When I was a kid, I remember having a lava lamp, which was a bizarrely fascinating contraption invented by a British accountant named Edward Craven Walker. Initially known as an Astro lamp and introduced in 1963, it was a huge hit, enhanced by the popularity of the various psychedelic drugs of that time. If anyone happens to be unfamiliar with this lamp, it’s basically a glass structure with colored blobs of wax in a translucent liquid, heated with a light bulb to cause the warm wax blobs to rise and then fall again after cooling. The effect happens quite slowly making the whole event perfectly mesmerizing. I was just a baby when all of the initial craze was happening, but the lamps remained popular and continued to make comebacks while I was growing up and are still sold today. I saw one at Target and and tried to coax Philippe into buying one for me, but failed to convince him of the allure and came home empty-handed. I’ve no given up, though, and will likely still put one on my Christmas list, just in case Santa feels differently on the matter.

Like so many inventions of my childhood, lava lamps were actually way cooler back then. Today, rather than being seen as something revolutionary they are purchased as simply something cute, vintage, and ironic. The same way, I’m sure, many people half my age view me. I remember sitting and simply staring at those blobs of wax moving around and almost going into a trance. It was so strangely relaxing and I’ve not found anything to have that same effect until I discovered watercolor sketching. It’s lovely to take a moment and let my mind spend less time thinking and more time just going with the flow. The feeling is so rejuvenating that I can’t imagine why everyone in the world hasn’t started painting every single day! But, in truth, these lamps were also a bit weird and the bulbous wax was odd and alien looking. And that’s exactly why I loved them. All of that alien, oozing goodness was housed in a metal rocket ship, making it a little boy’s dream.

I love revisiting these memories because it reminds me of a time when every new thing was thrilling. I hadn’t learned about or even considered the likelihood of smart phones and lived in a moment when tricks with wax were considered a technological advancement. And, more incredible still, you could use that same lightbulb to cook food in an Easy Bake Oven! One of my childhood traits that I insist on holding onto is my ability to be well and truly amazed. This gets more difficult all the time as technology zooms forward at a blinding pace and sends new things our way at every turn. And updates to those new things less than six months later, causing us to grimace when we didn’t decide to wait a bit before purchasing. So, it’s a great comfort to see that things from my childhood are still in existence today. Proof that good ideas are the real currency and technology is merely an enabler. And each day, I feel incredibly thankful to have had the wonderful opportunity to have been born in the time of lava lamps.

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About the Doodlewash

Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Vermilion, Leaf Green, Cobalt Teal, and Indigo. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Day 10 Lava Lamp Watercolor Detail- Doodlewash

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29 thoughts on “In The Time Of Lava Lamps

    1. Our inner children could play together. I am about 8 yrs. Old, lol. I love Viewmasters, kalaidescopes, lava lamps, magic 8 balls, jacks and many other things I should have outgrown.
      I’ve been seriously considering a lava lamp for my office. I am a hypnotherapist and that would be a great tool!
      Charlie, I hope you will put that great imagination to work on a painting book.

      1. Thanks so much, Karen! 😃💕Oh, you totally need to get a lava lamp for the office! And I’m not just saying this because I want to live vicariously! hehe… and I am actually working on a book, but just a book that captures some of the words I’m created here with black and white illustrations. I guess it’s more of a memoir of sorts, but probably will defy description as I can’t seem to quite fit in any one mold. 😊lol

  1. Wow – your lamp looks fluorescent! I remember those days as crazy and happy. I was a teen hippie, free as a bird (or so I imagined). Life seemed simple, we didn’t trust anyone over thirty, and our parents were tiresome and dumb. I still miss those glory days.

  2. The weirdest thing happened to me in the way to becoming a grown-up. I have discovered weeding. No, not weed! 😁 Weeding! As in pulling weeds from the garden. In the same way that lava lamps are mesmerizing and relaxing, so to me is weeding. I think because you really don’t have to think about it. It just happens in front of your eyes and your brain can trot off to other ruminations. So my most hated chore of childhood has become a pleasure now.

  3. Charlie says, “One of my childhood traits that I insist on holding onto is my ability to be well and truly amazed”

    That trait will serve you well forever. I think life without amazement would be a gray existence.

  4. Spot on! I can see it moving. 🙂 I always wanted one growing up. Times do change. We watched “The Birds” on Halloween with our 19 yr old son. He had a hard time believing that movie petrified us. Still gives me goosebumps.

    1. Thanks so much! 😃💕Oh wow!… I loved The Birds and all things Hitchcock as a kid! It WAS a terrifying movie! Philippe and I headed to the grocery this afternoon and were met with giant black birds flying in mass. I still got the shivers! lol

      1. Lol, glad I could help! Hahaha! I do laugh at the fact that there were seagulls attacking people too. Ohhhh you reminded me of something else from my childhood. Every once in awhile a bird would get caught in our chimney, unknownst to us and die. My father would have to remove it via the chimney door in the basement. Maybe that’s why that movie creeps me out! Love discovering the connection.

  5. I love it! My sister got a lava lamp in the nineties when I think they qualified as ‘retro cool’, and I remember being entranced too. I haven’t seen one in the shops for a while here, though! Maybe there’s another comeback around the corner.

    1. Thanks, Jacob! 😃💕Yay… and yeah… they were already “retro cool” by that point, which makes me feel old once again! lol But they never really quite went away so even if they don’t appear in a shop, they are rampantly available online! 😉 You should get one so I could live vicariously!

        1. hehe! Christmas IS coming soon!!! EEEEEK!! 😃💕 You know how crazy I get this time of year. I can barely handle it! Just the mention of it sends shivers through my spine. And my productivity is all based on luck… I’m horrid at planning anything, but run on pure adrenaline. 😊

  6. Yeah! Lava lamps are totally cool. But they wouldn’t be nearly as cool if they didn’t fall out of fashion and disappear for a while. It’s that touch of nostalgia added to the initial cool that makes them so wonderful.

  7. You really nailed the glowing colors of the lava in the lamp, plus the shine on the metallic base! Cool!
    We all need times of zooming out to be “well”……play of any kind is needed to keep the brain fresh. When I was teaching very young children. They needed play time to get their brains read for reading, math etc. But what usually happens is education “powers that be” often decide that it is better to push first grade and second grade lessons down into kindergarten and pre-school, put the kid’s butts in chairs with work sheets to fill in . Creativity, problem solving, reading comprehension all depend on concepts developed in play. And, no, computer games do not do it, The doctor’s office waiting rooms at the clinic we go to, has large fish tanks. Kids are naturally drawn to them, but also adults who are waiting. Like the lava lamp there is no script….just watch and enjoy! In my classroom, I had several toys involving colored bits in some kind of oil. These could be tilted, shaken etc to get bubbles, waves etc. Kids love spending some time with these at odd moments. So let’s all find ways to zone out and let our creative brains take time off from the drill Sargent of our busy brains! PLAY! PLAY!

    1. That’s the most beautiful comment I’ve ever heard! 😃💕A thousand times YES to everything you said! There’s so much joy and creativity to be found in pure play and I think that’s missing much of the time in today’s world. But if we keep sounding the call, perhaps we can get others to join us!

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