when they die,” and if they can’t get there, host TP themed parties at home with pie and fresh coffee served up right. Twin Peaks festivals held every year in Washington and the UK are places where we can collectively experience transitional objects in the form of real life Tibetan Rock Throws, visiting filming locations, dressing as characters, and interacting with celebrity guests.
As a long time Twin Peaks fan, my “transitional objects” to the show include: TP artwork in my house, TP book collection, stickers, buttons, log pillows, T-Shirts, avidly listening to TP podcasts such as The Red Room Podcast, Twin Peaks Unwrapped, Twin Peaks: The Return A Season 3 Podcast, In Our House Now: An Inquiry Into Twin Peaks: The Return, 119! A Twin Peaks Podcast, Blue Rose Task Force Podcast , and getting multiple Twin Peaks tattoos (literally creating transitional object-permanence on my body). Oh and developing and teaching a graduate level Twin Peaks depth psychology class. My own sense of safety in the physical world also comes from looking for signs and symbols, such as the owls in a new house, to have that tangible link to the holding environment of the show.
It wasn’t until I discovered the artistry of Jason Mattson that I found another kindred spirit who understood the importance of preserving history and nostalgia through objects, specifically as it relates to Twin Peaks. Jason is a humble master of his craft in creating, restoring and collecting, and was generous with his time and sharing his workmanship with me.
Ethereal yet meticulously detailed tactile objects, like his Black Lodge themed room, and vintage restored antiques decorate his home in Washington state. As Executive Director of Lewis County Historical Museum, he walked me through his origin love story of collecting and preserving the past. An avid antiquarian of local Yard Birds Family Shopping Center and Olympia Beer memorabilia, in our talk, he described his process for restoring and re-storying items.
A Twin Peaks collector, historian and prop recreator, Jason took me on an exclusive tour of his home collection (yes, you should be jealous!) and showed me his incredible artifacts. Jason’s spectacular work such as his beautifully restored Red Room Chair, can be seen featured in Twin Peaks: The Return (can you believe it?)!
He has reproduced such props such as Audrey Horne’s cigarettes, Windom Earle’s playing cards, and Laura Palmer’s tiara to name just a few. From his first stint at prop crafting, Dr. Jacoby’s tie from the Pilot episode, to Laura Palmer’s Autopsy Report, Jason embodies the ingenuity, time and patience it takes to design and construct his pieces. His work is a living and breathing expression of the transcendence of Twin Peaks.
“It came along at just the right time in my life.”
Emily: How did you find or discover Twin Peaks? Take me through a little of your TP journey.
Jason Mattson: I had heard of Twin Peaks and “Who killed Laura Palmer?” from back in the ’90s, but never watched it when it first aired. Later in life, my friend made mix tapes and would put excerpts from The Tapes of Agent Cooper between songs, so I had an indication of it and my friend telling me how great it was. Then I found a VHS copy of the Pilot at the Goodwill around 2004, watched it, and I was hooked! Come to find out, Laura Palmer died on my 12th birthday. I think that fact spoke to me. I borrowed the rest of the series from my same friend and loved every second. It came along at just the right time in my life.
Emily: When you go back to watch Twin Peaks, what is your go-to season or episode?
Jason Mattson: I like to watch the Pilot or FWWM.
Emily: What Twin Peaks community connections do you have? What TP materials do you read or listen to?
Jason Mattson: I’d say I regularly connect with a small group of TP prop collectors. We share ideas, links to props for sale, and help each other ID random background props. Sometimes we collaborate on projects, so that’s fun. I’m Facebook friends with a large group of TP fans that I’ve met at past TP Fests or just online. I’m not always the best at online interaction, but it’s nice to have like-minded people virtually close. I’ve met amazing people through Twin Peaks. I’ve read and collected the Blue Rose magazines, plus all of the official publications. Oh and I’ve collected the original Twin Peaks Gazette from the ’90s. If anyone hasn’t yet, I recommend reading Laura’s Ghost: Women Speak About Twin Peaks, edited by Courtenay Stallings with contributions by many wonderful women who are part of Twin Peaks as fans and actors.
