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.
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!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!