Aaron Willette

Aaron Willette

Brooklyn, NY, US


Distort Windows

(click to view our process video by Paper Fortress FIlms)

One-half of an installation that marked the conclusion of Wes McGee and Cathlyn Newell’s Research Through Making grant Glass Cast, Distort Windows explores a number of topics inherent in the warm glass slumping process. The design process and its tools, including an custom fabricated reconfigurable slumping kiln, are as significant to the work as the resultant glass components.

The collaboration brought together a combination of complementary skills that allowed the team to fully integrate design computation, custom manufacturing and artistic intent into a single, coherent workflow. My involvement with the project dealt primarily with the development of the hardware and software components of that workflow. This includes a Grasshopper definition which subdivides the designed geometry into panles based upon the physical dimension of the kiln. That same piece of code also provides an interface for the kiln-operator to generate the necessary information for the proper setting of the machine. The means of mechanically automating a number of the kiln processes were developed and are currently in the prototyping phase.

The further integration of these technologies has become the focus of my MS_DT studies at the University of Michigan, with the intent of making the technologies of the kiln accessible to a wider audience. In addition to the continued development of the machine automation, a custom set of Grasshopper components are in the works (inspired by the work of Andy Payne). These two parts of the project would work in tandem, eliminating the need for future users to focus on the application of the equipment rather than its technical development.


Distort Windows, its companion piece Diffuse Globes and Glass Cast as a whole were a huge undertaking that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of numerous individuals:

Project Team:
Wes McGee of Matter Studio Design and Cathlyn Newell of Alibi Studio
with Aaron Willette, Lucy Olechowski, Brandon Clifford

Fabrication Team:
Grant Weaver, Simon Rolka, Patrick Ethen, Maciej Kaczynski, Etienne Turpin, Andrew Stern, Brian Muscat, Chuck Newell

Steve Karnowski

This work has been gratiously funded by:
Research Through Making Grant | Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Office of the Vice President of Research | University of Michigan

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Status: Built
Location: University of Michigan TCAUP Research Annex (aka Liberty Lofts), Ann Arbor, MI