Lava lamp inventors celebrate 60th anniversary with five new designs

The Mathmos Telstar rocket lava lamp
The Mathmos Telstar rocket lava lamp Copyright @Mathmos
By Katy Dartford
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As the lava lamp celebrates its 60th birthday, we take a look at the groovy history of this iconic piece of decor.


A symbol of counterculture and psychedelia, the lava lamp was born in the swinging sixties, a year before Beatlemania burst forth. It quickly became a staple of university rooms and basements, casting its soft, mesmerizing glow around the world.

The story goes that in 1963, Edward Craven Walker was inspired while sitting in a pub in Dorset, southwest England. when he became mesmerized by a homemade egg timer. The quaint cocktail shaker was filled with vibrant liquids that were bubbling away merrily on top of a stove.

His first successful design was known as the "Astro Lamp" and had a futuristic spaceship-like look.

Mathmos Astro Lava Lamp 60s and Now
Mathmos Astro Lava Lamp 60s and Now@Mathos

As the decades rolled on the lamps evolved through different trends and styles and became a popular culture staple, with appearances on Dr Who and owners including David Bowie, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.

The iconic design still bubbles into life at the Mathmos’ lava lamp factory in Poole where a food-grade glass bottle is hand-filled with its unique lava lamp formula; its exact composition is a closely guarded secret but includes water and wax in contrasting colours.

In 1992, the original company, Crestworth changed its name to 'Mathmos' in honour of the lava-like substance in the cult sci-fi film "Barbarella." 

Mathmos has produced and sold millions of iconic lava lamps globally, and the Astro has been in continuous British production since its launch.

To celebrate its 60th anniversary the company has launched five limited-edition lamps, designed by artists from across the fashion, design and music industries,  including Rankin, Sabine Marcelis, Studio Job and Camille Walala.

English new wave band, Duran Duran even took time out of their busy touring schedule to co-design their limited-edition version  – a sleek silver-and-pink lava number etched with their signatures. 

"They took enormous care to get every detail right,” says Mathmos MD Cressida Granger.

Duran Duran wrote a song called 'Lava Lamp' which was released in 2000. Keyboardist Nick Rhodes said of their enduring appeal that “Lava lamps are part of pop culture"

"You see them in recording studios and there’s something about them that always makes me smile – that gelatinous goo melting and morphing," he told the Financial Times.

With their hypnotic, dancing colours, lava lamps have remained in vogue for sixty years and these limited editions with their retro charm look set to become collector's items.

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