“Longing to be part of that world in some small way.”
Emily: You are the Executive Director of the Lewis County Historical Museum—tell me a little bit about your work there.
Jason Mattson: My work at the LCHM involves planning fundraising events that are historically themed, day to day stuff like making sure the bills get paid and the doors are open. I also accept new donations, help people with research, and help to create new exhibits. My favorite event is the Chehalis Flying Saucer Party that celebrates Kenneth Arnold, who is the reason that the term “flying saucer” exists. It was fun to see him featured in the The Secret History of Twin Peaks. It’s kind of fun where I work, because people just bring stuff that’s connected to local history, so it’s neat to be able to collect items for the county and preserve history.
Emily: What does being a collector and specifically a Twin Peaks collector mean to you?
Jason Mattson: I’ve always been a collector in one form or another. Classic Star Trek, Yard Birds Family Shopping Center, and Olympia Beer memorabilia are my other big collections. After high school I really started collecting things kinda seriously, like I have a whole rainbow of rotary telephones.
Yard Birds which was this local shopping center, they had this really fun mascot of a bird, and it was a place I spent a lot of time growing up, but it’s now closed, it closed in 1995. I probably have the biggest Yardbird collection of anyone around here. They put their mascot on matchbooks, frisbees and mugs and T-Shirts and all kinds of crazy stuff, so that’s another weird collection of mine. I probably went there my whole life and when I was old enough to be left alone, like junior high, my mom would drop me off and I would go and look at comic books, watch movies, buy CDs and tapes.
Olympia beer is another thing I collect, because of my dad, that was all he ever drank, so it’s kind of a little nostalgia there. Bar signs (animatronic ones), big 3D crests of the Olympia logo that would spin around, old bottles, just random things, they branded themselves pretty well and put the label on all kinds of neat stuff, so now it’s just fun to collect.
I think for me it’s about nostalgia and a physical connection to the past or making something fictional, a reality. For Twin Peaks, it’s definitely a longing to be part of that world in some small way. Having the same mug as Agent Cooper, to drink my coffee out of while I enjoy a piece of pie, is just fun. Then going so far as recreating the Black Lodge really sucks you into the world. Being enveloped in long red curtains and chevron floor seriously transports you into another place.
Emily: What are important and interesting objects in the landscape of Twin Peaks for you?
Jason Mattson: I’d say the Black Lodge and the Double R Diner are my favorites. I love the Art Deco furnishings in the Black Lodge. I think the diner is a special place. I’ve got good memories of coming up with great ideas and meeting with friends at diners. Plus the decor is just fun. One of my prized replicas is the 1962 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox that is seen in the Double R. I obsessed over getting the correct featured albums in mine. I’ve had fun filling it with TP and Lynch universe inspired songs. I’ve even had custom 45s made of some of the background music heard in the Double R.
“A physical connection to a fictional thing”
Emily: You find TP objects/props and restore them. For example; Laura’s tiara, Lucy’s headset, the Ice Cream Cone from the Double R Diner. What is your process for finding, collecting and restoring objects?
Jason Mattson: I’d say identifying a prop is a fun challenge. It usually involves Google searches that lead you down rabbit holes. Sometimes they go nowhere, but sometimes they are very rewarding. It’ll start with something simple like “vintage headset” and then going through eBay listings until something pops up. It’s a bit of a rush once you find what you’re looking for. I’ll go back and forth between screen shots of an object and the listing to make sure I’ve got all of the right details. There are wonderful people like Steven Miller and Vinnie Guidera (@twelverainbowtrout) who also make this their mission. I’ll have searched and searched, then come to find out that they have already found what I’m looking for.
Once I do find something, it’s nice when I don’t have to do anything to it, but then again, bringing something like the Eat-It-All cone back to life is a lot of fun. It was pretty much intact, but the paint was very discolored and there were some chips out of it. I studied up online how to best restore plaster and did that with success. Then did my best to match and repaint it without losing the subtle texture of the cone.
