The material world / Light of our lives

Edward Craven Walker stumbled upon his mad invention in 1963 when perusing the properties of a novelty wartime egg timer

Of all the objects that might be likely candidates for a revival, the Lava lamp does not immediately spring to mind. But the light that wobbled, blobbled, and globulated into the lives of millions of people in the Sixties, casting strange shadows across their walls, is back.

The lamp works by the simple principle of combining water and wax, (the exact ratio remains top secret), and popping in a light bulb to heat it all up. Add some wacky glowing colours, interesting metalwork to hold the thing together and you have a Lava- (or Blob) lamp. Edward Craven Walker is the Godfather of Lava-lampdom. He stumbled upon his "mad invention" in 1963 when perusing the properties of a novelty wartime egg timer: melted wax rose to the top of the jar when the egg was done. Eureka! Craven Walker had the good sense to patent his product and made a small fortune. Some of it went towards the Bournemouth and District Naturist Centre, which he founded. Mmm.

Glowing future

Soon after its birth, it became ovbious that the Lava-lamp was destined for a glorious youth. Quite why, nobody knows, but the trippy dippy effect, enhanced by a few puffs of a joint, perhaps, was a perfect way of bringing a touch of psychedelia to the most suburban of living rooms. There were three original styles: the original curvy cylinder, the Astro (pictured, price pounds 49.95), at 42cm in height; the Comet, 25cm (no longer available), and the Jet, 40cm (pounds 39.95). At the height of the spacey, plastic furniture boom, Habitat (which opened in May 1964) began to stock them, and at their zenith seven million lamps per annum were manufactured worldwide.

As the Seventies swung in, however, the lamp began the downward spiral into kitsch obscurity, and by the chrome-and-black Eighties was a distant memory. The factory that Craven Walker had set up in Poole, Dorset, was languishing, making only 200 lamps a month. This is where the story of the Lava lamp should end. But no.

Space odyssey 2000

Enter Cressida Granger and David Mulley, experts on Sixties' furntiure. They stumbled upon a Lava-lamp one day in 1990 and wanted to find out more. They called the number on the base of their lamp, and soon had a meeting with Mr Lava-lamp himself, Craven Walker.

The duo saw the possibilities for a Lava revival - with the promise of a New Age decade and millennial fever, the magic lamp was ripe for re- introduction. They formed Mathmos, named after the "evil bubbling force" in the film Barbarella, and took over the factory in Poole, with Craven Walker as a director.

This is where the success story really begins. Every year since 1990, Mathmos has doubled production, and now produces 12,000 lamps a month. Some of these are sold through their shop in Drury Lane, Covent Garden; most are exported to Germany and Japan. There is, however, a healthy market here among those too young to remember the lamps first time round. And new designs have been introduced, even a new concept. The Faze 2 is an interactive colour changing lamp which uses a microchip, rather than the traditional wax and water.

The ultimate collection

At the age of 33, the Lava-lamp has found a niche in the world. It even has enthusiasts, one of whom, Geoff Bridgman, himself from Poole, has virtually turned his home into a Lava-lamp museum. He even has a collection of Lava- lamp television appearances. George and Mildred dedicated two shows to their lamp, Arthur Daly in Minder had a warehouse full of them (dodgy, of course), and the Young Ones had one next to the telly. Their latest starring role was with Patsy and Edina in Absolutely Fabulous.

Brigdman's prized possession, however, is a Fireball, which stands at more than 5ft, takes nine hours to heat up, and is roped off in his living room. Far out

Life and Style
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine