By questioning the rituals around chronological time, the artifact embraces the duality of the finite and infinite.

“The distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” – Albert Einstein


Project Brief

Spring 2019

Blown Glass, Walnut and Acrylic Balls

This project was developed with guidance from Mark Baskinger for Experimental Form.



My initial concept is a representation of time as an organism. This responsive hourglass changes how fast time passes when you ‘notice it’. This is done using an IR sensor that interprets distance as a specific state. This state causes a servo to move a specific distance and change the diameter of an aperture. This would then affect the speed in which the sand falls out of the glass.



Concept Development

Concept 01 – My concept is to create a timepiece that reveals the qualitative fluidity of time passing. The form and interaction will be inspired by an hourglass. I want the series of pieces to be able to respond to each other and spark a chain reaction of movement. This will be done using a changing balance in weight.

Concept 02 – Create an hourglass that can change the timer amount. When a certain amount of time is chosen, the hourglass can accurately adjust the amount of sand that is needed. The intention is for the interaction to be very physical.

  • Servos
  • Solenoids
  • Motor
  • Transistors
  • Force sensor
  • Weight analysis that connects weight to specific actions
  • Servo control and positioning
Order of construction and testing
  1. Develop sketches to figure out logistics of overall hourglass
  2. Plan ways that glass can interact with the hardware, and be hidden so the form does not reveal the technology
  3. Figure out how to use hardware to change the amount of sand (aperture form?)
  4. ^^create multiple prototypes with this interaction, it will be the most crucial development
  5. design the enclosure that will hold the glass form
  6. Have people test out form and see if it is understandable / has the right affordances
  7. Fix all the things that didn’t work
  8. repeat 7 and 8 with a few other people
  9. make an information poster for the final show
  10. write up my artist’s statement for the final show
Potential Issues
  • Will the sand affect the hardware?
  • Will the glass be able to integrate well with the wood and hardware?
  • How will the piece be maintained / opened to be fixed if necessary
  • How to mask mechanical servo movement and integrate fluidity into form
  • Does the hourglass even need to use an Arduino? Is it about accuracy?
  • Once the timer is started, is there a reset response?

Aperture Development

Code and Fritzing: sketch_assignment-08-hourglass-brennan

I blew a few glass forms to be used to hold the sand. I had to trim them in order for the sand to travel through both ends. Unfortunately I had to simplify my concept and have it exist in only one state. I had to make a lot of form adjustments after blowing the glass. This caused a lot of constraints because of the strength of the glass and how it could connect to the rest of the form.  In addition, my intention was for the glass to be larger, so the form that holds the arduino would not feel so large in comparison.

I then turned grey foam on the lathe in order to create the conical form. The inside was carved out using the lathe as well. I had to plan out the form ahead of time so the glass form would be a snug fit and so the taper is proportional to the form. The bottom circle was then measured so the laser cut aperture would fit on the base. Luckily the pins fit well into the foam and helped to keep everything snug. Although the initial plan was to turn the bottom form that would hold the Arduino, servo and battery, I ended up vacuum forming a plastic into a conical shape. This material is easy and flexible to work with, and allows me to reopen the casing if the mechanism stopped working for some reason.

I also needed to plan for an area where the sand could fall without getting to the Arduino or servo. The proved to be practically impossible because I still needed holes for the IR sensor and servo to access higher pieces. I also had to test out many ways and materials so the servo could access the aperture. I ended up using string to connect the two because it had strength and tension while being flexible to move through snug areas of the mechanism. Unfortunately at the end of the day the servo was still not strong enough. In the future I would find a way to distribute the weight of the glass more on the borders of the aperture so the joints would not have as much difficulty moving. I also would try to use larger grains of sand, maybe even ball bearings of some sort so there’s no chance the particle would interrupt the mechanics. Now that I have a better understanding of the overall necessary mechanics, I would want to iterate on the form to it it more conducive to standing and laying down (and not look like it would be dangerously knocked over and break).

Sketching and Planning: assignment-08-hourglass-sketches-brennan