Lava lamps: 50 years old and still groovy

Updated 04 September 2013

Lava lamps: 50 years old and still groovy

Call them ’60s relics or hippy home accessories, lava lamps have been casting their dim but groovy light on interiors for half a century, having hit British shelves 50 years ago on Tuesday.
A British company began marketing their original creation as an “exotic conversation piece” in 1963. Since then, millions of models of the much-copied invention have been sold worldwide.
The design was created by British inventor Edward Craven-Walker, who was inspired by an odd-looking liquid-filled egg timer he saw in a restaurant in southwest Britain.
The former World War II pilot then spent years transforming the concept into a home lighting accessory, having recognized the potential for such an invention during anything-goes ‘60s Britain.
“Everything was getting a little bit psychedelic,” said Christine Baehr, the second of Craven-Walker’s four wives. “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.”
Britain’s “Love Generation” saw an affinity between the fluorescent lava flow’s unpredictable nature and the easy-going, drug-induced spirit of the decade.
Craven-Walker’s first model, the Astro Lamp, also reflected the technological innovation and imagination of the time, shaped like a sci-fi rocket. Soon other models, such as the Astro Mini and the Astro Nordic, emerged from Craven-Walker’s Crestworth company, building on his original concept.
Baehr recalls a memorable moment when they were told that Beatles drummer Ringo Starr had bought one of their lamps. “That was a great, ‘Ah we’ve made it,’ moment,” she said.
Despite the decline of British manufacturing, with numerous well-known brands dying or moving to countries with cheaper labor costs, lava lamp making company Mathmos has remained at their factory in southwest Britain still employing Craven-Walker’s tried and tested formula.
“I think it’s really special to manufacture something that’s been invented and made in Britain, in Britain for 50 years,” said Cressida Granger, who became involved with Crestworth in 1989, renamed it Mathmos in 1992 and gained sole ownership in 1999.
US rights to manufacture the lamps are held by Haggerty Enterprises Inc. of Elk Grove Village, Illinois.
Granger went on to enjoy a second wave of success for Craven-Walker’s invention during the 1990s, as a new generation of consumers, obsessed with retro British trends, lit their rooms with ‘60s lava lamp designs.
Craven-Walker, whose other enthusiasms included nudism, died in 2000.
Lava lamps are based on two liquids of slightly different density which will not mix. The heavier liquid sinks to the bottom, but when heated by the lamp light its density decreases and it floats to the top.
His invention has had roles in music videos and on television, having originally appeared in popular British television shows during the ‘60s such as “The Prisoner” and “Doctor Who.”
“I think it’s the motion within the lamp,” said Anthony Voz, a collector of Mathmos products. “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.”

Dubai-built dhow recognized as largest ever by Guinness World Records

Updated 28 October 2020

Dubai-built dhow recognized as largest ever by Guinness World Records

  • The dhow is powered by two 1,850-horsepower engines and will be used to transport cargo from the UAE to the wider region

LONDON: A dhow built in Dubai has been named the world’s largest wooden Arabic dhow in the world by Guinness World Records, it was announced on Wednesday.

The dhow, named Obaid after Emirati shipbuilder Obaid Jumaa bin Majid Al-Falasi who began an apprenticeship aged 9 in the 1940s, measures more than 91 meters long and more than 20 meters wide. The vessel is 11.22 meters high and weighs 2,500 tons.


According to the ship’s builder Majid Obaid Al-Falasi, son of the late Obaid, work started on the dhow years ago with no plan or actual blueprints.

“Our forefathers were divers, our ancestors worked in the sea, and my own father perused this craftsmanship for almost all his life. This is a gratitude to my father, and my country, which always aims for the top positions,” he said.

“We tried to get the longest pieces of log available. We are born dhow builders and can build dhows using other materials, but wood keeps its identity.”

The dhow is powered by two 1,850-horsepower engines and will be used to transport cargo from the UAE to Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan and India.

“This achievement is just the inevitable continuation for building dhows in the world,” said Majid, whose family still produces the traditional boats in the Dubai Creek area.

“I see it in the eyes of my son. He is passionate about what I do and what his grandfather used to do. This is what matters, for them to be able to continue the tradition and have it transferred to the next generation.

“At a speed of 14 knots, it will be enough for this dhow to operate and achieve its desired return on investment. Who knows, you might see this dhow docking at different ports all across the world.”