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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

    Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

    Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

    £10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable