Edward Craven Walker spots a British invention for an egg timer. He spends years developing this concept leading to the invention of the world’s first lava lamp.
With offices in London and a workshop on a boating yard in Poole, Edward and his wife Christine launch the ‘Astro’ lava lamp to the UK market. They travel the country selling from the back of an ex-postal van, also known as ‘Smokey’.
The Astro is taken on by Selfridges and Habitat and is then followed by the Astro Mini (Astro Baby).
“If you buy my lamp, you won’t need drugs… I think it will always be popular. It’s like the cycle of life. It grows, breaks up, falls down and then starts all over again”. Edward Craven-Walker
1965 – 1967
Lava lamps make their screen debut, appearing in two episodes of Doctor Who and The Prisoner, (a cult BBC spy fiction series).
Lava lamps appear on stage with Linda and Paul McCartney’s band, Wings. Linda McCartney loved lava lamps and often likened them to “A pet goldfish that never dies”. Sir Paul McCartney is often seen with lava lamps on stage in memory of Linda.
During the height of Beatlemania, Ringo Starr buys an Astro from a store in Birkenhead near Liverpool.
The Princess lava lamp is launched: a large floor standing lamp with a wooden tripod base.
David Bowie is photographed with an Astro Mini lava lamp in his recording studio.
Mathmos lava lamps appear in Are You Being Served, The Sweeney, Carry on Laughing, and The Good Life.
A bespoke lava lamp is designed for the hotel suite scene in Superman II.
Throughout the ’80s lava lamps are falling out of fashion until the Craven-Walkers teamed up with young entrepreneurs, Cressida Granger and David Mulley.
Cressida had realised their potential after selling them on her vintage stall in Camden Market where Marc Almond was a regular buyer.
The range was restyled and presented to a new generation with the original company name Crestworth being replaced by Mathmos (referring to the bubbling force in the cult1960s sci-fi film, Barbarella). This led to the second era of extreme popularity, with millions being sold worldwide.
Mathmos open their Drury Lane shop and offices visitors include Sir Paul Smith, and Yasmin and Simon le Bon.
Giant Mathmos Lava lamps appear on the set of Channel 4’s The Word. Lava lamps are also shown on Chris Evans’ TFI Friday and The Big Breakfast.
The Lunar is launched. This floor-standing model appears in Absolutely Fabulous and The Graham Norton Show.
Mathmos is included in the Fast Track 100 list as the UK’s third fastest growing manufacturer and wins two Queens Awards for Export.
Mathmos’ in-house graphic design team win Best Commercial Website at the Yell awards and Best Multi-Media prize at the Design Week awards.
Mathmos move into their Old Street Headquarters.
Mathmos set up the Mathmos London Design Studio and begin to design and manufacture a range of award-winning LED products which complement the lava lamp range.
Fluidium is launched: a new lava lamp designed by Ross Lovegrove. The Design Council describe the Astro lava lamp as a “Design classic’.
Edward Craven-Walker sadly dies having remained a consultant on mix and formulation at Mathmos up until his death.
2001 – 2006
Industrial Facility design the interior of the Mathmos’ Old Street showroom. Mathmos then open a boutique store in Covent Garden designed by Carl Turner Architects.
Two icons of the swinging sixties, the Mathmos Lava Lamp and The Beatles join forces to create a limited edition in celebration of the release of The Beatles’ Love album.
Mathmos Lava lamps feature in the video for the Stereophonics hit Handbags and Gladrags.
2008 – 2010
Mathmos Astro is included in Harrods’ Design Icons exhibition, which then travels onward to the Design Museum.
Mathmos introduce Fireflow: a candle powered mini lava lamp shaped like a rocket and powered by a single tea-light.
Mathmos introduce both the giant Monster lava lamp and the Smart Astro. Mathmos has a patent pending on this new way of operating a lava lamp that allows for colour changing, touch control and heat regulation.
