Mathmos Telstar Lava Lamp
Materials: Table lamp in a rocket form. Polished or chromed zinc tripod base. 2 aluminium cones. Glass tube lampshade. Some secret wax, liquid. Plastic E14 socket.
Height: 50 cm / 19.68”
Width: ∅ 18 cm / 7.08”
Electricity: 1 bulb E14, 1 x 30 watt maximum, 110/220 volt.
Not any type of light bulb can be used. It has to be an incandescent spot light of 30 watt. Otherwise the lamp wont work; it is primarily used as a heat source.
Period: Since the 1990s.
Designer: To be appraised.
Manufacturer: Mathmos Ltd. Unit 4, Holton Road, Poole Dorset BH16 6LG, United Kingdom.
Other versions: Available in several colours of wax.
Despite many people think the Telstar lava lamp is from the sixties, it was designed in the early 90s and it is in production ever since.
The incandescent light bulb used is one of the last exceptions in Europe. All other incandescent bulbs are forbidden, except for some special lamps used in the industry. The heat of the lamp is necessary to guarantee the operation of the liquids in the bottle. The reflector light bulbs can be bought in specialised lamp shops, online and of course at the Mathmos company.
To this day the wax formula remains a strict trade secret.
Mathmos – Crestworth
The Mathmos company was founded in 1963 by Edward Craven Walker (4 July 1918 – 15 August 2000). Craven was a pilot during and after Word War II.
The lava lamp was developed from a design for an egg timer using two liquids spotted in a Dorset pub. The egg timer was developed and made by Alfred Dunnett. Craven Walker spent years developing this into a light for manufacture initially using cocktail and orange squash bottles.
Together with his wife Christine he set up the company to produce lava lamps, naming it Crestworth. They travel the country selling from the back of an ex-postal van, also known as ‘Smokey’.
The first lamp was named Astro, the second Astro Mini (Astro Baby); a smaller version. For the first Astro lava lamps copper coloured anodised aluminium was used.
The rights to produce and sell the lava lamps in the USA for the duration of the patent were sold to Lava Simplex International, in 1966.
Throughout the 80s lava lamps were falling out of fashion until the Craven-Walkers teamed up with young entrepreneurs, Cressida Granger and David Mulley in 1989.
Cressida Granger and David Mulley took over the running of Crestworth and changed the name to Mathmos in 1992. The name Mathmos comes from the seething lake of lava beneath the city Sogo in the 1962 comic Barbarella, written by Jean-Claude Forest.
Mathmos created the biggest lava lamp in the world as part of their 50th birthday celebrations in 2013. A 120 litre giant lava lamp for the Festival Hall in the South Bank Centre, London.
Edward Craven-Walker: “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”.
Lamps in the movies!
A lava lamp appears in the 1970 Sci-Fi comedy The Curious Female. Starring Angelique Pettyjohn, Charlene Jones and Bunny Allister.
Links (external links open in a new window)
The Telstar lava lamp on the Mathmos website
The Astro lava lamp in copper
Edward Craven Walker – Wikipedia
History of the Mathmos company on their website
Lava lamp creators mark 50 years of 1960s icon – BBC website
Wikipedia about Mathmos
E14 light bulbs for the Telstar lava lamp
Barbarella comic book – Wikipedia
The Curious Female (1970) – IMDb
The Infiltrator (2016) film – Wikipedia