Lava lamps first graced shelves and coffee tables in homes 50 years ago today. They were invented by a British company. The original lamps were called “exotic conversation pieces” back in 1963 when they were first marketed by the company who produced them.
The inventor, Edward Craven-Walker, was a pilot during World War II. He was inspired to invent the lava lamps by a liquid-filled egg timer which he saw when visiting a pub in southwest Britain.
Craven-Walker had the idea to turn the egg timer into a home accessory. It was perfect for the market at the time as it was multi-beneficial, offering bright funky design and effective lighting.
The inventor has been married four times. The second of his wives, Christine Baehr, said about the era: “Everything was getting a little bit psychedelic. There was Carnaby Street and The Beatles and things launching into space and he thought it was quite funky and might be something to launch into.”
The Lava Lamps were perfect for the hippy 60s in Britain as the “generation of love” embraced the bright colorful fluorescent lava inside the lamps. The lamps were also very psychedelic, which fitted in nicely with the more emancipated mindset of the time.
The first model produced for the general public was called the Astro Lamp. Soon after it hit the streets of London, other models like the Astro Mini and Astro Nordic lamps were manufactured.
Even though in these modern times most manufacturing is done in the far-east, Mathmos, the original company who produced the Lava Lamps, is still in business in southeast England, running with the inventor’s original concept.
Cressida Granger, who is the current owner of Mathmos, said: “I think it’s really special to manufacture something that’s been invented and made in Britain, in Britain for 50 years.”
An avid Lava Lamp collector and enthusiast, Anthony Voz, spoke to reporters about the attraction of the lamps, saying: “I think it’s the motion within the lamp. The way that it flows, how it’s anti-repetitive, how it’s a mixture of light and chaos blending together. It kind of pulls people in and before you know it, you’ve spent 15 minutes looking at it.”