Laura’s tiara was a fun challenge. An online friend from NY has the same tiara, so I studied the photos that he sent me. I was able to find the same rhinestones and settings, then learned how to solder them together to make a pretty decent replica. Basically you get everything lined up and push it into Play-Doh of all things (laughs) .Then you solder everything and remove it from the Play-Doh, clean it up and piece it all together and resolder it to the band and that’s how it turns out.
Emily: My favorite prop that I found on your social media, is the Georgia Peach Polaroid. How did you decide to recreate this one?
Jason Mattson: Well, I had rewatched the episode, and I thought, wow that would be a fun one to try and recreate. So I found a pretty good screenshot of it, and I did a little photo manipulation to straighten it out and Photoshopped in the missing pieces (like where a finger was covering it). And then I ran it though an AI app that enhances faces, so it cleaned up the grunginess from the screenshot. Then I went on eBay and found a Polaroid in that style, because it’s not the typical long ones that you see. So I had it printed up, carefully removed all the guts of the Polaroid, then created a mini picture frame and stuck the new Polaroid inside and there she is!
Emily: I can hear the level of detail and how time consuming the process is for you. What happens for you as you go through creating and restoring?
Jason Mattson: It becomes my whole focus. I get started and it is all I can really think about, all I want to do is get it done. It is something I’m really excited about. Like doing the tiara project was something that has been a big dream of mine for a long time.
Emily: Is it something that you go to work, and go right home and dive into it?
Jason Mattson: Oh yes, I brew up some coffee and go right in. (Laughs) With any project, there’s a sense of accomplishment once it is complete and turns out as you hope it would. Some things that I create, genuinely make me happy whenever I see them.
Emily: Tell me about creating the Black Lodge and where does that live in your house? What does it feel like within the Lodge and to have the physical place so close to access?
Jason Mattson: My little corner of the Black Lodge lives in my spare bedroom/collection room. Creating it was pretty fun. I wanted something that would be believable, but not too permanent. I painted the chevron pattern on the back of an 8’x 8′ piece of vinyl flooring using painter’s tape and exterior house paint. I bought the fabric for the curtains and made them myself.
Having the floor and curtains easily transportable has come in handy a couple of times. I made it just in time for the premiere of Season 3 so my friends could sit in the Black Lodge beforehand. Being inside of it is an experience that is hard to explain. The bold red and disorienting floor pattern definitely transports you to another place. Cooper’s chair is very comfortable and a good place to ponder things or just sit and read and listen to music.
Emily: Being in that room, it really feels like you are immersed in the world. Being surrounded by these objects, being in that space, you can go there anytime. You don’t have to get in the car and go to North Bend, you can just open the door!
Jason Mattson: It’s kind of comforting, it’s not just in my imagination, to have something physical, tangible, to be able to connect to, and that’s why I enjoy collecting and making the props. It’s a physical connection to a fictional thing.
“All wrapped in plastic”
Emily: I’m SO excited to ask you specifically about the Red Room Chair. Tell me all about your discovery and restoration process and its involvement in Twin Peaks: The Return.
Jason Mattson: Back in 2011 I was killing some time before work and looking around an antique shop in Centralia, WA. I noticed a red chair that looked very familiar. I could swear it was the same model as Cooper’s. I took a photo and went home to compare it. It was the same model of chair, but with red upholstery. I went back the next day and bought it for $40. I took it home and it sat in my home for a few years just waiting for me to restore it.
The 2014 Twin Peaks fest was coming up, so that was a good reason to get it restored. My wife and I found some decent black fabric and a place to get it re-stuffed and reupholstered locally. I detached the wood accents and restored them myself. It looked OK, but not quite as nice as I would have liked. Then 2015 rolled around and the website Welcome to Twin Peaks relayed the call from Rancho Rosa looking for original props from TP. I had a collection of Chefsware mugs that they accepted for use, but they took some time with the chair.