Mathmos celebrate their 50th Birthday and fifty years of the original lava lamp. To this day the wax formula remains a strict trade secret.
Mathmos launch a limited edition 50th Birthday gold Astro lava lamp signed by Christine Craven Walker, wife and business partner of the inventor, alongside a new Heritage collection which is inspired by 1960’s colours and finishes.
Mathmos also installs the largest lava lamp in the world in London’s Festival Hall in the South Bank Center together with a display marking their 50th anniversary.
Mathmos launch Neo a new generation lava lamp designed by Jonathan Coles Design. Suitable for all ages Neo becomes an instant bestseller appealing to a wide range of people with its retro yet contemporary styling and its safety and quality features.
Astro Metallics range is launched. An all metallised version of the 1963 classic Astro lava lamp design.
Mathmos lava lamps return to Selfridges, our first major stockist in the 1960s as a giant lava lamp is installed as part of the Anya Hindmarch display in the new David Chipperfield accessories hall.
The Discovery Channel make a film of Mathmos lava lamp production for the “How Does it Work” series.
Mathmos launch Neo Wall the only wall mounted lava lamp.
Mathmos launch their first limited edition collaboration with the fashion brand Pretty Green during London Design Week in the Carnaby Street windows of Pretty Green’s store.
The centenary of the Birth of Edward Craven Walker (ECW) the founder of Mathmos and inventor of lava lamps. Mathmos celebrate by giving away 100 lava lamps (#ECW100).
Mathmos launch their second sold-out collaboration with fashion brand Pretty Green.
Mathmos appear in a dedicated Made In Britain show on ITV4, in Berlin at the Light Festival and Live From Earth Festival, and in Hamburg as part of the Pop and Protest Exhibition.
Mathmos launches new candle powered products Pod and Pod +. Mathmos also launches a new giant lava lamp iO; the numbered FIRST100 produced sold out in a few hours.
Jimmy’s in Liverpool creates a wall of lava using over 50 custom Neo wall lava lamps. Mathmos does photo shoots in The Barbican Centre and Second Home London Fields.
Mathmos partnered with Poole Museum as part of the Light Up Poole event. Mathmos lava lamps occupied the windows, there was a lava lounge and trail through the museum.
Mathmos moved into a new larger factory just before lockdown and has continued to work safely throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Astro Vinyl, a variant of the classic 1963 design inspired by Vinyl records, is launched, and the FIRST100 limited numbers sell out instantly.
Mathmos Astro lava lamps are featured in artist Susi Gelb’s sculptures and displayed at Cedric Faruq’s Unworlding Exhibition at Frieze London.
Saturn is launched, a supersized lava lamp that works right out of the box. Saturn was in development for several years and draws its inspiration from the company’s 1960s design, the Princess.
Mathmos offers a Blue/Yellow special fill, £5,938 was donated to Disasters Emergency Committee for the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
Mathmos launches the Platinum Vinyl Astro during Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June. The FIRST100 numbered products produced sold out in minutes.
Mathmos collaborated with Jenna Sutela to create a limited-edition “Baby Magma”, lava-filled heads for London’s Serpentine Gallery 50th Anniversary collection. Mathmos also partnered with James Whiting to provide lava lamps for a garden room exhibition, Planet Studio, at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. It won the gold medal for Best Houseplant Studio 2022.
(October) Mathmos launches new Rokit giant lava lamp inspired by past and present cartoon rockets. Again the FIRST100 sell out instantly.
(November) Mathmos launch Evo, the first full-sized candle-powered lava lamp. The FIRST100 produced are allocated through a lottery for everyone who ordered during the launch.
Mathmos lava lamps continue to appear in film; recent appearances include: Made in Chelsea, Big Brother, Jamies Food Revolution, Top Gear, The Gadget Show, Hollyoaks etc. To this day, global sales of Mathmos lava lamps have exceeded four million.
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