We are currently in the window of the museum in Poole for the local light festival. Poole is home to Mathmos and has been since our invention of the lava lamp in 1963.
Watch our Video
Amongst other activities we made a video for the museum and for the Light Up Poole digital light art festival. The video runs through our 56 years in Poole. Watch video here
Early Days of the Astro Lava Lamp
by Christine, former wife and business partner of inventor and founder of Mathmos Edward Craven Walker (ECW)
“Edward Craven Walker (E.C.W.) saw a primitive form of a lava lamp used as an egg timer in The Queens Head pub in the New Forest, near Poole. He was captivated by the movement of the liquids and set out to develop the idea into a workable light.
He worked hard and eventually developed an interesting and fascinating form of lava movement. The company was then formed in September 1963, a small workshop unit was set up in Poole and manufacture started with just a few members of staff. The first patent was filed by the company in 1964 under the name of Dave Smith, a member of the team working under E.C.W. for a short time, developing an early method of sealing the bottles.
The first Astro lamps manufactured ruined when moved about by carrier and could only be delivered by our own transport. So we acquired an old Post Office van, which we called “Smokey” because it was grey and yes, it smoked! Nevertheless, it was driven to shops all over the country to deliver the precious cargo.
As demand grew it became urgent to produce a lamp where the waxy component became a solid when cold so that the lamps did not ruin when moved. This had to be done in secret as there was a lot of intrigue and suspicion around at the time! We spent hundreds of hours finding and getting hold of different chemicals with which to experiment. We had some of the chemicals delivered to other addresses so that the people at the factory did not know what they were. Or we transferred the chemicals to plain sacks for the same reason. Much of the testing was done in the workshop out of hours and at home. We had a testbed set up in one of the rooms at home and spent many, many hours watching, timing and comparing different shapes with different chemical combinations.
E.C.W. was determined to find a solution and eventually we found the right formulation. For a period, he would make up part of the formula without telling anybody what it was. Also, during this time, we found a glass manufacturer who would make bottles with screw tops to overcome the problem of sealing. In 1966 we filed more patents, employed more people, started doing trade shows, met partners in the US and Japan and took over more workshops in the boatyard in Poole – things really started to take off …”