Eventually they decided to use it. I signed an NDA and they sent a guy to my house to pick it up so it could be delivered to L.A. While it was there, they ended up reupholstering it again, but this time with a very nice deep black fabric that I was told they sourced from Europe. It feels like petting a cat. It’s so nice. Once they wrapped filming, the same guy delivered it back to my home, all wrapped in plastic. I was blown away with the improvements that were made from its trip to Hollywood and how nice the art department people were.
Recently I was asked about filming in the Black Lodge room. Sarah Lipstate (who toured with Iggy Pop’s band under the name Noveller,) collaborated with her partner, actor and director George Griffith (who was Ray Monroe in The Return). She recorded a hauntingly beautiful and dreamy cover of the Twin Peaks theme song, “Falling,” while sitting in the Red Room chair. It was a perfect place to record the music video, I love how it turned out!
Sarah Lipstate performs a cover of “Falling” written by Angelo Badalamenti. Guitar arrangement by Arrigo Martelli. Video directed by George Griffith
“The consistent mystery and discovery is a safe place for me”
Emily: For me pop culture, and TP specifically has been such a comfort growing up. It has been a sense of constancy, of safety, of containment. Can you speak about how restoring history and collecting reflects these ideas?
Jason Mattson: With TP, the consistent mystery and discovery is a safe place for me. I never want to figure out what everything means within the world of TP. I like that I can discover a new thought or random background prop no matter how many times I’ve watched it. I love how much it has taught me and improved my artistic skills. It has been a place to focus my attention when life around me may not be so great to deal with. I’ve met some great people or have made friendships stronger because of a common connection to Twin Peaks. It came along at a low point in my life. It came along just at the right time, to give me something to focus my energy on.
Emily: It’s really powerful when a show comes into my life at certain points when I really need it the most. Twin Peaks has been really healing for me too, there is so much magic and mystery in it. Every time I go back and watch it, I think about something new, I have a new question, I think about a new connection. I’ve never experienced a show that 20 plus years later makes me do that.
Jason Mattson: No, me either, honestly. It’s amazing like that! Even if it’s something simple like my focus on the props in the background, things you’ve missed however many times you’ve seen it. I’m happy that the arm came back as a tree, because for me, with Twin Peaks, the branches keep growing. It’s just a TV show but it also connects you to your creativity and it inspires a song, and the branch grows over and you meet some new people, it’s weird how it just grows and grows and grows…
Emily: Curious to hear your thoughts around Twin Peaks props or objects as potential “transitional objects” between the parental comfort of the show and the real world?
Jason Mattson: I have to really think about this one. I think the most comforting connection is coffee. I love coffee. It has been a constant in my life since before I drank it. I’ve enjoyed the smell of it brewing in my home at a young age and still do. The feeling of wrapping your hands around a hot mug and taking that first sip when you’ve come in from the cold. It truly is a present you can give yourself day after day.
Emily: Coffee as a transitional object. Cooper as safe, containing and predictable. Coffee as something that is regular, fuel in the morning, starting a new day, a present you can give yourself. I was thinking about coffee and props in general as safety, containment, “transitional objects“ from the show that you can touch and hold onto.
Jason Mattson: Twin Peaks in general reminds me of growing up in a small Northwest town, probably the reason it appeals to me so much is because it reminds me of where I grew up. And there are weirdos and mysterious things and drug running and the stuff that’s in the show is not too far off my real life, well, not MY life, but what was around me. The whole show in a way is a “transitional object.”
Emily: What is one TP object you would love to find and restore that you have not been able to yet? Why are you drawn to it?
Jason Mattson: I would love to find the pair of green (or red and green) chairs that are in the Black Lodge. Even an old beat up set that I could have fun restoring. My ultimate goal is to fully and accurately recreate the Black Lodge. Finding a full size Venus de’ Medici statue at a reasonable price would also be nice.
Emily: Anything you are working on now you would like to share?
Jason Mattson: Currently I’m adding color and enhancing a small print version of the large tree photo seen in the Sheriff’s Department in the Pilot. It’s a photo by Seattle photographer Asahel Curtis. I was flipping through these magazines that we got in at work and I found it in a 1928 AAA motorist magazine.
Emily: Wow! How did you spot that?!
Jason Mattson: Yea, I had to match it up to double check, but I was like yes, that’s the tree! So right now I’m digitally trying to enhance it, the colors, etc. Because the original one was over 3 feet tall and a hand tinted photo so I’m trying to capture that feel. We will see how it turns out.
Emily: Thank you so much for your time and for showing me all of your art and what you have made. I feel so sad for everyone reading who is not going to get the chance to have the most amazing visual tour that I just had!
Jason Mattson: You’re welcome! Thanks for reaching out, that’s really kind of you, I didn’t expect it.
Every day give yourself a present
…transitional objects continue through the course of our lives, as “sacred keepsakes” which pull us back to “a place and time of great solace and memory. It is the dependence, identification, and attachment to objects outside of the self—photographs, wedding bands, mementos, music, art and culture—which define both nostalgic memorials, but more importantly, and astutely, define a state of connection and presence in the world.’-Colleen Goddard, from More Than Just Teddy Bears: Transitional Objects Allow a Child’s Inherent Sense of Self to Emerge
- What “transitional objects” connect you in the world?
- How do they transport you to a safe and familiar place?
Items themselves may be inanimate, but the essence of “transitional objects” are alive and vibrational. “Nostalgic memorials” of vintage Olympia Beer mugs and bottles connect Jason to his father, and his Yard Birds Family Shopping Center collection are mementos of his childhood and teen years. Jason transports to the world of Twin Peaks when he enters his Black Lodge room and relaxes in his infamous chair. The jukebox viscerally takes him to the Double R Diner waiting for a slice of Norma’s famous pie. The Georgia Peach Polaroid reverizes him as Agent Cooper, unearthing the picture from Jacques’ apartment. Being able to hold, touch, and feel these things are tapping into the life force, the spirit, the “mystery and discovery” he spoke about.
- Things are made from living things like wood, or metals from the earth.
- They have a life
- They have a spirit or a soul
- They have energy
Jason’s collection has its own energy. The pieces create “connection and presence.” They anchor and ground us in an otherwise chaotic world. We need that energetic connection, that thread, that consistency, stabilizing force, familiarity and predictability. There’s a reliability in Twin Peaks, where we know what is expected and stable as well as what terrible things are lurking around the corner. Engaging with “transitional objects,” allows for object constancy and object permanence, a sense that things can be true, tangible and predictable.
Our experiences of surviving a damaging and scary world, much like the world of Twin Peaks, is perhaps what brings us to the show in the first place. We need items to stay grounded in a world so chaotic and dissociative. Objects provide that grounding. Objects help us transition from the safety of early caretakers to the unknown outside world. Objects help us find balance, and link the past to the present moment.
We look for “transitional objects” in the form of props, signs, and symbols that make “something fictional, a reality.” I look around at my new house full of owls and I’m filled with excitement, of possibility, of warmth. I’m filled with the prospect of playfulness, of silliness, of childhood expressiveness and delight. I’m suddenly transposed to a sleepy Pacific Northwest town where the woods are ancient and dark, corn is garmonbozia, and a “yellow light still means slow down, not speed up.” The owls psychologically attach me to the show, to the TP world, to the never-ending mystery.
Each of the items in Jason’s collections are little gifts. Driven by his own personal passion, the props are “presents,” that are not just for him, but are shared with others; building community and interconnectedness through his artistry. He reminds us of the magic of recreation, restoration, reliving, repairing and remembering. The objects are “sacred keepsakes” and “nostalgic memorials,” that embody love, care, safety and comfort. Like my owls, they are “transitional objects” from Twin Peaks that we can see, touch and hold onto. They are truly presents we can give ourselves day after day.